Sunday, July 01, 2007

Someone's got it in for me, they're planting stories in the press

This is an extremely worrying piece of late-Blairite thug politics. More than one Labour MP, it appears, has been briefed before appearing in the House for questions on the NHS National Programme for IT with what purport to be private e-mails from Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at the Cambridge Computer Lab.

Typically, this has received a total of zero column inches in the press. One might think that a Government minister reading out other people's letters in the House in order to win a partisan point is a very noticeable act, but apparently not. There are multiple possibilities here. Possibly Lord Warner, Andrew Miller, and Caroline Flint are simply lying and have received no such information.

This would, curiously, be the most politically scandalous option - traditionally, you can do almost anything as a member of the Government so long as you don't get caught fibbing to Parliament about it. This principle has recently been eroded somewhat - Geoff Hoon, for example, stated categorically that no soldier lacked equipment on crossing the startline of the Iraq invasion and demanded apologies from the press for reporting such. This was utter shit, and the Defence Select Committee report of March, 2004 demonstrated conclusively that it was so, however Hoon is still there and astonishingly is a member of the Cabinet. Jack Straw is another case.

It's also possible, and probably most likely, that a legitimate recipient of the e-mails is ratting. I am not sure of the legal position here, so will confine myself to expressing nausea at this behaviour and pointing out Warner's vomitous hypocrisy in accusing Professor Anderson of a lack of principle on the basis of selective quotations from stolen private letters. I am actually going to state that the original documents are being outrageously misquoted - given the moral atmosphere, how can anything he says not be tainted?

Finally, it's possible but not likely that they were intercepted by technical means. This would be deeply outrageous, and would among other things constitute the use of public funds for partisan ends. But I suspect option 2 is the most likely.

I'd vote for any MP of any party who raises a question regarding this. I'd have their babies if they asked Flint, in the light of this comment, to answer a few basic questions on information security:
Among a number of suggestions for Conservative party policy, he proposed a fresh look at IT policy, suggesting that in each civil service department there should be a chief information officer at grade 1 and that "the top 50 per cent. performers should expect a knighthood" based on their IT advice. If that is the best advice that the Opposition can obtain for operating a modern Government using the modern technology necessary for our public services, so help them.
I am again going to make a statement for which I have no evidence, and dare anyone to challenge it: Caroline Flint cannot define SSL, START-TLS, public-key cryptography, or two-factor authentication. You can find links to Anderson's published research at his home page. Compare the Flint, who appears to have never actually had a job outside Blairite wingnut welfare. She was, however, very strongly for everything the government wanted and against everything else, and ran Hazel Blears' deputy leadership campaign.

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