Mehdi's Morning Memo: Please Spy On Us

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Please Spy On Us
File photo dated 17/01/04 of GCHQ Headquarters as the British eavesdropping agency is to give a parliamentary committee full details of its links to a controversial US internet monitoring programme, it has been revealed.
File photo dated 17/01/04 of GCHQ Headquarters as the British eavesdropping agency is to give a parliamentary committee full details of its links to a controversial US internet monitoring programme, it has been revealed.

The ten things you need to know on Tuesday 11 June 2013...


So, the NSA/Prism revelations must have hardened British public opinion against the coalition's proposed 'snooper's charter', right? Wrong. From the Huffington Post UK:

"A majority of Britons support the government's controversial 'snooping' proposals - despite the growing NSA/Prism data-sharing scandal, an exclusive poll for The Huffington Post UK reveals.

"And more than four in 10 people think the security services should be able to break data laws in order to prevent terrorism.

"The first major survey [by YouGov] carried out since the leaking of details of the US Prism surveillance programme found that 51% of voters either backed the coalition's draft Communications Data Bill, or thought it did not go far enough."

Meanwhile, the foreign secretary William Hague told MPs yesterday that it was "baseless" to suggest GCHQ could circumvent UK laws by using personal data gathered by foreign agencies, while the Guardian reports this morning:

"Home Office ministers are to press ahead with their campaign to give the police and security services sweeping 'snooper's charter' powers to monitor internet and phone use in Britain despite the outcry over the disclosure of the scale of US internet surveillance.

"'It does not change our position. The government is continuing to look at ways of addressing this issue with communication service providers. This may involve legislation,' said a Home Office source."

Also - the Sun has a leaked letter from the director of public prosecutions (DPP) Keir Starmer to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, in which the former tells the latter: “For cases such as counter-terrorism, organised crime and large-scale fraud, I would go so far as to say that communications data is so important that any reduction in capability would create a real risk to future prosecutions.”

The pressure builds...


From the FT:

"Senior American politicians called yesterday for the extradition of Edward Snowden, the man who leaked top secret information about US surveillance programmes, as legal experts said he was unlikely to be given refuge in Hong Kong.

"... The US authorities indicated that they would seek to prosecute Mr Snowden. Anyone with a security clearance had "an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law", said Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the director of national intelligence.

"Dianne Feinstein, Democratic chair of the Senate intelligence committee, said that Mr Snowden should not be considered a whistleblower because 'what he did was an act of treason'. Peter King, a Republican, called for his extradition."


Surprise, surprise! Gove's back in the headlines. From the Sun:

"Pupils will have to learn entire Shakespeare plays and crack tough maths equations in a bid to make GCSEs harder.

"Education Secretary Michael Gove hopes the new courses, starting in 2015, will end the grade inflation which saw pass rates soar under Labour.

"Watchdogs are also set to publish plans to place more emphasis on exams and scrap coursework.

"English GCSE students are currently told what part of a play they will be tested on — so they don't have to read it all.

"A source close to Mr Gove said: 'Exams need to be made harder.'

"But shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said Mr Gove had no 'thought-through plan'."


More Europe bad news for the PM. From the FT:

"Britain will not get 'special treatment' from other EU members to stay in the single market, a group of MPs will warn today as they urge Conservative MPs to be realistic about David Cameron's attempts to wrest powers back from Brussels.

"The Commons foreign affairs committee will say that it is sceptical that the other 26 member states would allow the UK to water down integration and repatriate powers.

"The cross-party committee welcomed the prime minister's promise to seek a new settlement for Europe if he wins the 2015 general election. But it said Mr Cameron was more likely to succeed if he pushed for reform across the EU as a whole, rather than carving out a case for UK-centric changes.

"'The government could not successfully demand 'any price' for promising to try to keep the UK in the union,' said the committee."


From the Guardian:

"The Conservative MP Tim Yeo, who is facing allegations of offering to advise energy companies for cash, agreed to step aside temporarily as chairman of the energy and climate change select committee last night.

"Yeo made his decision after it became clear that Labour members of the committee were losing confidence in him and wanted him to step aside. He announced yesterday that he needed time to concentrate on clearing his name with the parliamentary commissioner for standards, to whom he has referred his case.

"Yeo was elected to the select committee chairmanship and it is not clear if a fresh election will be held, or a temporary substitute will be appointed."

Don't break out the bubbly just yet...

"The chairmanship is held by the Conservative party as part of a wider distribution of select committee chairmanships between the political parties. The most senior Tory on the committee is Peter Lilley, a climate change sceptic in contrast with Yeo, who is a strong advocate of renewable energy."

Oh dear...


Watch this video of the world's fastest clapper, who can clap 802 times in 60 seconds. You know you want to.


From the Guardian:

"A man was arrested on Monday in connection with an explosion which caused minor damage in the early hours of the morning at the constituency office of the Conservative MP and planning minister, Nick Boles.

"The politician, who was not in the office at the time, said he understood that a home-made device had been thrown through a window of the Conservative Hall in Bourne, Lincolnshire.

"Police said a 24-year-old local man was helping with inquiries and that early indications suggested it is not linked to any wider issues or recent events in the county.

"Boles, who represents the Grantham and Stamford constituency in Lincolnshire and serves as a planning minister, issued a statement condemning the 'act of violence'."


From the Sun:

"Abused children will soon be able to avoid brutal courtroom cross-examination — by pre-recording their evidence.

"The move is in response to outrage at the cruel treatment of young paedophile victims by highly-paid barristers.

"... Justice Secretary Chris Grayling will pledge today to take urgent action to protect victims from being forced to relive their agony in court. Under the approach — to be first tested in Leeds, Liverpool and Kingston upon Thames, South West London — defence barristers would question victims by video-link."


Just when you thought things were calming down in Istanbul... from the BBC:

"Turkish riot police have moved into Istanbul's Taksim Square, which has been occupied by anti-government protesters for close to two weeks.

"Officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets, leading many protesters to flee the square into adjoining Gezi Park, where many have been camping.

"Some activists responded by hurling fireworks, fire bombs and stones at police.

"... The BBC's Mark Lowen, who is in the square, says this was a deliberate show of force that may jeopardise Wednesday's talks."


It's the Iranian presidential election on Friday and the reformists aren't doing so well. From the Times:

"One of Iran’s remaining moderate candidates has withdrawn from the presidential election as hardliners step up their efforts to seize control of Friday’s election.

"Mohammed Reza Aref, one of two reformists left in the race, said on his website he had made the decision at the urging of ex-president Mohammad Khatami."

That leaves former nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani as the only moderate/centrist left in the race...


From the FT:

"Ken Clarke, the cabinet veteran, denied yesterday that the Bilderberg Group of politicians, business leaders and opinion formers was part of a global conspiracy, claiming its members could 'never agree' on any subject.

"Mr Clarke, who attendeds the Bilderberg meeting in Watford last week, was summoned to the Commons by John Bercow, Speaker, to lift the lid on what exactly happened at the informal event.

"... Labour had hoped to embarrass Mr Osborne at the dispatch box, but instead they got 25 minutes of knockabout humour from Mr Clarke, a member of the Bilderberg steering committee for a decade.

"Michael Meacher for Labour said: 'Of course it's not a conspiracy but, at the same time, 130 of the world's biggest decision makers don't travel thousands of miles simply for a cosy chat.' Mr Clarke said Mr Meacher should 'find different people to exchange tweets with'."

However, the Mirror reports that "the former Justice Secretary had a tougher time from Labour’s deputy chairman Tom Watson when he asked him to confirm that 'he declared his trusteeship of the body that funds the conference to his permanent secretary when he was appointed by the Prime Minister'.

"Mr Clarke replied: 'I am looking that up, as I’d forgotten. I’m actually a trustee of the British Steering Group so will check.'"



From today's Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 28

Ukip 15

Lib Dems 11

That would give Labour a majority of 110.


@tom_watson He was so blase in the chamber, I asked a question of Mr Clarke on a hunch … He congratulated me then his memory failed

@tpearce003 Had a chat with Liam Byrne tonight and we agreed on somethings. Not sure who is more worried by that, me or him!

@Kevin_Maguire Woeful @BCr4today interview with convicted footie hoolie Stephen Lennon aka EDL's Tommy Robinson. He'll laugh all the way to next EDL brawl


Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "Snowden's revelations must not blind us to government as a force for good."

Hugo Rifkind, writing in the Times, says: "Who’s watching Big Brother watching us?"

Rupert Cornwell, writing in the Independent, says: "Edward Snowden is a modern American hero."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan ( or Ned Simons ( You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

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