2012- 014 BBC and freedom of Information and Secret Justice

Our political elite, under instructions from Brussels and the connivance of the BBC are systematically removing our freedom of information and speech.

Scroll down for Secret Justice

see 2012 – 018

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/10/29/boaden_tribunal_information_refusal/

The BBC have a panel of ‘experts’ to advise them on Climate Change but will not say who they are. Why not? What have they got to Hide?

We suspect that they are Climate Change activists and so their advice will be hopelessly biased. The UN IPCC has a similar group of some 2000 ‘experts’  but by far the most are Militant  Greenies. The true Climatologists are incensed that theit input has been ‘edited’ by the IPCC without their agreement.

The BBC are hiding behing an obscure clause in the Freedom of Information Act to keep it secret. You can speculate why.

Who were the SECRET 28 who ended all climate debate at the BBC?

‘Campaigners, NGOs, communications types – and scientists’

By Andrew OrlowskiGet more from this author

Posted in Science, 29th October 2012 16:44 GM

Far from the Jimmy Savile scandal, the director of BBC News Helen Boaden took the witness stand in London today.

A squad of Beeb legal staff, including two barristers, crammed into a small court room to support the £354,000-a-year news chief against her opponent, a North Wales pensioner who was accompanied only by his wife. The case is a six-year freedom of information battle in which the BBC is refusing to disclose who attended a seminar it held in 2006.This seminar is historically significant. The BBC’s global reputation for news reporting stems from its unshakable impartiality; even in wartime its commitment to maintaining evenhandedness has occasionally enraged British politicians (and sometimes servicemen).

Following that 2006 seminar, however, the corporation made a decision to abandon impartiality when covering climate change – and that’s according to the BBC Trust. This was an unprecedented decision for the BBC in peacetime.

On what basis was this made? In June 2007, the Trust, which governs the gigantic publicly-funded broadcaster, published a report with the gnomic title From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel [PDF]. That document gives us this clue:

The BBC has held a high-level seminar with some of the best scientific experts, and has come to the view that the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus [on anthropogenic climate change].

Blogger Tony Newbery was curious as to the identity of these “scientific experts”, and filed a Freedom of Information Act request, as he outlines here in an introduction to the saga.

The BBC merely confirmed to Newbery that the seminar took place but not who attended. Rather surprisingly, the “best scientific experts” – who you may think would want the world to know who they are – have not volunteered the information. This baffled our blogger.

“Advising such a body − or in the BBC’s words, providing training − at a formal seminar with a title such as ‘Climate Change – the Challenge to Broadcasting’ can in no way be considered to be a private matter of the kind that could reasonably fall within the scope of the Data Protection Act,” he argues. “It is a very public act and those involved could hardly be unaware of this. It is a very long way from the kind of privacy concerning medical records or personal finances that the Data Protection Act is intended to safeguard. It is unreasonable for anyone who embarks on such an exercise to expect to be anonymous.”

The BBC disagreed and, at great expense, continues to refuse to disclose the names of the participants. All we know is that in Boaden’s words, the 28 “external invitees” were “representatives from business, campaigners, NGOs, communications experts, people from the ‘front line’, scientists with contrasting views and academics”.

To cut a long story short, and fast forwarding to today, Newbery’s probing has reached an Information Rights Tribunal; the case heard is titled Tony Newbery vs the BBC and the Information Commission.

‘Individuals wanted to share their views, but didn’t want it widely known that they were there’

The corporation has refused to hand over the requested information, defending its inaction using two arguments: one is that the refusal is justified for the “purposes of journalism”, the other is that the attendees of a meeting held under the Chatham House Rule must not be named. [A more usual interpretation is that no quotes, statements etc can be individually attributed to such people – Ed*]. Newbery maintains that the BBC, as an organisation bankrolled by the public and operating under a Royal Charter, must reveal its guest list as a matter of legitimate public interest. Boaden took the witness stand at shortly after 10am today.

The two BBC arguments appear to be contradictory, Newbery argued. The BBC insisted that the details of the seminar “cascaded down” the organisation but Boaden claimed on the witness stand that there was no information to disclose: “There was no collective note,” she said. This is a paradox that needs unraveling.

Boaden explained that she had approved of the 2006 meeting in order to broaden the experience of Beeb hacks so that “journalists remain curious and are up-to-date”.

“The seminars bring together individuals who want to share their views but don’t want it widely known that they’re there,” said Boaden. She added it was unfair to disclose the list of participants because they could not speak frankly if they were identified.

The BBC’s director of news said she was particularly impressed by the testimony of a representative of the insurance industry at the 2006 seminar. For Boaden, this attendee’s belief that cost of climate change will increase carried enormous weight. This is an odd statement: since profit-seeking insurance companies pocket revenue from premiums, they materially benefit from the higher premiums that accompany predictions of catastrophic climate change. Without the warnings of catastrophe, there is no need for higher premiums, so it’s not an impartial observation.

Boaden confirmed there was no record of the meeting at the BBC at the time of Newbery’s enquiry nor had she kept any notes. Anyone who had, she surmised, had kept them as personal memoirs.

When it came to a cross examination by Newbery, David Marks QC, the presiding tribunal judge, threw a thick protective cloak around the BBC’s star witness, refusing to allow the blogger to pose many of his questions to Boaden directly. As a result, most remained answered.

“If the BBC had no record of what was said,” remarked Newbery, “the first part of the Chatham House Rule doesn’t apply. I can’t request it. It doesn’t exist.”

The judge sternly reminded Newbery that any line of enquiry that allowed the identity of the attendees to be inferred should not be allowed. Marks also stepped in where he thought Boaden may not have been able to answer. Marks even intervened to prevent one line of enquiry very germane to Newbery’s case: the blogger wanted to know if the attendees were there in a private or public capacity.

”It could be both,” mused the judge. “I’m reluctant to allow Ms Boaden say anything about this. I doubt if she can add anything to what is a submission by you. You’re under a severe warning from me not to go anywhere near the question.”

The Beeb’s climate change seminar had been organised by the Cambridge Media and Environment Programme (CMEP), established by activist Joe Smith and BBC reporter Roger Harrabin. CMEP received funding from the hardline green organisation WWF and the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. It later transpired that £15,000 was also received from the University of East Anglia – the institution at the heart of the Climategate scandal. (Smith explains CMEP on his own blog here, pointing out that attendees were typically invited in a private capacity.)

The tribunal hearing was a surreal occasion, particularly as the Savile sex scandal has put the corporation’s opaque decision-making in the spotlight. What is not in doubt is that a journalist’s confidential sources should remain confidential and beyond the scope of Freedom of Information requests. Hence the exception for journalistic purposes in data protection legislation.

But is this an appropriate comparison? Was this seminar journalism or policy-making? With its six-year legal battle, conducted at great expense, the BBC has effectively made “the best scientific experts” into anonymous sources, and handed an arsenal of ammunition to its critics.

But it was about to get even more surreal.

The second witness on the stand was another BBC executive. After she had finished, I asked her for the correct spelling of her name. She reeled and stepped back a pace, then emitted the universal signal of distress for Beeb bosses in trouble: rapid eye blinking. A member of the legal team rushed over asking if they could help me. I repeated that I hadn’t caught her name, and would like to spell it correctly. The flunky provided it as the executive looked on. Phew.

 

A member of the legal team spelled the name of the BBC witness
for me with the witness, Frances Weil, standing by my side.

The case continues, but like Boaden, I had other pressing matters to attend to. We’ve asked for how much the bizarre six-year saga has cost you, the telly licence payer. ®

Bootnotes

Comments cannot be posted on this story for legal reasons. However, as usual readers can contact the author via the link at the top of the story.

*Chatham House guidance:

Q. Can participants in a meeting be named, as long as what is said is not attributed?

A. It is important to think about the spirit of the Rule. For example, sometimes speakers need to be named when publicizing the meeting. The Rule is more about the dissemination of the information after the event – nothing should be done to identify, either explicitly or implicitly, who said what.

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Last week MPs revived the corpse of the ‘Secret Justice’ Bill. Here we spell out the full terrifying implications of life in… Secret Britain

  • Vote on Bill took place at same time as gay marriage vote
  • Bill could give power to cover-up details on events such as Hillsborough
  • Legal system would be weighted in favour of the powerful

By David Rose

PUBLISHED: 01:54, 10 February 2013 | UPDATED: 02:39, 10 February 2013

While all attention at Westminster was focused on whether to allow gay marriage, this Coalition Government did something furtive – something that is not only much less liberal, but coldly terrifying.

Under the cover of the furore, it quietly disinterred the corpse of its ‘Secret Justice’ Bill. This Bill creates extraordinary new legal powers to keep official dealings hidden from us. It changes all the comforting certainties about the rule of law in Britain.

Most of us have some kind of grasp of what is officially called the Justice and Security Bill.

Focus: While the attention was on MPs voting on gay marriage in the House of Commons the Government revived work on the ‘Secret Justice Bill’

But it can be hard to imagine what it would actually mean  in practice.

The Government wants us to think its scope is limited to rare and arcane disputes, perhaps born of foreign battlefields. Or ones that sound as if they belong in spy novels, involving CIA ‘black ops’ and ‘dark jails’. But if it becomes law, the effects will be felt much closer to home.

The shocking outcome of the recent Hillsborough Inquiry, bringing justice at last to 97 families? If similar circumstances were to arise again, it is likely that justice would never be delivered: if the families tried to sue, alleging a bungled police operation and a subsequent cover-up, the Bill would give the authorities the ability to keep the truth concealed.

Decider: Ulster Democratic Unionist Ian Paisley Jnr cast the critical vote on the revised draft of the Bill

A case brought against the Ministry of Defence by families of soldiers killed in a foreign deployment, alleging their loved ones’ equipment was defective? This is not mere hypothesis. Many argue now that the British death toll in Afghanistan has been higher than it should have been because some of our military vehicles were too vulnerable to roadside bombs.

With this law enshrined, the Government could insist on a closed, secret hearing. There, it could present evidence denying such claims. No one could challenge it, because no one directly affected by the case would ever know what it was.

Or take the very real, current scandal of the women green activists who unknowingly entered sexual relationships with undercover police officers.

Those defending such a case could be entitled to a secret hearing, at which they could claim that such tactics were entirely justified, on the basis that the women posed some kind of threat to national security.

This is the reality of a society regulated by secret justice:  a legal system weighted irredeemably in favour of those in power. The legislation had previously been watered down considerably, and wisely, by the House of Lords. Now, it is not just as bad as it was when introduced last year. It’s even worse.

Under the resuscitated Bill, matters involving State security will usually be heard at secret ‘closed material procedure’ hearings. They will be attended only by security-vetted ‘special advocates’. Those involved in cases against official bodies will be permanently unable to know about the evidence deployed against them.

The new revised draft, the product of the final session of the Bill’s committee stage, was forced through by a majority of one. The Ulster Democratic Unionist Ian Paisley Jnr cast the critical vote.

This took place at precisely the same time as the same-sex marriage debate was happening in the main Commons chamber, which is why all this went virtually unnoticed.

Justice: Under the new powers information revealed by the recent Hillsborough inquiry could have remained concealed by the authorities

The consequences are draconian. The Government’s actions, prompted by intense lobbying from MI5 and MI6 security chiefs, mean there is now less than three weeks to stop the enactment of a ruthless measure that amounts to a charter for cover-ups.

A real recent example of a case that will be affected is that of Abdelhakim Belhadj. He is the Libyan opposition leader abducted with his family from Bangkok with the help of British intelligence, then  tortured by Gaddafi’s brutal regime for years.

Like other victims of ‘extraordinary rendition’, Mr Belhadj,  who has never been alleged to have committed a single hostile act against Britain, its citizens or its allies, is suing the UK Government. But the official evidence of what was done in our name will be deemed far too ‘sensitive’ to be aired in open court.

Once the Bill becomes law, his chances of success are remote. And the prospects for enforcing the merest whiff of accountability on the agencies responsible for torture cases, and, indeed, a vast range of official activity from national security to the country’s ‘economic wellbeing’, will be just as distant.

 

Safeguards: Conservative backbencher David Davies said it was ‘appalling’ that the Government reneged on its promise to allow full judicial discretion

Previously, the Lords had passed two crucial safeguards to stop this. The first said judges could grant the Government a secret hearing only if other alternatives had already been considered, like, for example, asking permission from the judge in a case to withhold sensitive evidence altogether, under the longstanding system of ‘public interest immunity’. The second Lords safeguard was more fundamental.

It stated that judges could allow a secret hearing only after balancing the Government’s demand for one against the historic legal principle that justice must always be open.

Last week, with the passage of Amendment 55, moved by the junior Justice Minister James Brokenshire, both these safeguards were swept away. ‘In practice, it will now be very difficult for a judge to resist a closed hearing,’ one legal analyst said yesterday.

Under this Bill, it is now possible a prisoner in a British jail who tried to challenge his detention in the courts would remain incarcerated without hearing the evidence against him.

The battle is not over. Pending is a High Court action by The Mail on Sunday which seeks to make public a secret judgment issued in an Afghan alleged torture case two years ago, which resulted from an earlier form of secret hearing, now deemed illegal by the Supreme Court.

As this newspaper has pointed out, the Bill will inevitably lead to a body of secret law and secret legal precedents. Our case also asks the court to issue guidelines on how such secret judgments should be reviewed, and whenever possible, published.

Meanwhile both Labour and several influential Tories are determined to try to reinstate the Lords’ safeguards when the Bill returns to the full House of Commons later this month.

David Davis, the leading Conservative backbencher, said: ‘It is appalling that the Government has reneged on its promise to allow full judicial discretion as enacted by the Lords.’

Andrew Tyrie, the Tory who campaigned for years against torture and rendition, says: ‘Not only must all of the Lords’ amendments remain in the Bill, they need to be underpinned by further improvements.’

Mr Davis added: ‘What the Government did last week is a massive dilution of the protections put in place by the Lords. I can only hope they will summon up the courage to reinstate them.’

It is a hope anyone with even the vaguest interest in open justice would surely share.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2276327/Last-week-MPs-revived-corpse-Secret-Justice-Bill–debating-gay-marriage-time-noticed-Here-spell-terrifying-implications-life–Secret-Britain.html#ixzz2KU1P7Wlm
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Clarke is forced into a secret justice U-turn after peers’ protests

  • Lords raised concerns about ministers having power to decide on secret courts

By Daniel Martin

PUBLISHED: 01:34, 29 January 2013 | UPDATED: 08:52, 29 January 2013

Kenneth Clarke will today perform an embarrassing U-turn over his plans for secret courts.

The former Justice Secretary will announce that judges will be given full control over when to hold secret hearings – overturning the original legislation which would have allowed ministers to take these decisions.

He will also introduce changes to enable judges to revoke secret courts at any point in proceedings.

 

Blow for justice: Kenneth Clarke, pictured arriving for a cabinet meeting at Number 10 Downing Street, has had to water down plans for secret courts after opposition from the House of Lords

A source last night confirmed that the Cabinet minister will lay down amendments to the controversial Justice and Security Bill to ‘reflect concerns’ made when the legislation was discussed in the Lords in the autumn.

The Daily Mail has led the campaign against secret courts, or ‘closed material proceedings’ as they are known in legal jargon.

 

More…

Despite Mr Clarke’s capitulation, critics including Tory MP David Davis are likely to argue that the proposals are still a threat to centuries-old liberties.

And yesterday it emerged that another MP is planning to lay down further amendments after calling the Bill ‘neither just nor secure’.

 

How the Mail has led the fight against secret justice

The Government argued that plans to allow some courts to sit in secret to hear evidence from spies were vital for national security.

It said the moves were essential to allow the state to defend itself in civil cases – notably against accusations of being complicit in torture – without having to disclose sensitive intelligence material to claimants.

But in November, the Lords inflicted a series of defeats as rebel Tories and Lib Dems joined Labour to oppose the changes.

Today Mr Clarke, who despite being no longer Justice Secretary  is still guiding the Bill through Parliament, will lay down a series of amendments giving in to the peers’ main concerns.

The main changes are that judges, not ministers, will have the right to decide what is heard in secret – even in cases of national security – and will be given the power to revoke ‘closed material proceedings’ at any point.

And plaintiffs in civil trials will be granted the right to request a secret hearing, not just the Government.

The proposals have come in for serious criticism from many Conservatives worried about the implications for civil liberties.

A report published on Monday by senior Tory MP Andrew Tyrie and leading QC Anthony Peto said the plans would undermine centuries of open justice.

 

U-turn: Kenneth Clarke has had to amend the Justice and Security Bill to ‘reflect concerns’ made when the legislation was discussed in the Lords in the autumn

They said that, unless the Government rewrites its proposals to hold court cases covering national security behind closed doors, it risks eroding Britain’s moral standing in the world.

The report, for the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank, called the plans ‘neither just nor secure’.

‘The Government must make major changes to the Bill or risk prejudicing both Britain’s system of open justice and our moral standing in the world,’ it added.

MPs will scrutinise the legislation line by line this week and are expected to report to the Commons by mid-February. Mr Tyrie, who also chairs the Treasury Select Committee, is planning to table amendments of his own, including restricting the powers of judges to order secret hearings.

He also said the Bill should have a clause limiting the life of the legislation to five years and said parties excluded from the hearing should receive a summary of the national security-sensitive material.

He added that, when secret hearings are approved, judges should be able to use their discretion in balancing justice and national security to determine whether evidence should be disclosed.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2269894/Clarke-forced-secret-justice-U-turn-peers-protests.html#ixzz2KUaeZjrs
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

 

Last week MPs revived the corpse of the ‘Secret Justice’ Bill. Here we spell out the full terrifying implications of life in… Secret Britain

  • Vote on Bill took place at same time as gay marriage vote
  • Bill could give power to cover-up details on events such as Hillsborough
  • Legal system would be weighted in favour of the powerful

By David Rose

PUBLISHED: 01:54, 10 February 2013 | UPDATED: 02:39, 10 February 2013

While all attention at Westminster was focused on whether to allow gay marriage, this Coalition Government did something furtive – something that is not only much less liberal, but coldly terrifying.

Under the cover of the furore, it quietly disinterred the corpse of its ‘Secret Justice’ Bill. This Bill creates extraordinary new legal powers to keep official dealings hidden from us. It changes all the comforting certainties about the rule of law in Britain.

Most of us have some kind of grasp of what is officially called the Justice and Security Bill.

Focus: While the attention was on MPs voting on gay marriage in the House of Commons the Government revived work on the ‘Secret Justice Bill’

But it can be hard to imagine what it would actually mean  in practice.

The Government wants us to think its scope is limited to rare and arcane disputes, perhaps born of foreign battlefields. Or ones that sound as if they belong in spy novels, involving CIA ‘black ops’ and ‘dark jails’. But if it becomes law, the effects will be felt much closer to home.

The shocking outcome of the recent Hillsborough Inquiry, bringing justice at last to 97 families? If similar circumstances were to arise again, it is likely that justice would never be delivered: if the families tried to sue, alleging a bungled police operation and a subsequent cover-up, the Bill would give the authorities the ability to keep the truth concealed.

Decider: Ulster Democratic Unionist Ian Paisley Jnr cast the critical vote on the revised draft of the Bill

A case brought against the Ministry of Defence by families of soldiers killed in a foreign deployment, alleging their loved ones’ equipment was defective? This is not mere hypothesis. Many argue now that the British death toll in Afghanistan has been higher than it should have been because some of our military vehicles were too vulnerable to roadside bombs.

With this law enshrined, the Government could insist on a closed, secret hearing. There, it could present evidence denying such claims. No one could challenge it, because no one directly affected by the case would ever know what it was.

Or take the very real, current scandal of the women green activists who unknowingly entered sexual relationships with undercover police officers.

Those defending such a case could be entitled to a secret hearing, at which they could claim that such tactics were entirely justified, on the basis that the women posed some kind of threat to national security.

This is the reality of a society regulated by secret justice:  a legal system weighted irredeemably in favour of those in power. The legislation had previously been watered down considerably, and wisely, by the House of Lords. Now, it is not just as bad as it was when introduced last year. It’s even worse.

Under the resuscitated Bill, matters involving State security will usually be heard at secret ‘closed material procedure’ hearings. They will be attended only by security-vetted ‘special advocates’. Those involved in cases against official bodies will be permanently unable to know about the evidence deployed against them.

The new revised draft, the product of the final session of the Bill’s committee stage, was forced through by a majority of one. The Ulster Democratic Unionist Ian Paisley Jnr cast the critical vote.

This took place at precisely the same time as the same-sex marriage debate was happening in the main Commons chamber, which is why all this went virtually unnoticed.

Justice: Under the new powers information revealed by the recent Hillsborough inquiry could have remained concealed by the authorities

The consequences are draconian. The Government’s actions, prompted by intense lobbying from MI5 and MI6 security chiefs, mean there is now less than three weeks to stop the enactment of a ruthless measure that amounts to a charter for cover-ups.

A real recent example of a case that will be affected is that of Abdelhakim Belhadj. He is the Libyan opposition leader abducted with his family from Bangkok with the help of British intelligence, then  tortured by Gaddafi’s brutal regime for years.

Like other victims of ‘extraordinary rendition’, Mr Belhadj,  who has never been alleged to have committed a single hostile act against Britain, its citizens or its allies, is suing the UK Government. But the official evidence of what was done in our name will be deemed far too ‘sensitive’ to be aired in open court.

Once the Bill becomes law, his chances of success are remote. And the prospects for enforcing the merest whiff of accountability on the agencies responsible for torture cases, and, indeed, a vast range of official activity from national security to the country’s ‘economic wellbeing’, will be just as distant.

 

Safeguards: Conservative backbencher David Davies said it was ‘appalling’ that the Government reneged on its promise to allow full judicial discretion

Previously, the Lords had passed two crucial safeguards to stop this. The first said judges could grant the Government a secret hearing only if other alternatives had already been considered, like, for example, asking permission from the judge in a case to withhold sensitive evidence altogether, under the longstanding system of ‘public interest immunity’. The second Lords safeguard was more fundamental.

It stated that judges could allow a secret hearing only after balancing the Government’s demand for one against the historic legal principle that justice must always be open.

Last week, with the passage of Amendment 55, moved by the junior Justice Minister James Brokenshire, both these safeguards were swept away. ‘In practice, it will now be very difficult for a judge to resist a closed hearing,’ one legal analyst said yesterday.

Under this Bill, it is now possible a prisoner in a British jail who tried to challenge his detention in the courts would remain incarcerated without hearing the evidence against him.

The battle is not over. Pending is a High Court action by The Mail on Sunday which seeks to make public a secret judgment issued in an Afghan alleged torture case two years ago, which resulted from an earlier form of secret hearing, now deemed illegal by the Supreme Court.

As this newspaper has pointed out, the Bill will inevitably lead to a body of secret law and secret legal precedents. Our case also asks the court to issue guidelines on how such secret judgments should be reviewed, and whenever possible, published.

Meanwhile both Labour and several influential Tories are determined to try to reinstate the Lords’ safeguards when the Bill returns to the full House of Commons later this month.

David Davis, the leading Conservative backbencher, said: ‘It is appalling that the Government has reneged on its promise to allow full judicial discretion as enacted by the Lords.’

Andrew Tyrie, the Tory who campaigned for years against torture and rendition, says: ‘Not only must all of the Lords’ amendments remain in the Bill, they need to be underpinned by further improvements.’

Mr Davis added: ‘What the Government did last week is a massive dilution of the protections put in place by the Lords. I can only hope they will summon up the courage to reinstate them.’

It is a hope anyone with even the vaguest interest in open justice would surely share.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2276327/Last-week-MPs-revived-corpse-Secret-Justice-Bill–debating-gay-marriage-time-noticed-Here-spell-terrifying-implications-life–Secret-Britain.html#ixzz2KU1P7Wlm
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