Privacy International launches ‘Big Brother Incorporated’ project on sale of surveillance tech to authoritarian regimes

I’m happy to announce that Privacy International has (re)launched it new big project called ‘Big Brother Incorporated’, which will (inter alia) investigate the sales of surveillance technologies to authoritarian regimes.

The web content is available here and more comprehensively here.

PI has now put online a comprehensive database of companies that sell surveillance products, some opinion pieces about the topic (including one by me on the need to strengthen due dilligence and export licenses for tech companies) and a handy guide to the technical jargon that is being used in the surveillance industry. PI is also in the process of building strategic litigation against some of the Western companies complicit in human rights abuses by governments and intelligence agencies across the Middle East and North Africa.

The Washington Post has just published a big article on this topic here  and Wikileaks today has released a bunch of documents (“the Spyfiles“) related to this issue as well.

I will host an open roundtable on this issue in Brussels on the 27th of January in Bozar (Ravensteinstraat 23). Everybody’s more than welcome.

Don’t be evil – Technology companies’ role in supporting and suppressing human rights activists
Mathias Vermeulen (VUB – chair)
Marcel Rosenbach (Der Spiegel – moderator)

Marietje Schaake (ALDE Member of the European Parliament)
Ben Roome (Nokia Siemens Network) (tbc)
Jacob Applebaum (ToR)
Ahmed Ghappour (Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights)
Eric King (Privacy International)

2011 EHHR Special Issue on Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism a Decade after 9/11

The Essex Human Rights Review has issued a ‘Special Issue on Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism a Decade after 9/11′, which  focuses on the practical implications and challenges of the changing landscape of counter terrorism measures since 9/11 and their impact on human rights. All articles can be downloaded from the website.


You Can’t Always Get What You Want: The Kadi II Conundrum and the Security Council 1267 Terrorist Sanctions Regime

Unilateral Exceptions to International Law: Systematic Legal Analysis
and Critique of Doctrines to Deny or Reduce the Applicability of Human
Rights Norms in the Fight against Terrorism

An Interview with Jeremy Sarkin, Chair-Rapporteur of the United Nations
Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, on the Study
on Global Practices in Relation to Secret Detention

Kafka, Sisphus, and Bin Laden: Challenging the Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Regime Rights

Limits to Counter-Terrorism: Comparing Derogation from the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on

The Margin of Appreciation and Human Rights Protection in the ‘War on
Terror’: Have the Rules Changed before the European Court of Human

Section 44: Repeal or Reform? A Home Secretary’s Dilemma

Narco-Terror: Conflating the Wars on Drugs and Terror

State Secrets, Impunity and Human Rights Violations: Persecution Restricted in the Abu Omar Case

Torture Papers, Never Again. Guarantees of Non-Repetition for the
Torture Committed by the Bush Administration during the ‘War on Terror’

Parliamentary oversight of security and intelligence agencies in the EU

One of the reasons for the lack of posts on this blog the past months is that I co-authored this large study (446 pages), together with Aidan Wills, for the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE). The study came out today, and also includes a number of attachments written by national intelligence oversight bodies.
Abstract: This study evaluates the oversight of national security and intelligence agencies by parliaments and specialised non-parliamentary oversight bodies, with a view to identifying good practices that can inform the European Parliament’s approach to strengthening the oversight of Europol, Eurojust, Frontex and, to a lesser extent, Sitcen. The study puts forward a series of detailed recommendations (including in the field of access to classified information) that are formulated on the basis of indepth assessments of: (1) the current functions and powers of these four bodies; (2) existing arrangements for the oversight of these bodies by the European Parliament, the Joint Supervisory Bodies and national parliaments; and (3) the legal and institutional frameworks for parliamentary and specialised oversight of security and intelligence agencies in EU Member States and other major democracies.

We will present the study at the LIBE Committee at 15h on Monday the 3d of October. An Interparliamentary Committee Meeting on  “Democratic Accountability of the Internal Security Strategy and the Role of Europol, Eurojust and Frontex” will be held on Wednesday 5 October from 15.00 to 18.30 and on Thursday 6 October from 9.00 to 12.30 in the Hemicycle of the Paul-Henri Spaak building of the European Parliament as well, which is open to the public. You can register for this meeting until the 29th of September.

New book by Kent Roach – The 9/11 Effect: Comparative Counter-Terrorism

The 9/11 Effect – Comparative Counter-TerrorismKent Roach, University of Toronto

Publication date: August 2011

448 pages


This book critically and comparatively examines the responses of the United Nations and a range of countries to the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. It assesses the convergence between the responses of western democracies including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada with countries with more experience with terrorism including Egypt, Syria, Israel, Singapore, and Indonesia. A number of common themes – the use of criminal law and immigration law, the regulation of speech associated with terrorism, the review of the state’s whole of government counter-terrorism activities, and the development of national security policies – are discussed. The book provides a critical take on how the United Nations promoted terrorism financing laws and listing processes and the regulation of speech associated with terrorism but failed to agree on a definition of terrorism or the importance of respecting human rights while combating terrorism. It also assesses the failures of the American extra-legal approach and departures from criminal justice and the challenges of transnational cooperation and accountability for counter-terrorism.

Warsame and Somalia

This is a brief experiment to couple the twitter-account to the blog via storify.
Kevin Heller and @benjaminwittes debate whether NYT has the right bearings on #Warsame #lawsofwar
July 19, 2011
NYT editorial denouncing detention of Warsame prior to transfer to civilian custody. @benjaminwittes commentary to come.
July 16, 2011
The US is not at war with Al Shabab, but Obama admin interpreting AUMF as covering leaders “aligned” with Al Qaeda/AQAP
July 6, 2011
Does Rasul Control as to Proxy Detention in Somalia?: In response to my post yesterday about looming habeas liti…
July 13, 2011
Thing that’s most amazing about Scahill’s new article on our CT operations in Somalia is his timing v a v Warsame.
July 12, 2011
The CIA’s Secret Sites in Somalia | The Nation
July 12, 2011
US ‘extends drone strikes to Somalia’
June 30, 2011
Somalia OK with airstrike by a “partner country” #Intelwire
June 24, 2011

A brief note to our readers

Due to many other commitments the posts on this blog have been less frequent, but I like to remind readers again that we are posting more frequently shorter links to news articles on our twitter account ( Future posts here will be less frequent, but will contain more analyis.

EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator on the Arab uprisings and the need for security sector reform

“The current situation in North Africa is one of great potential risk, but also great opportunity. The success of The European Union post Lisbon will be judged by the effectiveness with which we respond to these extra-ordinary opportunities, and this means successfully managing the risks involved. The way in which the autocratic regimes of the Middle East behaved in the past, including their repressive and unaccountable security services, non-respect of rule of law and human rights, in practice created conditions very much conducive to the spread of terrorism and contributed to radicalization. Responsive, representative government based on the rule of law and respecting human rights is the best way in which to address the grievances which can create the ground on which terrorism can grow. However, democracy on its own is not enough. Crime, terrorism and sectarian tensions all exist in long-established democracies. Violent extremist groups still exist in the region and beyond, which will continue to act against Europe and European interests. Already arrests have been made in Tunisia apparently linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

There is clearly a dilemma in deciding at what moment the institutions in these countries have gained sufficient legitimacy for it to be right for us to begin discussing these questions of hard security. This is a dilemma for our Arab partners in the reform process, as much as it is for us. (…) It is too early to go into detail, but over the next few months we need to plan a comprehensive model of support to reform of the security sector, and parallel reform of the judicial sector, together with the emerging democratic Governments of the Arab World. I welcome the inclusion of reform of the security and law enforcement sector under “Supporting Deep Democracy” in the joint communication of the Commission and High Representative “A new response to a changing neighbourhood”, and I look forward to the policy dialogue envisaged later this year on Justice and Home Affairs under the Stockholm Programme.”

Read more here.


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