Archive for the ‘Met’ Category

It looks like Daniel Davies’ plan to classify the world into people who file their accounts with Companies House on time, and people who don’t, may be less eccentric than it seems. News International missed, and asked for an extension. Obviously a dodgy lot of bastards. Anyway, check this quote out.

Coincidentally, News International’s company secretary of many years standing, Mrs Carla Stone, has resigned. A filing to Companies House, dated yesterday, stated that her appointment had been terminated. However, I understand that she left the company in February and her formal employment contract ends later this month.

Stone, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries, held 212 company directorships in all, almost all of which are subsidiaries of News International and related companies.

You’ve got to like the “coincidentally”, which I take to mean “it is no such thing but we’ve not finished the story yet”. Anyway. The dump of directorships is here, providing an interesting insight into the structure of News International. Am I right in thinking that “Deptford Cargo Handling Services Ltd.” will be the company that owned the Wapping site?

Meanwhile, a colleague of mine asked me an Android question, which I misunderstood as being a question about USSD (you know – like *#06# to get your mobile phone IMEI number, but also including things like *21*some-phone-number# to divert all your calls). As a result, I ended up over here and learned that the network password “tends to be 1919”, which is very interesting in context and might explain a lot. Bonus: this ETSI pdf actually contains something which is otherwise quite annoying to find, a complete and categorised list of the code numbers.

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out!

Fedorcio out they cry! See also this New Yorker piece on Viktor Bout.

On April 26, 2005, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in the Treasury Department, unveiled sanctions aimed at Bout, thirty companies associated with him, and Chichakli. That morning, F.B.I. agents went to Chichakli’s home, in Texas, to search his office. They confiscated his computer, bank records, flight journals, a copy of Bout’s passport, and more than two hundred thousand dollars’ worth of diamonds. No criminal charges were filed, however, and a week later Chichakli flew to Russia, where he has been living ever since. Soon after the raid, Department of Defense officials entered the names of the companies under sanctions into their databases. They made a surprising discovery: some of Bout’s companies were now delivering tents and frozen food to troops in Iraq.

Not that surprising by April ’05. But worth reading.

So, I was at today’s NHS demo. Somebody had to be – I was shocked by how many people weren’t there. The streets were full of people who weren’t there. And there was a pretty standard demo pitched up on the pavement outside the Department of Health at Richmond House, 97 Whitehall. Speeches. Depression. Workers’ Liberty tried to sell me a paper. The last time I met that lot, they wanted to explain why the lesson of the Paris Commune was that you needed to be nastier to the Muslims. Anyway.

After a while some people from Occupy London and a couple of other orgs turned up to join in. Not long after this there was some sort of interaction with the police (I heard later that they asked us to leave the pavement), and as a result the demo moved onto the street and formed a block across it. Very quickly, a couple of carriers appeared from the Parliament Square side with TSG cops aboard (one of whom, presumably in charge, was out and about talking to the ordinary bill). After some parley – I don’t know the details – they suddenly moved off towards Parliament Square. I expected them to re-appear behind us, but it didn’t happen. Instead, traffic was diverted at each end of Whitehall.

So we stood and sat there, singing our songs and waving our banners. There was more police coming and going, but no real change. Occupy started to work through their standard occupying procedure of holding a meeting and getting a human microphone going.

About 1530, a police carrier appeared from the direction of Trafalgar Square and delivered a slack dozen TSG men, who formed a line across Whitehall between the levels of Richmond House and Downing Street. The demo, which had been facing towards Westminster, swung around to face them. At this point I was seriously worried that the next move would be a line moving up from Westminster to form a kettle. The police deployment was quite thin and extended, whether because this lot were the first to arrive or because they deliberately wanted to filter people through the line.

At 1536, I tweeted (so probably a little earlier), the demo started moving towards Trafalgar Square, partly pushing forwards and mostly moving around the flanks of the police line. (This is a fair characterisation, I think, as is this.) The police moved back towards Downing Street and then towards the Women’s Monument, and there was some sort of outbreak of shouting on the Downing St side in front of the Cabinet Office, where a lot of people were trying to get by between the police line and the buildings. I passed by on the other side close to Alanbrooke’s statue (my twitter feed says this was 1600). This is the widest point of Whitehall, and the police line now had demonstrators on both sides.

From this point on, the demo moved fairly quickly up Whitehall. Ahead, I saw a police 4×4, possibly a senior officer’s vehicle, parked in the middle of the road, which suddenly moved off with squealing tyres. That sounds dramatic, but in truth the pace was little more than a brisk walk, and nothing violent had happened so far.

Approaching the top of Whitehall, a choke point where the street narrows before entering Trafalgar Square, I looked back and saw that beyond the demo, and the police, and the demonstrators who were on the other side of the police, many more police had arrived. I think I saw between five and eight carriers.

At the top of Whitehall, the demo started to pass into Trafalgar Square. I was one of the first in the retreat at this point. Due to the demo, and to an “event” in the Square, there was very heavy traffic on all the streets around it. As we emerged from Whitehall, the next vehicle to move forwards from the direction of the Strand and Northumberland Avenue was a police van, specifically one of the red Transit minibuses used by Met Diplomatic Protection and anti-terrorist branch units. (Wail Qasim identified them as such at 1606.) It was, for the record, in the traffic jam rather than parked off the street, and everyone was inside with the doors and windows shut.

One of the Occupiers immediately lay down in front of the van, I think to stop it or any traffic blocking the exit from Whitehall. Other demonstrators gathered around it. There was a hiatus as they realised that they had kettled the cops, and the cops realised that something unusual was going on. Then, one of them got out of the vehicle, with his H&K rifle slung, apparently intending to talk to the people. It can only have been at this point that the now-famous photo was taken. Like everyone else, as far as I can make out, my first thought was “Er, armed police?” (as my Twitter feed records at 1604).

Nothing very much happened. I was one carriageway from the van, and I don’t remember that anyone raised their voice between the police or the protestors around their van. However, I presume they radioed for help, as the first TSG unit now caught up in a real hurry, eventually forming a line (very tight and concentrated this time) in front of the van.

People now began to gather on the mini-roundabout facing them, which seemed to me to practically invite the creation of a kettle around it as more and more police were still appearing. As a result, this didn’t last and the demo moved on across the Square and into the Strand. By the level of Charing Cross, I had the impression that the demonstration had melted away, which struck me as a smart move. In fact, according to Twitter, some of us pressed on up Aldwych and encountered quite rough treatment from the police.

So that was my experience. Everyone seems to be furious that armed police were seen on the demo. I’m not sure that they were used, and I wouldn’t want this to detract from getting after, for example, this bloke or this one.

However, I think the real reason for this is that the Met usually has a group of armed officers and their vans based at Charing Cross nick, as it’s close to various ministries, the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, and some embassies that get armed police protection. The van could have either been coming from Charing Cross to start a shift, or perhaps on the way back via Northumberland Avenue. They didn’t seem to be particularly aware something unusual was going on, and they were sitting in a van in a traffic jam rather than being deployed in any tactical fashion. My twitter feed records this view at 1608, as do some others.

Yesterday was Morgan Day, the 25th anniversary of Daniel Morgan’s murder. So, some Leveson blogging.

Way back way back when the MacPherson inquiry was big news, one of the things that was fairly well-known but not in the headlines was that it wasn’t just the racism – it was also the corruption. Specifically, suspect (and now convict) David Norris’s dad, Clifford Norris, was a gangster who was believed to be paying policemen involved in the case for protection. This recent piece in the Indy explains the whole thing in some detail. The key player was one John Davidson, a detective on the South-East Regional Crime Squad based in East Dulwich, who was apparently the point-of-contact between Norris and the Met, as well as being a major figure in a network of corrupt detectives. Anyway, you really ought to go and read the whole thing, as it covers how the Met hierarchy kept the explosive details about Davidson out of the inquiry.

Clearly, it was considered better to be institutionally racist than it was to be institutionally corrupt. And, if you think back to the original (and very controversial at the time) definition Sir William Macpherson used, I think it’s more than fair to describe the Met as being institutionally corrupt. As with racism, some elements of the force were especially bad and some were much better, but in general, the institution as a whole put up with the problem.

Now, something interesting. The officer who investigated Davidson, and who seems to have been very keen to prosecute him, was none other than John Yates, in a very different role to the one he played in the whole News International affair.

Then-Detective Superintendent John Yates, a senior CIB3 officer, targeted Davidson as one of 14 “core nominals” – detectives whose “criminality is extensive and, in essence, amounts to police officers operating as a professional organised crime syndicate”, he explained in the case file.

Yates wrote to his superiors in blunt terms in October that year about the evidence he had found against Davidson: “It is now apparent that during his time at East Dulwich Davidson developed a corrupt informant/handler relationship. Their main commodity was Class A drugs, predominantly cocaine, however, Davidson and his informant would deal in all aspects of criminality when the opportunities presented themselves.”

However, not very much of the information ever got to Macpherson, and Davidson was eventually allowed to take the traditional police escape hatch, retiring on grounds of ill-health and heading for the costas (he owns a bar on Menorca).

This is interesting, because I’m beginning to think that the response to Macpherson is a big part of the story. A really penetrating review of the Lawrence case would have turned up all sorts of dirt on the Met in South-East London, and specifically on the SERCS (which was already being investigated by Yates’ internal-affairs group). That in turn would have caused all kinds of inconvenience. As a result, it was necessary to push back on the whole project of reforming the Met.

In the triangular relationship between the police, the press, and the politicians, this could be understood as an attempt by the politicians, using the press, to impose change on the police. The police seem to have responded by upgrading the police-News International relationship in order to pressure the politicians. Hence the campaigns that so-and-so wasn’t “a copper’s copper”.

Interestingly, John Stevens seems to have been a special fascination for people like Alex Marunchak – News International kept spying on him after he was sent to Northern Ireland, and hired Philip Campbell Smith to target the only intelligence agent cooperating with the Stevens inquiry (who seems to have been Ian Hurst, to fill in the blank). Obviously, there was a direct journalistic interest in information about Freddie “Stakeknife” Scappaticci, but it’s always struck me as weird that Hurst was able to identify that it was Smith specifically who got into his computer. Perhaps he’s just good, or lucky, but I wonder whether the surveillance was meant to be discovered in the hope of intimidating him.

Making more of an effort on race didn’t challenge how the police ran their business, and indeed created new opportunities for promotion and budget acquisition. It seems depressingly clear that doing more on corruption would have meant changing how a great chunk of London was policed and offending all kinds of powerful interests. So that’s the one they picked. Getting there meant getting the support of News International to turn the politicians’ attention, which meant running up obligations that would be called in later.

A corrupt informant/handler relationship, you might call it. Of course, the police and the politicians were still operating in the transactional or bargaining mode I described as The Project 1.0. But what was going to change between the late 1990s corruption inquiry and the 2006-onwards phone-hacking inquiry was the level of ambition involved. Murdoch, and the recovering Tory party, were looking at The Project 2.0, integrating News International people into the government spin machine, Conservative Central Office, and into the police press office directly.

Well, that’s my mental model of the whole thing. It doesn’t cover the 80s origins of the whole thing – Daniel Morgan’s story, whatever it was, police-News International relations during Wapping (six months before the Morgan murder, and did you know the cop in charge was disgraced on theft charges?) – but for what it covers I think it’s pretty clear.

While we’re back on the Murdoch trail, readers have probably seen this story, in which the police have taken steps to keep Rebekah Brooks’ personal assistant from fleeing the country. And of course this bit:

Ms Carter was also a beauty editor for The Sun and is a partner in a cosmetics business with former model and celebrity make-up artist Sue Moxley, and has also offered beauty tips on the website Thinkingslimmer.com.

That’s putting it mildly – the website mostly exists to sell something called a “Slimpod” described as follows:

A Slimpod is a 10-minute recording of the voice of Trevor Silvester, creator of a technique known as WordWeaving which uses language in a special way to gently retune your unconscious mind to think differently about food and exercise and the way you feel about yourself. For many people it is having a remarkable effect on their eating habits and their confidence and self-esteem.

Why is the unconscious mind important? Because it is responsible for most of what you do and feel every day. Listening to a Slimpod works like a guidance mechanism, retuning your unconscious mind to change your habits….It’s a bit like retuning a TV so that it no longer picks up the fat channel because it’s tuned to “slim” TV.

A lot of money has been spent on discovering how to influence our unconscious – mainly by advertisers wanting you to buy things. Now Thinking Slimmer’s experts have taken their specialist knowledge of the science of unconscious persuasion and are using it for your benefit.

Rated by the Sun as a Top Weight Loss Trend for 2012, apparently. Fuck the unconscious, it’s the cross-promotion that does it, to say nothing of the ferocious devotion to looking after your pals.

Thinkingslimmer.com’s WHOIS record lists one Sandra Roycroft-Davis as its administrative contact, who is none other than Chris Roycroft-Davis’s wife. Chris Roycroft-Davis? Who he? The former executive editor of the Sun, seen excelling in the aspirational job dismissal industry here, who also acted as its chief leader writer (‘cos words of one syllabub take the cake) and David Cameron’s speech writer, as well as being an editor of the Daily Diana Tits and a contributor to The Times‘s Thunderer column, and playing some part in the launch of Sky TV.

He’s now available for media training, consultancies, and as an after-dinner speaker. No word on weddings or barmitzvahs, but if you’re really unlucky he might be on the same bill as Smash It! That’s if he’s not editing his own wikipedia article. Someone who only ever edits his page, in a favourable sense, and uses the word “insuperior” to boot is still at it.

Chris, having been sued by the queen at least 3 times, being one of the co-owners of sky and being on first name terms with several prime ministers, has now settled down in Pinner with his family. Perhaps most notably his son, James, a notorious womanizer, much like his father, who prides himself to be a saracens-level rugby player who’s rugby skill, until fairly recently, was insuperior to that of his 9 year old brother.

Meanwhile, who is this Silvester character? He turns out to be a former Metropolitan policeman according to his website.

We were Police Officers for many years before finding a fascinating new way of helping people. While trainers at the Metropolitan Police Training School in Hendon, we pioneered the use of NLP and hypnosis in a unit dedicated to improving the performance of students who were failing their training. Over a three year period we developed a learning system based on NLP principles that could guarantee an improvement of 10-30% with only two and a half hours of coaching. Simultaneously I (Trevor) was establishing a hypnotherapy clinic that I ran in the evenings and weekends – a busy three years!

Scroll down to the dog, it’s worth it in a vomity sort of way. And what is it with News International and moonlighting coppers? Anyway, apparently Carole Caplin’s phone was tapped, but in the light of all this one can only conclude they were after some kind of trade secret in the crystals-and-guff game, perhaps the patent formula for Peter Foster’s famous slimming tea. That’s cheap snark, of course, but it is telling that the Blair-Caplin-Foster pattern was closely mirrored among News International types.

End note: The company, Thinkingslimmer Ltd., changed its name from Jenstar UK Ltd in 2010. The trademarks are registered to this company, but Sandra Roycroft-Davis’s Linkedin profile describes it as a “celebrity management” company.

Tom Watson runs for the gap, specifically yet another ugly little employment law story at the Sun. Readers will know that they’re like that among themselves and there’s something of a press tradition of not mentioning the names. On this occasion it’s Our Boys Go In Editor “Tom” “Newton” “Dunn” vs. their Whitehall editor Clodagh Hartley.

The other story is that Watson is suggesting that Trevor Kavanagh took the credit for publishing the Hutton whitewash ahead of time when Hartley was in fact responsible.

Sadly this just recalls Labour’s relationship with the Sun. A close reading of this explains all:

Kavanagh, who claimed he had been read the contents of the report over the telephone by an “impartial” source went on to tell the BBC “the source had nothing to gain financially or politically, no axe to grind, no vested interest”

Access to the document, no financial or political interest, someone who had Kavanagh (or Hartley)’s direct phone number = i.e. they were a civil servant operating with permission from their boss who was in contact with them, or to put it another way, a government press officer.

As is fairly well known, Alistair Campbell got powers to give the career COI officials orders in May 1997. His departure didn’t end that. The source was probably Godric Smith or Tom “Walter Mitty figure” Kelly. Kavanagh was lionised by the media establishment for having what was, in fact, the government’s line-to-take read out into his ear by a government press officer. It wasn’t as if the Blair governments were averse to racking up brownie points with Murdoch where possible, was it?

On the other hand, perhaps the most repellent of the Murdoch/Met cases was the Forest Gate raid of 2006, when the police launched a miniature Operation OVERLORD (or rather, MOTORMAN – I don’t think they used a boat) in Walthamstow in pursuit of a “chemical dirty bomb suicide vest” which was capable of attacking aircraft up to 5,000 feet overhead in their opinion, accidentally shot someone because their hand slipped, tore the building apart, found nothing, and satisfied themselves by having the News of the World smear the suspects as paedophiles, before spending ages trying to seize their savings. It wasn’t so much a police operation as a sort of wildly overdone high-camp mashup of 2000s tropes. News International columnist Andy Hayman was in charge, but perhaps we were spared worse:

The police always argue that (many things they do) are a matter of operations and politicians should not be involved. Well, I’m afraid I have a big argument with that.”

Citing the 2006 raid on a street in Forest Gate, he added: “At one stage the police were going to turn out all the residents of the street at 2am in the morning. John Reid was the home secretary and I was working with him.

“Andy Hayman, who was in charge, wanted to turn them out and I said to John Reid – no, you can’t do that. He said ‘John, it’s operational’. I said ‘S** operational, there are political considerations here’ – turning out a street of Asians at 2am with the allegations of a gas plot and we don’t know what the evidence is for that.”

So when did they start tapping Prescott’s phone?

It remains the case that Labour’s half of the twisted relationship with Murdoch was very different to the Tories’. It was transactional and contingent and that’s one of the reasons why it was so horrible at the time, but that also made it possible to leave. When you are one entity you cannot cooperate, said Montgomery. It’s also very hard to stop.

Production note: part of this post was originally a comment on Tom Watson’s blog and was never released from moderation. I might have been nice about this, but you know.

Reading through tehgrauniad’s riots deep-dive, the impression that I get is that the whole “riots as an insurgency” idea wasn’t that far off. I’ve been indisciplined in that I took notes but didn’t keep links (a problem with paying for and reading the actual newspaper), so you’ll have to trust me on this. Obviously, blaming the whole thing on “criminality” is about as useful as blaming rain on “water falling from the sky”.

The first common factor that struck me was that pretty much everyone they interviewed had a grudge against the police. Not in any broad theoretical sense, but a grudge – a specific and personal memory of perceived injustice and especially incivility, cherished over time. Now, it’s in the nature of policing as a public service that nobody enjoys it. If you’re interacting with policemen on duty, it’s either because they suspect you of being a criminal, or because something bad has happened to you. Generally, everybody would quite like to minimise their lifetime consumption of policing.

There is something that motivates people to put up with it, though, and that something is legitimacy.

The second common factor was the attitude towards property. Quite a lot of the people the Guardian spoke to reported looting goods from shops, and then giving them away, or witnessing others doing so. Stealing goods is one thing, but immediately giving them away is rather different and very much a political act. So much so that there is a word for it (and I’m not the only one to notice this).

Of course, police legitimacy comes in a very large degree from their role as protectors of property, so this was a way of directly challenging their claim to provide security and to employ legitimate force.

Eyewitnesses often described a tactical, practical implementation of this – small groups of rioters harassing the police, in a sort of screening or covering operation, while many more looted or destroyed property. It’s very interesting that this could all happen so quickly.

A couple of News of the World things. Just before the Met dropped their effort to bully the Grauniad with the Official Secrets Act, they ran this story about the disastrous attempt to use a supergrass in the Daniel Morgan case. Is this a coincidence? And this quote reads like a Ballardised version of Le Carré:

One of the most “concerning” events for the judge came on 5 September 2006, a month after Eaton was recruited as a supergrass and while officers were still taking his witness statements. Eaton was taken by DCI Cook to a “covert location” near Reading, and left alone in the bedroom of a hotel. He became very distressed and broke down.

Half an hour later Cook – who had been trying to get Eaton to implicate two brothers, Glenn and Garry Vian, in the Morgan murder – sent him a text message that the officer then deleted from his mobile phone, according to the judge’s ruling.

An hour after Eaton had been put into the hotel room he changed his story and prepared a statement implicating the Vian brothers in the murder for the first time.

That’s none other than Dave Cook, the policeman who was being followed around London by the Murdochs’ private investigators in an effort to protect Alex Marunchak, on the instructions of Greg Miskiw. I wonder who else read the text message?

Also, if the police story that a junior officer on the Operation Weeting case launched the OSA effort all on his lonesome while the handover to the new chief was going on is at all true, I think we probably know who one of the moles is.

Over at Stable & Principled, I’ve been blogging about running out of policemen and how the Prime Minister doesn’t seem to have any thoughts at all that weren’t adequate-ish newspaper columns from about 2004. But how did we get to the stage of using up the Met and most of the wider police forces’ reserves of manpower just like that? This isn’t a “What does it all mean?” post, although inevitably we’ll have one of them for you as well. It’s more like a “How does it all work?” post.

In all, 2,347 people have been arrested nationally. This is only a rough lower bound on the numbers of people involved, as obviously not everyone got caught and some of the people arrested are innocent. At an arrest rate of one in 10, that would give a total of 23,000. 51% of the arrests were in London, or to be precise the Met’s area of operations, which gives us the answer to one question at least – the police eventually quelled the riot by outnumbering the rioters, 16,000 cops versus an estimated 11,500 rioters. Obviously if you pick a different arrest rate fudge factor you’ll get a different answer, but then at least we’re using a model of sorts.

It’s certainly interesting, though, that a fairly small crowd was able to exhaust the policing resources of most of the UK. If the 23,000 rioters had shown up in central London to march on Whitehall, even assuming they were willing to be as troublesome and violent as they were elsewhere, I think the Met would have handled it without breaking sweat and certainly without needing to summon the South Wales force as mutual aid. Even the most hayseed British police forces deal with crowds of 23,000 young men reputed to be ready for violence, every weekend, quite commonly several at the same time, without very much happening. They are lower division football matches. And to be frank, a 23,000 strong national demo is disappointing.

So what’s up? One point is dispersion vs. concentration. Demonstrators want to occupy symbolic space and show their organisation by the very fact they could concentrate all these people. Casuals want to duff up the other mob. Therefore, the police problem is to either prevent them from getting to Parliament Square or the match, or else keep them segregated from other people while they are there. The police are on the tactical defensive, but the strategic offensive – if they stick it out they win.

Obviously, the demonstrators (or thugs) can’t counter this by dispersing because that would defeat the point. They have to come to the Bill, and the Bill can then canalise them. Kettling is the ultimate expression of this thinking.

If the police have to look for the crowd, though, this is obviously going to be a much more labour-intensive exercise. You can’t kettle several dozen groups of ten or so people spread over a dozen streets – the idea is absurd. You have to go looking for them. That in turn conditions what the crowd can do – it can’t stage a classic mass demonstration – and favours people who are willing to just randomly destroy stuff that happens to be undefended, while the traditional mass demo favours a show of what you might call subversive respectability. The slow march of the Zulus, if you like.

Another important point was that there was no key identity-group here – it wasn’t aligned with any one ethnic or religious group or geography and wasn’t even totally young, and it didn’t explicitly identify with a class either. Therefore, anyone who felt like it could join in, and did. This obviously helped it go national and also made a traditional (since the 80s) police tactic more difficult. How do you call community leaders to ask everyone to go home if you can’t identify the community? From the other direction, how do you negotiate with authority if you can’t identify a community?

(This is of course the final problem with the Big Society – its only organising principle is that it’s a society and apparently it’s big.)

I wonder if a lot of the violence was driven by the fact anyone could turn up, and therefore the only way to demonstrate that you really were one of the gang rather than a do-gooder or a fink or just some random spectator was to do something obviously illegal.

Also, did this kind of riot drop in between the classic modes of British policing? If someone commits a crime, there’s investigative policing, if it’s the right kind of crime and the right kind of victim. If the Chartists are marching on Westminster, line up on Westminster Bridge with shields and big sticks. And of course there’s community policing if there’s time between the other two for some cups of tea and old ladies, etc.

Investigation was rather irrelevant while it was going on, although of course it’s not any more. And the heavy mob couldn’t draw a shield wall around every shop in London. Neither could they find enough bodies to kettle every group of rioters, or find enough rioters in one place to kettle. It does look like the December 2010 student riots were a tactical learning-experience for a lot of people.

Finally, those BlackBerries. Not much to say here, except that the most important feature involved seems to have been the fact that BBM is multicast. You can message groups rather than only individuals. There are apps that let you emulate this with SMS, although the reply will only go to you.

As a general rule, BlackBerry Enterprise Server traffic should be hard to do anything to as the server, typically hosted by an organisation for its own purposes, generates its encryption keys when it’s set up. It’s not anything RIM or your operator has to know about. But this is of limited relevance – plenty of people run their own mail servers, but I’ve never heard of anyone who self hosts BlackBerry. The BlackBerry Internet Service, which is hosted by operators, certainly can be monitored by the operator as they own the server. UK operators would be covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and might have to hand over logs from the BIS servers.

I don’t know, however, if the BIS machine archives the content of what passes through it (which isn’t required by RIPA anyway). Obviously, the traffic-analysis data of who messages who and when is potentially revealing.

From a network point of view, though, I doubt if snooping on the traffic in transit would be very useful. You’d know that someone was using a BlackBerry, as it would be opening Packet Data Profile connections through the network and querying the BlackBerry network DNS. But as they monitor messaging all the time, that isn’t very useful information. Certainly nothing as useful as the BIS server log.

Peter Oborne‘s piece on post-Murdoch Britain is interesting, although mostly for the sheer otherness of his thinking. He’s at least got the good sense or moral minima required to end up on the right side of the debate, but he gets there through some truly odd reasoning. Can anyone remember even one instance when any of the News International outlets ever ran an editorial arguing that a republican form of government was desirable? But he ascribes “a powerful republican agenda” to Rupert Murdoch.

I’d argue that Murdoch has a powerful Republican agenda, as in the American political party, but not a republican one. The only newspaper that professes republicanism is the Guardian, or perhaps the Andersonstown News, which isn’t the same kind of republicanism and is interested in a different republic. The only way I can get sense out of it is to assume that he’s talking about Australia, which seems a bit of a distant concern. Further, David Miliband knows Polly Toynbee socially, and we’re asked to believe that this is worth mentioning in the same breath as the whole Murdoch system of government, as he describes it. Also, he seems to think Michael Gove, Eurabia-pushing ex-News International executive, is still a credible cabinet minister.

It’s like reading a leader written by a giant squid. It’s intelligence. But not as we know it.

Of course, he’s right that what has been revealed is a system, a sort of parallel government. One thing Oborne is extremely unlikely to ever say is that there was a qualitative shift in the late 2000s in how it worked, although I think he’s vaguely aware of it.

Labour leaders in the 1990s reacted to the power of the Murdoch system by trying to accommodate themselves to it. This is as good a way as any to define “The Project” – an effort to accommodate the party to the realities of the Murdoch system and to manage a transactional, bargaining relationship with it. The key figures in this effort – Peter Mandelson, Jonathan Powell, and Alistair Campbell – prided themselves precisely on their ability to manage the relationship, to negotiate a degree of freedom of action. The terms of business between NI and Labour can easily be criticised – would a Martian journalist dropped on a street corner between 1997 and 2007 have noticed that the Sun supposedly “supported Labour”? I think not. The paper didn’t actually call for a vote against, but it did pour abuse on Labour ministers, opposed basically all its policies except invading Iraq, and offered the Tories a sympathetic hearing.

By the end of the Blair era, this relationship was strained – the original breakdown might be traced to Iraq, in fact, and the exit of Alistair Campbell from No.10. In fact, what was under way was more fundamental than that. We might call it The Project 2.0.

This would involve the Conservatives rather than Labour, and critically would go much further than the original Project. Rather than a transactional, bargaining relationship with the Tories, mediated by powerful media managers belonging to the party, the Project 2.0 foresaw something very different. Whereas Alistair Campbell’s role was as “Emily” Blair’s bulldog, guarding the gate at the interface between the prime minister’s office and the press, alternately wagging and barking as seemed expedient, this new project would integrate News International’s men into the machinery of government.

Part of the legacy the original Project was the enlarged status of the government’s press officers at every level. In fact, it is unfair to blame this on New Labour. It is a great strategic trend that has been going for many years. Sir Bernard Ingham is not, I think, remembered for presenting an even-handed account of the Thatcher government’s record or acting with total equanimity towards critics and sycophants alike. Sir Gerald Kaufman, Joe Haines, Philip De Zueleuta – they all served their prime ministers in the dark art of propaganda and earned a reputation of sinister efficiency and great influence. Arguably, this goes all the way back to Lloyd George’s secretariat. Labour’s innovation was to bring in outsider professionals, and much else was up to the force of personality of those involved.

Another important trend was their integration with the core executive, the hard centre of the state centred around the prime minister, the Cabinet Office, the Treasury, the intelligence services, and the Ministry of Defence. At the top level, these strands all wind together in the prime minister’s office (which, I notice, has grown a domain name, pmo.gov.uk, recently). As a result, the prime minister’s official spokesman now has a sort of parallel management-information system that runs into the departments via their press officers, in much the same way the Treasury’s MIS extends into the departments through the system of public-service agreements. The two phenomena are quite closely linked, in fact – departments’ priorities are fixed through the comprehensive spending round and the PSAs, with reference to the political/press strategy defined on the PMOS’s network. Then, their success or failure is monitored via the Treasury reporting system and the No.10 policy unit, and the political response to it coordinated through the PMOS net.

One Blairite contribution to this which is unique was its militarisation. The Blair years turned out to be ones of war, and the emerging press-management network was heavily used in support of the wars, with the result that intelligence was increasingly redistributed from the intelligence-administrative complex into the press-political management system. At the same time, the military’s public affairs function was integrated into the system, with a common line for the civilian and uniformed spokesmen. Alistair Campbell’s invention of the Coalition Information Centre (a still under-reported creation) gave this an international dimension.

The Project 2.0 consists, then, of reversing the process. Rather than the politicians selecting press managers to control the interfaces between the political management network and the media, News International selected them and made recommendations to politicians, who incorporated them into key locations in the system – the very top at No.10, the Metropolitan Police, ACPO, and to be frank, who knows where else? We know that George Osborne recommended Andy Coulson to David Cameron, and that Rebekah Brooks thinks she recommended him to Osborne. Dick Fedorcio claims he can’t remember who recommended Neil Wallis to him, but he did admit that the motivation was to influence No.10 Downing Street, rather than to influence the press. (And who reckons Tom Watson wouldn’t have asked him if Brooks made the recommendation if he didn’t know the answer?)

Where Campbell bargained with NI and Mandelson cooperated with them, the situation in May, 2010 was more like Field-Marshal Montgomery’s remark that “I banned all talk of Army Co-Operation. There were not two plans, Army and Air, but one, Army-Air. When you are one entity you cannot cooperate.”

Now, Oborne is as I said, sort of aware of all this. A few weeks ago he surfaced the fact that there is an identifiable Murdoch caucus in the Tory Party, around George Osborne and Michael Gove, opposed to a Telegraph one. It is common knowledge that David Cameron’s first priority as Tory leader was to short-circuit the party’s internal procedures in order to flush in a lot more new candidates, the so-called A-list. One wonders if the list was pre-approved. And there seems to be an identifiable historical break point – when Michael Howard ran for prime minister in 2005, he brought in a pretty ugly character to run a pretty ugly campaign, Lynton Crosby, but at least he appears to have picked him himself.

My final question, then – with the dilution of the Tory Party with new candidates, and the integration of Murdoch’s political officers into key nodes, does David Cameron actually exist politically? Is he, y’know, a thing? What fuckery is this?