Thursday, February 22, 2007

Really Annoyed - TerryWatch

Not perhaps surprisingly, Terry Kelly has managed to irritate me. This was not his illiteracy or pig-headed incompetence – if those did anything other than amuse, I would just stop reading his drivel. No, the thing that wound me up was one of his typical gratuitous ad-hominem attacks (used to distract from the fisking of his statements, never mind his arguments.) I’ll let RFS and RS deal with his insults and pathetic attempts to make them look stupid their selves – they are both more than capable. What perked me up was one of his comments, where he repeated the old Trot canard that Margaret Thatcher was a war criminal. Coming from a member of the party run by the Rt Hon A Blair, this is, at best, pot & kettle stuff, but I thought – okay – let us actually look at the evidence.

It was surprisingly difficult and I wasn't able to recover the details of all of the communiques.

For those of you who (yes, I do have readers) don’t have a detailed knowledge of the Falklands War, the issue (except for the nutters) revolves around the sinking of the ARA General Belgrano (an old light cruiser, formerly the USS Pheonix) by HMS Conqueror (a Churchill-class nuclear attack submarine) on 2nd May 1982.

The facts seem to be this (if you can show errors or actual dispute, put it in the comments and I will amend):

  • On 2nd April 1982, the Argentine Army invaded the British Dependent Territory of the Falkland Islands – an unprovoked act of war but in the context of a long-running territorial dispute (especially linked to the South Georgia landing of 20th Dec 1981.)
  • The UK had declared a 200 mile Maritime Exclusion Zone around the islands on 12th April and this became a Total Exclusion Zone on 30th April.
  • The Belgrano was outside of (but close to) the TEZ and, at the precise time of the sinking and for some time previously, had been heading away from the TEZ.
  • Conqueror received a change to her ROE (Rules of Engagement) and sank the Belgrano with a spread of MK8 (WW2 vintage) torpedoes.
  • There were a series of errors or omissions on the British side – signals were either not sent or had not been passed to the relevant politicians or military commanders and Conqueror’s official ship’s log is, for some people “conveniently”, missing.
  • The Belgrano’s escort destroyers attempted, but failed, to hunt Conqueror down and there was significant loss of life – the greatest in the conflict – the consensus seems to be 323 Argentinian lives.
  • Many (most) of those killed in the engagement were conscripts.
Now, I don’t want to labour on whether or not the war was necessary – I don’t have the right access to official documents. However it is clear that at least some within the British Foreign Office saw the status of the Falklands as an embarrassing obstacle to improving our relations (and trade) with the major economies of South America and would have been ecstatic if the Islanders had agreed some form of transfer or sharing of sovereignty with Argentina. Of course it was slightly unfortunate that, at the time, Argentina was being run by a vicious right wing military dictatorship but given that it is an article of faith amongst Terry and his ilk that Maggie was a vicious right wing civilian dictator, this shouldn’t cause us too much pause.

Other issues also contributed:
  • The British military, especially the Royal Navy, was suffering through the Nott cuts, which had greatly cut back military capability. In the eyes of most analysts, the success of the Falklands War from the British point of view was down to utter professionalism and some significant luck, not having an organised power projection capability (and even that required much requisitioning of civilian shipping capability – the “STUFT” – Ships Taken Up From Trade vessels.)
  • One of the more emotive cuts, as far as the South Atlantic was concerned, was the withdrawal of HMS Endurance, the Royal Navy’s support to the British Antarctic area (although a warship per se – painted bright red and having mounts for light weapons but no actual armament, she was hardly the military deterrent that some commentators insist. Of significant use to the area and a political symbol of British presence, indeed but, in an environment of vicious cut-backs in military spending, no great surprise that the aging vessel was being withdrawn and not replaced).
  • Political and social upheavals in Argentina were growing and a bit of populist nationalist argie-bargie (yes, I know, but you know I had too ☺) would be likely to improve the situation for the ruling junta.
Now, I also don’t want particularly to labour on whether or not the sinking of the Belgrano, at that particular time was an urgent military priority, but consider:
  • During the conflict, the Royal Navy demonstrated the usefulness of NGS – Naval Gunfire Support, to an amphibious campaign. Compared to the RN ships, the most heavily armed of which were the County Class destroyers with a single twin-4.5” gun turret and some (the Type 22 frigates) had been built with no gun armament what-so-ever, the Belgrano was equipped with 15 6” guns and a range of secondary armament. Her accompanying destroyers had equivalent weaponry to the RN ships (because they were, in one of these amusing quirks of history, British-built Type 42 ships.) Belgrano was considered to represent a significant threat to any amphibious beachhead and, to a lesser but not trivial extent, the British fleet itself.
  • Although the Belgrano group was outside of the MEZ / TEZ, the British had also passed the following message to the Argentine government on 23rd April, quite reasonable in the context of a war –
In announcing the establishment of a Maritime Exclusion Zone around the Falkland Islands, Her Majesty's Government made it clear that this measure was without prejudice to the right of the United Kingdom to take whatever additional measures may be needed in the exercise of its right of self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. In this connection, Her Majesty's Government now wishes to make clear that any approach on the part of Argentine warships, including submarines, naval auxiliaries or military aircraft, which could amount to a threat to interfere with the mission of British Forces in the South Atlantic will encounter the appropriate response.
  • Amended: Although Conqueror was currently tracking the Belgrano group, there was no certainty that this would continue indefinitely - at some point the sub would need to break contact and it might have taken some time to re-establish herself in a position to fire.

So, after that ramble, what am I actually asking you to consider – was the sinking of the Belgrano a “war crime” and, if so, was Margaret Thatcher, as Prime Minister of the UK at the time, sufficiently complicit in the crime to be indictable for it.

Now, to be a “war crime” you have to meet certain tests, just as the majority of deaths in combat should not be treated as murder, however unnecessary. The controversy around the killing of Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull is a classic example – whether or not the pilots should be taken to a Board of Enquiry and subsequent Courts Martial for his death is one question – I have seen little sensible comment that suggests that despite the fact that they clearly intended to destroy the patrol and its vehicles that they should be tried for murder. Corporal Payne (British Army, Duke of Lancaster's Regiment) is another example - he was (is) charged with manslaughter not murder.
Most of the tests are contained in the various Geneva conventions – dealing with treatment of the injured, Prisoners of War, and civilians (and their property) in the war zone. Under the relevant UK law, Section 50 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001, you are referred to the Article 8.2 of the Statute of International Criminal Court.

Reading this, it seems clear to me that there is no way attacking, or ordering the attack on, a warship of a hostile power which represented a clear (although not immediate) danger to your operations, however great (and tragic) the loss of life is (and no matter how little culpability the individual sailors had in the political decision to go to war) could be considered a war crime.

Also, the 3 Para (another British Army in Iraq issue) trial and Judge's ruling raises questions of doubt, I suppose, though I am not a lawyer, of mens rea where a lawful military activity goes beyond those bounds and results in an unlawful death or deaths and how blame can be allocated. Under the ICC Statute, it would seem that for it to be a War Crime, where the persons involved were acting in accordance with their lawful ROE and within the Geneva Conventions, would be quite hard (even for the person or persons whose direct actions caused the deaths.) Furthermore, it would appear to be extremely difficult to convict of a War Crime the “Commander in Chief”, or in Maggie’s case, political leader, who caused those ROE to be set even if, as it clearly didn’t here, one or more persons following those ROE could be charged with War Crimes.

Amend: I would add here that creating and following ROE that contradicted the Geneva Conventions would likely be chargeable as a War Crime and, for the political leadership, there is also the different definitions of "Crimes against Humanity", in the same statutes. Again, the relevant situation: the killing of serving military personnel, who had neither surrendered or indicated a desire to surrender, as a consequence of the destruction of the military asset in which they were travelling. I cannot see how this could fit.

So, Terry, you may not like what was done during the war but, please, if you are going to throw around the allegations of “war criminal”, please justify it with reference to the current statutes, or to those that applied in 1982 , rather merely restating or referring to the opinions of Tam Dalyell or Diane Gould.

On a somewhat separate issue Rwanda & Iraq (both Abu Ghraib and the QLR mess) show the problems of combat troops, however well trained and disciplined undertaken what is essentially a policing role. This is exacerbated when you are operating in a guerrilla / terrorist scenario and it is impossible to tell whether the person in front of you is an armed terrorist, an active supporter (possibly even a lookout), a sympathiser for the cause (all three of these could wear distinctive clothing or symbols), or an innocent civilian. Take an analogy with football: players and fans (active & passive) wear the same strips – and these also make their way to remote Amazonian and Papua New Guinean tribes. A further problem is that innocence is relative – they may not be terrorists but criminals – with a strong incentive not to be stopped and searched, or whatever, by a military patrol. In the naval context, the same could be assumed for a warship or auxiliary, a civilian vessel transporting troops (the Iranian Republican Guard Boghammer speedboats, for example), a blockade runner (so a legitimate military target), a fishing boat and a cigarette smuggler.

S-E

PS – while searching for the text of the Exclusion Zone announcements, I came across these neo-Terrys. It is obviously endemic within the Trot communitare. I particularly enjoy them getting Denis and Mark mixed up.

PPS - As RFS is currently fisking Terry for putting a comma in the wrong place and completely changing his meaning, I though I had better correct my error.

Oh dear but hardly surprising

Well, interesting that the vid surfaced after the random drugs test. 10 out of 700 - 1.5% ish - I wonder what the equivalent would be at Barclay's Head Office if they had tested them after the results came out?

Amendment - 10 out of 441 tested - so under 2.3% - doesn't change my basic premise.

S-E

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Wrong Again

Oh well,

The definition of mutiny under the 2006 act is:

Mutiny

(1) A person subject to service law commits an offence if he takes part in a mutiny.

(2) For the purposes of this section a person subject to service law takes part in a mutiny if—

(a) in concert with at least one other person subject to service law, he—

(i) acts with the intention of overthrowing or resisting authority; or

(ii) disobeys authority in such circumstances as to subvert discipline;

(b) he agrees with at least one other person subject to service law to overthrow or resist authority; or

(c) he agrees with at least one other person subject to service law to disobey authority, and the agreed disobedience would be such as to subvert discipline.

Nothing in there about joint complaints / grievances, unless, of course you look at (2)(a)(ii) or (2)(c) and the "authority" is allowed to be Queen's Regulations or some administrative instruction. Back in box :( or not?

S-E

Petty (Il)Legality

Folks,

There is (yet another) worthy petition up on the "to be patronised by a junior member of the PM's staff" site regarding the unfair position people leaving the Armed Forces are put into when looking for civilian housing. Please look at the petition here and, if you feel it appropriate, vote for it.

However, that is not my point. I found out about this petition through an "Armed Forces and Guests" website - specifically the British Army's Armynet site. Having a look at the list of signatories, I saw that a number of serving personnel had signed it and was just musing on how this fitted with the current definition of the military crime of mutiny. In years gone by, I was taught that, as well as the standard, Fletcher Christian-esque organised (or organising) refusal to follow an order (as opposed to individual refusal, which would be "refusal to obey" or "insubordination"), organising yourselves to make a joint protest or complaint either to or bypassing the chain of command also fell within the definition. Whether the petition site gets close enough to the Bliar to count as "bypassing the chain of command", I leave for separate discussion :)

This other side of mutiny was highlighted as the reason why there was no significant overt pressure for an Armed Forces Union (remarked on with much surprise in the Bett report), or even equivalent bodies to the Police Federation (sorry, and here for you Southerners), Superintendents Association & ACPO. Now there have clearly been unofficial organisations mediated by new technology, such as the fantastic Army Rumour Service, but this is the first time I have actually seen this sort of thing on a (semi-) official site. Ho hum, I suppose a quick read of last year's Armed Forces Act won't stop me from pretending to work.

S-E

Thursday, February 15, 2007

RIPA Part III Code of Practice

Folks,

The revised draft of the Code of Practice for Part III (INVESTIGATION OF ELECTRONIC DATA PROTECTED BY ENCRYPTION ETC.) of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 was issued today. I would stick it up but I don't have any webspace available under this nym, so if somebody knows how to upload a 229kB pdf to Blogspot, let me know, please.

They seem to have taken some notice of what was said but have scythed away from the full re-write I thought was necessary. Obviously, given that the actual law was passed years ago - and the CoP has to reflect the language and intent of the law, the Home Office team were not going to neuter it in the way the privacy activists and much of the academic security community wished.

Will post more once I have read it in detail.

S-E

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Army in the news, all bad (again)

Oh well, and people seem to be making it a couple of difficult days for Army and MOD PR. Ho hum. That's what you get for having a nice desk job in the Madhouse rather than being in the field.

The stories do raise some interesting points however. Everybody's favourite elected baboon whitters on about the drugs issue at the end of one of his usual semi-literate diatribes. (I had thought he had discovered paragraph spacing, rather than actual sense of course, here but it seems to have been a brief lapse into legibility.) If, Terry, you really don't know what is wrong with a bunch of armed people, nice though they may be to their mums, being out of their skulls on whatever-drug-you-choose, take a brief visit to Somalia or one of the dodgier bits of LA. Assault rifles, even the SA-80, and hard drugs make tragedy when mixed.

As for His Grace, well, this may be the start of the biggest (financially) divorce in British history but although that should be a private matter for his family, I assume all of the gory details will be dragged in front of us, whether we want to know them or not. I will also assume, for the sake of this posting, that the Screws are correct in what they allege - the Grosvenor fortune can afford enough excellent lawyers to cull the herd of gutter journos if they are wrong. What I want to rant about is whether, or not, this makes a blind bit of effing difference to his abilities as a (General) officer.

The "damned licentious soldiery", which Terry tries to mention but fails, have been at it since they invented armies. Even if the only things you know about the British military are from watching Sharpe or that Robson & Jerome thing, you know that whores, like the smell, follow soldiers around. I was intrigued to see the Screws mention the Armed Forces Code of Social Conduct, which I was not aware of. So I read it to see if it actually says "Commandment 11: Don't get caught (bonking tarts by a sleazy newspaper)".

Of course it doesn't. It says the old things: don't shag your juniors; don't shag somebody else's spouse (or civil partner - though that never came into it in my day); and if you're shagging in the barracks be careful about the implications for military discipline. To quote the "Service Test":
"Have the actions or behaviour of an individual adversely impacted or are they likely to impact on the efficiency or operational effectiveness of the Service?"


As for risking "blackmail and security scandal by revealing his name and Army connections to the girls", he's the Duke of effing Westminster for god's sake. A public figure. If you didn't know who he is, you could find out easily enough. Silly, possibly, but a scandal?

Now, I do appreciate that as ACDS with responsibility for the Cadets, as well as the Reserves, some people may now consider him an inappropriate role model for the (vicious) little (bunch of sociopathic) kiddies. If you're worried about this, you haven't met many cadets. They are teenagers - a bunch of sex-obsessed, fornicating little <Ed's note. S-E has had to be taken away and given his medication.>

I am not personally concerned - even if every word written is both accurate and true, this has been between consenting adults. There is a huge gulf between 'horny' and 'paedophile'. His public position and huge wealth (mostly gained through his efforts in re-establishing the value of the estate) give him a public profile significantly in excess of that attributable to his (valuable) military service and current position. For that, he (and his family) will have to take the hit. Personally, I hope that he continues to serve for his current appointment.

I suspect that the questions being asked in Basrah and Helmand are not "How dare he do this while we are fighting?" but more likely "Cor, where do we get four of those then?"

S-E

PS - Grinned when I read "full-blown major general" (sic). Err, yup, seems so.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Normal service has been resumed

Congrats to the Cambridge lads for getting a (not quite live) demo to work - the hardest bit of appearing to know what you are doing in Infosec.

While watching the programme, my wife found out that she was the lucky winner of one of the top (£3m) prizes in the £90m Nigerian National Lottery. Off to tell my boss what I think of him, once I've finished the champers ... or not.

S-E

Go Light Blue !

Read the article, watch (or record & watch) the programme, (internet link here Amendment - thanks to Youtube rather than the BBC - well done Web2.0, piss-poor from the public service broadcaster).

Then discuss.

Interestingly, this closely connected to the reason why (apart from the hideous cost) UK banks have yet to roll-out strong crypto devices for online banking. (The challenge / response mechanism needs to incorporate enough details of the transaction being authenticated to prevent the transaction being hijacked by a man-in-the-middle fraudster. Especially where you need a human to recognise the details, as in the online banking context, this is harder than it sounds.)

S-E
 
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