back to article Clink! Terrorist jailed for refusing to tell police his encryption password

A convicted terrorist will serve additional time in jail after he was found guilty of refusing to supply police with the password for a memory stick that they could not crack. Syed Farhan Hussain, 22, from Luton, was handed a four-month sentence at the Old Bailey on Tuesday after a jury took just 19 minutes to deliver the …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Ironically, given the likely time to brute force a 12 char pass-phrase and the promise of quantum devices, the logical approach is not bothering to start.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      You must understand that quantum devices are of no fecking use against good old 3DES or any symmetric cipher.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I still don't get how it can be legal to try and force someone to talk. That's all this is really, a law that says "if you don't give us evidence against you, it means you are guilty".

    You'd think the lawyer would have bothered to contest that particular law ....

    1. BongoJoe

      You'd think the lawyer would have bothered to contest that particular law ...

      If it's Law then it's law and there is no point in contesting it in this court. What needs to be done is to have the law itself contested in the High Court.

      But you will need only one guess to work out how that will turn out.

      1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

        No constitution, remember...? @BongoJoe

        > have the law itself contested in the High Court

        Your post reads as if you are used to living in a jurisdiction where the legislation is framed by a constitution, e.g. the United States of America? We in the UK do not. There is no analogue of a Federal Judge or Supreme Court declaring a law to be unconstitutional, for the good and sufficient reason that the United Kingdom does not have a constitution. We have a constitutional monarchy, sure, which means [1] that any bill that Parliament can persuade the Queen to sign becomes an Act, and the operative law, i.e. in this case the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. There is no mechanism to petition a court, crying "Not fair!".

        In the US, RIPA would be declared incompatible with the Constitution as amended by the 5th Amendment. Not here.

        [1] Gross oversimplification warning!

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          @Jonathan Richards 1 Re: No constitution, remember...? @BongoJoe

          You're correct that we don't have a document called "The Constitution", but you aren't correct that we don't have a constitution. A constitution is simply that which constitutes a thing - and we have that in spades. We have the founding documents of the modern United Kingdom, the Parliamentary Bill of Rights and a few other bits and pieces of legislation and treaty, and accompanying that we have legal precedent as set by the courts over about a thousand years.

          Together the form our constitution - they constitute the legal foundation of Parliament and grant its authority to govern by the will of the people.

          Up until about seventy years ago it was common for people of a certain sort to discuss British constitutional issues. Knowledge of the constitution of our nation was taught widely and in rather great depth. Not any more. The lack of knowledge of our constitution allows the current governments to sweep away huge swathes of our ancient liberties without even bothering to convince us why, and people aren't able to properly protest because they've accepted the idea that we have no constitutional body of law defining the limits of Parliament's power, and outlining the source of that power.

          On top of that: courts can and do overturn legislation all the time. Our legal system rests on the assumption that the courts have the authority to overturn legislation that is unjust, or goes against the rights of the people, or when a precedent exists to contradict the legislation in place. The courts used to limit the power of the legislature rather nicely by this mechanism.

          Where do you think the Americans got the idea in the first place?

          1. Tom 13

            Re: legal precedent as set by the courts over about a thousand years.

            I wasn't aware we were in the 23rd Century.

            As too where we got our ideas from, it was the result of abuses of justice and fairness even within the boundaries that existed at the time. Hence they are more protected under our unitary constitution. Part of the problem with the assembled bits and pieces in the UK is that it leaves more than sufficient room for word manglers to rework clear intentions.

            Not that it has helped us all that much on this side of the pond. Here judges just ignore the plain meaning and substitute their prejudices when they see fit, then claim stare decisis when someone challenges their interpretation in subsequent cases.

            The underlying problem on both sides of the pond is that neither of our governments are fit for purpose under any except a religious people. Absent essentially immovable rights granted from an all powerful, just and sovereign God its all just words on paper that are easily re-arranged by other clever men. And if that fails, they can always just shoot you.

          2. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

            Re: @Graham Dawson re: No constitution, remember...?

            I agree with you entirely that the UK isn't anarchic, but wished to point out to the OP that we hadn't got a written constitution which sets up a legal framework for assessing the constitutionality of laws, and your accurate observation of the "swathes of ancient liberties" being swept away rather makes my point, I think.

            You wrote "On top of that: courts can and do overturn legislation all the time. Our legal system rests on the assumption that the courts have the authority to overturn legislation that is unjust", but I don't recognise that in our current systems. At the risk of being mocked for quoting from Wikipedia:

            "Because of the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, the Supreme Court is much more limited in its powers of judicial review than the constitutional or supreme courts of some other countries. It cannot overturn any primary legislation made by Parliament."

            Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supreme_Court_of_the_United_Kingdom

        2. ian 22

          Re: No constitution, remember...? @BongoJoe

          Does this mean the UK and the US are right off the list of places to visit? Or only the UK?

          I hear Afganistan is lovely this time of year....

          1. ThomH Silver badge

            Re: No constitution, remember...? @BongoJoe

            My understanding of the legal position is this:

            Per Factortame, some acts are of constitutional significance. The European Communities Act is the one that case is about but it's far from being the only one. Such acts are special because they are not subject to implicit repeal. If a later act wants to contradict a constitutional act then it has to do so explicitly.

            Subsequent acts like the Human Rights Act (which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights) have adopted some of the logic of this line of thinking: all acts are to be interpreted compatibly with the HRA unless they state explicitly that they're incompatible. Were there no recognition of the idea of a set of elevated acts, such a provision would be void since there's an underlying rule that no parliament can dictate which laws a future parliament may make or unmake.

            So if a barrister could find a suitably significant act then he or she could argue that the subsequent one is not to be applied literally as written. Similarly judges could try to finagle some sort of unintended meaning out of the literal words if they really put their minds to it.

            But in England and Wales courts cannot strike down legislation in any broad sense. This is something the Americans explicitly did differently as a balance and measure to try better to ensure ongoing separation of powers. See e.g. the Lord Chief Justice prior to 2005 for an idea of how much the British system has ever been bothered about technical separation of powers. We like strong competing interests but have historically not generally been especially bothered about whether powers technically may flow from one body to another.

      2. wolfetone Silver badge

        So what happened to the whole "You don't have to say anything, but anything you do say will be taken down and used as evidence against you"?

        The law is an ass. Always has been, always will be.

        1. Jonathan Richards 1 Silver badge

          @Wolfetone re right to silence

          > So what happened to the whole "You don't have to say anything, but anything you do say will be taken down and used as evidence against you"?

          It was heavily modified (and weakened, I guess) by the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act. If you are now cautioned, it will (probably) take the form of words:

          “You do not have to say anything. But it may harm your defence if you do not mention

          when questioned something which you later rely on in Court. Anything you do say may

          be given in evidence.”

          Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pace-code-c-2008

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Innocent until proven guilty

      Yeah, we're not doing that anymore in England and Wales. Dumb fuckwits thought "innocent until proven or assumed guilty" would give their judicial system better conviction rates, so they could claim they were being "tough on the causes of crime".

      See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-incrimination#English_.26_Welsh_law

      I'm afraid it's like much of the CJS nowadays, it has abolsutely nothing to do with Justice anymore, it's about serving the interests of those who are members of it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Innocent until proven guilty

        The other disgusting aspect of our law as it's developed over the last 20 years or so is the trick of turning a non-criminal act into a criminal one by creating a (potential) crime via an ASBO. I see the current Government have, unsurprisingly, some even more illiberal proposals in the pipeline.

    3. The Mole

      Regardless of the morality or ethicity of the law, a barrister (as this is the UK) doesn't have any (strong) grounds to contest the law as it has been passed into law by both houses of parliament including a declaration from the home secretary stating that it complies with the human right act.

      There's always the option of going to the European Courts of Justice to get them to declare that actually it doesn't comply with the human rights act but that will take more than 4 months and a convicted terrorist probably isn't the best poster child for that campaign

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Regardless of the morality or ethicity of the law, a barrister (as this is the UK) doesn't have any (strong) grounds to contest the law

        How about the English Bill of rights "excessive bail" and "cruel and unusual punishments" provisions. Locking someone up for refusing to hand over what amounts to a word, must surely class as excessive bail.

        1. The Mole

          Generally in UK law the last bill passed takes precedence and implicitly amends the previous bill - the basic principle is that parliament can't be bound by decisions of past parliaments.

          There's a couple of exceptions such as the Human Rights Act which explicitly has wording in that says it can't be implicitly amended instead parliament have to explicitly state that they are amending it in the later passed legislation (which they can do - although that may then be violating treaty obligations which could cause other political but not actually legal issues).

      2. Primus Secundus Tertius

        @Mole 13:11

        Worse cases than that have won the blessing of the European Court.

        But what a contempt for English law and England the terrorist showed. Could not remember his password, until suddenly he could. He would deserve to be jailed for contempt, even if the RIPA law did not exist. I hope we can throw him out one day.

        1. Uffish
          Headmaster

          Contempt

          Contempt for others is a nasty condition to fall into but is not a crime. Trying to injure and kill people is a crime, as is hindering a police investigation. The guy was jailed for those crimes.

        2. Charles Manning

          deserve to be jailed for contempt [of court]

          It depends...

          You can only be charged with contempt of court if a judge tells you to do something within his powers to command and you fail to obey.

          He cannot command you to wear a pink miniskirt, for example.

          Since there is a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_silence_in_England_and_Wales, it is only the RIPA act that could give the court any teeth.

        3. Roj Blake

          Yeah let's send him back to where he came from!

          Errr, that would be Luton then.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @The Mole

        1. There's no such word as "ethicity", despite its resemblance to "ethnicity".

        2. If you believe there is a difference between morality and ethics, what do you think it is? Or were you just repeating yourself?

    4. Richard Barnes

      The Golden Thread

      If you are a fan of Rumpole of the Bailey, you'll remember his waxing lyrical over the Golden Thread that ran through British justice. These were:

      - The right to silence

      - The presumption of innocence and the fact that the burden of proof rests with the prosecution

      - The right not to be tried twice for the same offence.

      Pillars of justice that had stood for centuries were removed in the space of about 10 years between 1994 and 2004 after terrorist attacks that killed, in this country, rather fewer than the number dying in road accidents in two weeks. Rumpole's Golden Thread is no more.

      1. NP-HARD
        Pint

        Re: The Golden Thread

        +1 for Rumpole ref.

      2. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: The Golden Thread

        @ Richard Barnes

        But those rules dont work against the current threats to our lives. We are now facing some of the worst terrorists you can possibly imagine, we used to call them the people. And of course to ensure every potential criminal can be identified we must remove the rights of the terrorists (formally known as the people) so we can identify which ones need arresting now or can be controlled under whatever government takes over.

        This is a sick situation where the people have their protection stripped from them in the name of protecting them. And regardless of our faith in current governments (if we have it) is leaving us open to abuse by a future gov

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: The Golden Thread

          "is leaving us open to abuse by a future gov"

          It doesn't matter who you vote for, the government always get in.

          "A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.

          -- Edward Abbey "

          1. Kane Silver badge

            @ Sir Runcible Spoon

            It doesn't matter who you vote for, the government always get in.

            Or alternatively, "The House always wins"

        2. Bartholomew

          Re: The Golden Thread

          The real solution to stop terrorism is to stop doing what is causing them to be created by the UK, US of A, France, ........ and stop selling them weapons.

          1. Pookietoo

            Re: The real solution to stop terrorism ...

            ... is to stop worrying about terrorists, and pay more attention to important issues like obesity and road safety.

            1. Roj Blake

              Re: The real solution to stop terrorism ...

              I recall Omid Djalilli once suggesting that the media should call the nancyboys instead of terrorists.

              That would stop the worrying.

            2. cortland

              Re: The real solution to stop terrorism ...

              Or as a British online acquaintance wrote in 2005:

              "I'll worry about TERRORISTS when they're more dangerous than MOTORISTS "

              http://forums.delphiforums.com/callahan/messages/?msg=34277.56

            3. Arthur Dent

              Re: The real solution to stop terrorism ...

              There are a few changes in resource usage that could be more useful than switching effort from antiterrorism. For example we could make all those nasty drug things availanble from state-organised shops at a far lower price than the current criminal system delivers them, and put a lot of big criminals out of business while making a nice income for the state which could perhaps be used on helping people hooked on the really bad stuff, probably reducing a lot of small scale crime because addicts would not have to spend so much to servuice their habits, and completely eliminating the process of dealers persuading people to step up from comparatively harmless drogs to more harmful (and more expensive) ones. Or we could scrap nuclear armaments and use the savings either to produce some useful naval power and give the army some of the reources it needs instead of just cutting it back while throwing ever-growing commitments at it or, if defence is less important, to reduce the fiscal deficit.

              But the chances of a British government adopting any sort of sensible policy on anti-terrorism, drugs, human rights, surveillance, immingration, defence, or taxation are even less than those of democracy replacing plutocracy in the USA; recent years of Labour government took us in the wrong direction on all those thigs, and the current mob have continued to push most of the same antidemocratic statist and syndicalist ideas.

          2. DiViDeD Silver badge

            Re: The Golden Thread

            @Bartholomew: I don't think you'll find that availability of weapons is what makes a terrorist. It's the perception of oppression, unjust treatment, prejudice, and so on, real or imagined, and a general impression that there is no legal way to change the situation which leads to acts of desperation on the part of those who want to change things.

            Weapons provide the means for terrorists, but not the motivation

        3. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          WTF: Worst terrorist you can possibly imagine?

          They seem to have been the worst bunglers anyone could possibly imagine.

          The worst we could imagine having had a shot at Britain were the green and orange ****ers that Blair bought off by letting George Bush bugger us.

          I can't think of a more badly managed episode since Blair introduced martial law into the UK. At least when the Irish bungled a threat and blew themselves up they did it by accident :) These monkeys couldn't peel a banana.

          As for GCHQ not decoding that silly password...

          His password was unlocked immediately and the police failed to inform him of the fact, thus adding to his incarceration. No doubt the secondary case brought against him after the sell by date for the password one lapsed was framed -as in framed; to suit the mentality of the imbecile.

          after so many days unattended. Assuming that the GCHQs antics wouldn't count.

          He should have kept his mouth shut. And he should have put the USB in a timelock device where it would blank itself after so many days unattended (assuming that GCHQ's antics wouldn't count) and blanked if mishandled in some way al la Cryptonomicon

          In the world of terrorism and espionage are there no memory sticks that are designed to lose all their data when attacked?

          Is that not irredemably inept?

          It's about as inept as an Arab terrorist using dollar signs in his password. He should have used some non Latin characters. And burned the keyboard every time he used it. A foreign keyboard that required three or so keys to produce each character would be difficult to force, especially if it didn't exist. It might take a few seconds as opposed to instantaneous.

          What we want in the free world is a password that is time dependent as well as having any imaginable character in it. Only the characters must be home made. How long do you think it would be before owning such a device would be deemed and act of terrorism?

          Despite the fact that to be a terrorist means you have to be unimaginably stupid enough to use a blown password that is easily forced.

          Ah well, it takes all sorts, الحمد الله.

          1. Jim 59

            Re: WTF: Worst terrorist you can possibly imagine?

            Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects is a bot, and a good one - who the hell is voting him down. LOL

      3. NomNomNom

        Re: The Golden Thread

        On the otherhand Rumpole didn't lift a finger to stop Jimmy Savile.

      4. Jim 59

        Re: The Golden Thread

        I agree with Rumpole. But without a law making suspects reveal passwords, it is hard to see how any investigation could progress. Previous laws were written before electronic encrypted data became widespread, as was Rumpole.

      5. Neil McAliece

        Re: The Golden Thread

        That's the Labour party for you.

      6. Tom 13

        Re: The Golden Thread

        None of which apply AFTER you have been convicted.

        1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          AFTER you have been convicted

          The trick is to hide it down the back of a sofa and wipe it clean before dropping it there. But you must do all this before you are convicted and have a seemingly identical USB that is also password protected (but obviously doesn't contain evidence against you) and has a different password. A GIANT! fail for the fool.

          But at least after reading all this, the others will know better. (Or not, as the case will be.)

          Why the hell did he need a USB to tell him what he'd been up to?

          And why was any reference to any crime clearly identifiable?

          What an absolute mutt!

          Why do we need draconian laws to deal with idiots like that?

      7. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Richard Barnes Re: The Golden Thread

        ".....his waxing lyrical over the Golden Thread that ran through British justice....." Yeah, well that are a lot of old laws that people used to wax lyrical over - like being able to beat your servant, employ children to clean chimneys and work down mines, or shoot Welshmen with a longbow if they enter Chester after midnight (oops! that one's still legal! http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/6204511.stm). Laws change and develop as the society we live in develops and faces new challenges.

        ".....The right to silence......" The Section 49 bit does not remove his right to silence, it merely allows him to be prosecuted for obstructing the Police investigation in a very narrow set of circumstances.

        "....The presumption of innocence and the fact that the burden of proof rests with the prosecution....." He was already found guilty of the terrorism charges which meant the Police were free to insist he decrypted the drive in the interest of protecting others. The fact it turned out to be related to a different crime (fraud( is neither here nor there as these twits were trying to use the stolen credit card numbers to fund their terror plans.

        "....The right not to be tried twice for the same offence...." Where does it say he was tried a second time for the same offence? First charge for terrorism, second for not answering a Section 49.

        1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Where does it say he was tried a second time for the same offence?

          I think he has just cause for claiming the police withheld evidence. But I very much doubt he can prove it.

          Maybe he can find a case where the experts that failed to crack the password managed to crack a similar one in times past?

          Or can claim they must have already known it?

          How much would it cost him to appeal?

        2. Aldous

          Shooting Welshmen with a longbow

          It may still be on the books but it is illegal as it is superseded by the murder laws. That is how English law works, there is no great rule book and that is it, but instead a great big rule book and a shed load of case law. Most of these old laws that people claim still exist are like this (London cabs and bails of hay etc), sure they were never repealed but they have been superseded by newer laws that cover the area

          English Law is all about the interpretation for example it is very hard to get someone convicted for stealing a car as to be classed as stealing you need to have stolen it with the aim of permanently depriving the rightful owner of their property. If you steal a car and joyride it, then dump it you have not permanently deprived them of it and therefore cannot be charged with theft. You can be charged with Taking Without Owners Consent (TWOC) which is why car thefts are charged as TWOC's and not theft.

      8. Scorchio!!

        Re: The Golden Thread

        "[...] terrorist attacks that killed, in this country, rather fewer than the number dying in road accidents in two weeks."

        Yes, I know what you mean, and didn't Uncle Jo Stalin himself say that you cannot make omelettes without cracking eggs? So yes, fuck those who might die of terrorism, let 'em die with the words of a fictional character from a TV legal soap echoing in their ears, never mind all of the plots that were thwarted. I'm right with you; "let freedom ring".

      9. Psyx

        Re: The Golden Thread

        "Pillars of justice that had stood for centuries were removed in the space of about 10 years between 1994 and 2004 after terrorist attacks that killed, in this country, rather fewer than the number dying in road accidents in two weeks."

        And yet, we'd suffered far more deaths from domestic terrorism in the twenty years prior to the cited period, without our rights being so smartly whisked away.

    5. No, I will not fix your computer

      Not "complying" is the crime, not the results of complying.

      It's the same as "failure to provide a breath test specimen", and I'm sure it's not coinicdence that the punishment happens to be the same as drink driving.

      >>That's all this is really, a law that says "if you don't give us evidence against you, it means you are guilty".

      Nope, the way the law is, is means "if you don't give us the means to easily gather evidence, it means you are guilty of not allowing us to easily gather evidence".

      Personally, I suspect that they wanted to firstly convict him of something easily provable (not supplying the key) which gives them time to build a subsequent case around what they have already found, this buys them lots of time.

      1. Titus Technophobe

        Re: Not "complying" is the crime, not the results of complying.

        I struggle to see what is wrong with this law. This is just an extension of the law to take account of technology. Just as the court can issue a warrant to allow a search of premises for evidence, the same applies to encrypted information.

        In any event, in this case, I definitely can’t see what is wrong the defendant has already been convicted of terrorism offences.

        1. Bloakey1

          Re: Not "complying" is the crime, not the results of complying.

          "I struggle to see what is wrong with this law. This is just an extension of the law to take account of technology. Just as the court can issue a warrant to allow a search of premises for evidence, the same applies to encrypted information."

          <snip>

          Yes a court can issue a warrant. In this case we are obliged without any warrant and at the whim of an officer to allow access to private data. I would have no problems if due process took place and I was then legally obliged to supply a key or password. At the moment a bloke in a pub with a warrant card can do it.

          1. Titus Technophobe
            Stop

            Re: Not "complying" is the crime, not the results of complying.

            A section 49 request, which may then lead to prosecution under section 53 has to authorised in the same way as a search warrant.

            1. Vic

              Re: Not "complying" is the crime, not the results of complying.

              A section 49 request, which may then lead to prosecution under section 53 has to authorised in the same way as a search warrant.

              No, that's not true.

              A search warrant has to be authorised by a magistrate.

              A Section 49 notice may be issued by a number of people detailed in Schedule 2; each must have been granted permission to grant Section 49 notices by a member of the judiciary, but each individual notice does not require judicial oversight.

              IMO, this is way, way too lax...

              Vic.

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