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UK Politician Criticised For Using Hotmail

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the make-better-choices dept.

The Internet 151

nk497 writes "The UK justice secretary Jack Straw has been criticised for using Hotmail as his official government email account after he apparently fell foul of a Nigerian spammer in a phishing attack. A security researcher said using such an account not only left the government in security trouble, but meant any emails sent could not be necessarily accessed via the Freedom of Information Act."

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151 comments

Not government account (5, Informative)

todslash (1025980) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995501)

It was not his official government email account, it was his constituency email account.

Attention This is Cmdr Nacho, your glorious leader (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26995609)

Go home. Enjoy life. Get a life if you have to.

Re:Not government account (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26995625)

True but let's not let this get in the way of a good moan.

Also, fuck you.

Re:Not government account (-1, Redundant)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995709)

It does seem kind of silly. I've been using yahoomail since the 90s. If I suddenly get elected to office, am I supposed to just stop using my old email?

Re:Not government account (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995725)

yes. I would have thought that would be obvious.

Re:Not government account (1)

wmac (1107843) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996001)

And what happens when your family, friends and old contacts send emails to that account? You should not read and reply them?

Re:Not government account (4, Funny)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996033)

You have to get elected. I'm assuming that you lose all your real friends, and all the fake ones will be happy to contact you.

Re:Not government account (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996133)

haven't you people heard of forwarding? ffs it's not rocket science to change your email. less retardation please.

Re:Not government account (1)

wmac (1107843) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996175)

Yahoo forwarder saves a copy in your account and then forwards it. Others like hotmail and gmail too. Anyway what's the difference, someone might break into your old account and remove the forwarder or do whatever he wants. The complete solution is then to ask Yahoo etc. to terminate your account and goodbye everyone!

Re:Not government account (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996281)

Sorry but no. I'm not going to stop using a 10-year-old address simply because you tell me to. I'm willing to confine my official activities to the corporate/government email account, but I'm not going to stop talking to friends/colleagues via the yahoomail

Re:Not government account (3, Insightful)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996327)

Are you some sort of idiot ?

You can keep your current personal e-mail address to speak to your family and friends but if you are discussing the government business you are paid to do then you use the offical government account.

It's really not that hard.

Re:Not government account (1)

wmac (1107843) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996369)

How about you? You are always that impolite? i was responding to the above person. You think your very smart?

Re:Not government account (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995829)

I've been using gmail and gmx for at least a decade, yet I would be (rightfully!) fired if I was to send and receive sensitive corporate data through these addresses, at least if I can't provide some sort of good reason AND good encryption to make sure that it is at least halfway decently protected from prying eyes.

And that's not Joe Shmoe of Backwater Inc with data nobody might be interested in, it's the Justice Secretary. You might get an idea what kind of email reaches his desk, and why it might be interesting to have it

a) secure from curious people and
b) available for an audit in case something stinks

This person is an elected official. Essentially, the mails he receives and sends (related to his office, of course, not his private communication) are property of the voters of the United Kingdom. It's time that people realize again that their officials are supposed to work for them, not for themselves.

Re:Not government account (0, Flamebait)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996057)

It is important that he keeps his communications private.

It's not like he is some tin-pinny official like the Governor of Alaska, running for Vice President of the United States of America. His job is really important!

Re:Not government account (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996173)

Well, he IS the one who is in charge of (or, hopefully not, but just responsible for) setting up the "high-tech crime unit (which still puzzles me... do they solve or commit high-tech crime. It doesn't really come out clearly when looking at their actions...). I would expect someone like this to know about the perils of this behaviour.

If he does not, he is evidently unfit for the job and should be fired. C'mon, people of the UK, he's your employee. If my employee can't do what I hire him for, I fire him and hire someone who can. Or is the Politician Union so strong in the UK that the severance pay would cripple you?

Re:Not government account (3, Funny)

wisty (1335733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996267)

Yeah, but he's a union employee, and Parliament is a union shop. You can only get members of the Labor or Tory unions in his job, so we're pretty much stuck with him.

Re:Not government account (2, Funny)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996603)

... the "high-tech crime unit" (which still puzzles me... do they solve or commit high-tech crime.

The answer is yes. Next question, please.

Re:Not government account (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996933)

do they solve or commit high-tech crime. It doesn't really come out clearly when looking at their actions...).

They commit it, then solve it (of course with their insider information) so they can say "Look at all these high tech crimes we've solved! Give us more money!"

Re:Not government account (5, Funny)

Cally (10873) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996217)

I've been using gmail and gmx for at least a decade,

How remarkably clever of you, especially as Gmail only entered it's initial invitation-only beta in 2003...

Re:Not government account (1)

theeddie55 (982783) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996355)

it was 2004

*Not* government account (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996455)

Did you even read the grandparent post, or the title of your own post? The fact that he's a cabinet minister is entirely irrelevant. What you should be criticising him for is failing to adequately protect e-mail from and to his constituents.

Re:Not government account (4, Informative)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996513)

And that's not Joe Shmoe of Backwater Inc with data nobody might be interested in, it's the Justice Secretary.

This person is an elected official. Essentially, the mails he receives and sends (related to his office, of course, not his private communication) are property of the voters of the United Kingdom. It's time that people realize again that their officials are supposed to work for them, not for themselves.

He's also the MP for Blackburn, and a member of the Blackburn Labour Party. The email address in question was "blackburnlabour@hotmail.com", which you would expect to be used for constituency correspondence and party business, both of which fall outside the purview of the Freedom of Information Act.

I would expect government business to be conducted through a Parliamentary or Ministry of Justice email address, as appropriate. I wouldn't expect party business to be conducted using a Parliamentary or Ministry email address, in fact I would be surprised if this wasn't against the rules of those organisations.

The article alleges (or very strongly implies) that Straw was using his Hotmail account to conduct government business, without providing any evidence to back up its claim.

In summary, Jack Straw has many hats, and the email address he uses should depend on the hat he is wearing at the time. There is no suggestion that he is doing otherwise.

Ob Yes Minister quote (4, Funny)

rpjs (126615) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996609)

In summary, Jack Straw has many hats, and the email address he uses should depend on the hat he is wearing at the time.

"And which hat are you talking through now, Minister?"

Re:Not government account (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26996647)

In summary, Jack Straw has many hats, and the email address he uses should depend on the hat he is wearing at the time.

Ohhhhh... .. ... like this [youtube.com] ?

Re:Not government account (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995859)

If I suddenly get elected to office, am I supposed to just stop using my old email?

Would you expect to be moving into a new office building? It's the same principle.

Re:Not government account (1)

Candid88 (1292486) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995737)

Which also invalidates much of the compliance with Freedom of Information concerns since nearly all communication between constituents and their MP isn't covered by Freedom of Information laws anyway. Nor should it be anymore than consultations with your lawyer or doctor.

Re:Not government account (2, Funny)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996359)

And so, equally, shouldn't be disclosed to a foreign corporation, which is what happens if you are storing them on a Microsoft-owned and controlled mail server. If I found out that my doctor or lawyer was storing my case details in Google Docs I would be equally appalled.

MPs can claim around £30K in expenses per year (last I checked, which was almost a decade ago, probably more now) for their constituency office. If the parliamentary Labour party can't manage to run a mail server for their members then it adds to the body of evidence that they can't organise a piss-up in a brewery[1] and shouldn't be running the country.

[1] Actually, this is much harder that it sounds, due to various health and safety rules. It's best to find a pub attached to a brewery and organise the piss-up there.

Jack Straw stranded (4, Insightful)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995519)

From a link in the article:

Justice Secretary Jack Straw's email account has been hacked by internet fraudsters who sent out messages to hundreds of his contacts which claimed he was stranded in Nigeria and needed 3,000 dollars to fly home.

I would think if a government minister was really stranded somewhere in Africa, they would contact the nearest British embassy, which would surely know their whereabouts anyway, and the embassy would get them home easily. There are dangers on the internet; this is not one of them.

Re:Jack Straw stranded (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995593)

A more effective email campaign would state that dear old Jack was being held hostage by pirates off the coast of Somalia and that a generous donation to ransom fund would free him.

Re:Jack Straw stranded (1)

prefect42 (141309) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995747)

Pay to free him?

Re:Jack Straw stranded (5, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995755)

I'd pay them to keep him!

Re:Jack Straw stranded (0, Redundant)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995879)

Hmm... how much to convince them to keep him forever?

Re:Jack Straw stranded (1)

confuto (1453393) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995595)

Also, why would the British Justice Secretary be asking for Americn currency in Nigeria? It's Pound Sterling or the Naira. Spammers need to research! I hope no one in his address book fell for this as well. We British are not looking good in this article so far, CURSE YOU JACK STRAW!

Re:Jack Straw stranded (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26995605)

Jack Straw stranded in Nigeria? It's more likely than you think.

Re:Jack Straw stranded (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995761)

Jack Straw stranded in Nigeria? It's more likely than you think.

Nah, that's just wishful thinking

Re:Jack Straw stranded (5, Funny)

JohnBailey (1092697) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995809)

Jack Straw stranded in Nigeria? It's more likely than you think.

Given the proximity to reality most of them seem to exist in, stranded in Narnia is more plausible.

Re:Jack Straw stranded (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995643)

There are dangers on the internet; this is not one of them.

. And the millions of fools stupid enough to fall for it, what about them?

Re:Jack Straw stranded (2, Insightful)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995773)

Kill them all and let $DEITY sort the dumb fuckers out.

Never underestimate the power of human stupidity. Never.

Re:Jack Straw stranded (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26997053)

My pastor has a shirt that says....I can't remember the exact wording, but something like:

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

Very fitting.

Re:Jack Straw stranded (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995781)

There are dangers on the internet; this is not one of them.

. And the millions of fools stupid enough to fall for it, what about them?

They don't need the internet to become victims. They will buy "solid gold" watches from a man on the street, or something like that

Re:Jack Straw stranded (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26995647)

The real question is if he was stuck in nigeria. Would anybody really want to bring him back.

so there was no risk.

Re:Jack Straw stranded (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995863)

You use common sense.

If people using the internet used a healthy dose of this magical and seemingly very scarce stuff, few scams would actually work.

Essentially, you're right. I can see, though, why his friends would still react to this distress call. Contracting the embassy would be the "official" way, which would also require him to tell just why he got stranded in the first place. This could be embarrassing for a politician (because, let's say, he got his wallet and all stolen while being distracted shagging some black male stripper while wearing girly panties and a gas mask... what? We're talking British politicians here, ok?). And end his career.

So I can see why in this special case his friends just didn't ask and sent money instead. Don't wanna know about your stripper accident, here's the money, case closed, don't ask, don't tell... lalala...

Re:Jack Straw stranded (1)

Faluzeer (583626) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995989)

Hmmm

Imagine how much the scammers could have made if they had stated they had Jack and that they would ensure he stayed stranded for a small donation...

Since when? (5, Insightful)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995569)

Since when has Jack Straw been very interested in Freedom of Information? Under his Home-secretaryship Britain has become a surveillance state.

Re:Since when? (2, Insightful)

symes (835608) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995653)

"Freedom of information" is very different from "surveillance" and it is fallacious to infer one from the other, imho.

Re:Since when? (4, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995705)

The only thing wrong with his comment is the way he phrased it, the sentiment is spot on. As you say, to infer one from the other is wrong, but to suggest they're linked is right.

Both are about increasing government power over citizens and removing surveillance and improving freedom of information are both steps that would increase the power of citizens over their government. It is no suprise then with the current Labour government power grab over it's citizens that the two go hand in hand then as both increased surveillance and supression of freedom of information fill their goal of further strengthening their hold over the citizens they are supposed to serve and not control.

So he wasn't totally out with his comment.

Re:Since when? (1)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995733)

Yep - what he said. I was aware of the non-sequitur when I posted but it's been a loooong day and I was just too tired to figure it out.

Re:Since when? (4, Interesting)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995835)

Oh dear. You would have had an insightful comment if you'd mentioned Straw's veto of the FoI release of cabinet minutes [bbc.co.uk] relating to the decision to invade Iraq.

Instead, you've made a tenuous link between the Freedom of Information Act and the government's freeing of citizens' information for government use.

Re:Since when? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26995873)

The Cabinet Minutes of the meetings, lies and half truths of the Blair Government that lead us into an illegal war, costing lives and national treasure has been supressed by the Government.

By Jack Straw, in fact, who used his ministerial veto under the Freedom of Information Act to do it [blogspot.com] . So yes, Jack Straw doesn't care about FoI at all.

Re:Since when? (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996189)

Not for Jack Tweed See story [dailymail.co.uk] .

Hanlon's Razor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26996531)

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity. -Robert J. Hanlon

Unfortunately neither of the two options are particularly comforting. Bugger.

Re:Since when? (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996711)

Since when has Jack Straw been very interested in Freedom of Information?

He merely wishes to ensure that the freedom is not "abused" (as Sir Arnold said to Sir Humphrey).

Under his Home-secretaryship Britain has become a surveillance state.

But only to prevent "abuses" of other kinds of freedom, no doubt.

"Freedom of Information Act" (1, Insightful)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995585)

This name alone is so creepy. Orwellian use of word "Freedom".

Re:"Freedom of Information Act" (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26995729)

Explain. As far as I know there's nothing orwellian in FOIA....

Re:"Freedom of Information Act" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26995779)

Information wants to be Free!

Re:"Freedom of Information Act" (3, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996109)

In what way is it an Orwellian usage of the term? It's a legal Act which forces organisations of any type (from businesses to governments) to yeild information when a request is made, and to ensure the information is kept in such a way that it would be available if such a request ever materialised in the future. The only sinister thing about it is that it's not got more teeth.

Re:"Freedom of Information Act" (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996121)

Whoops, conflated the FoIA and the DPA there. The former applies to the public sector, the latter to the private.

Re:"Freedom of Information Act" (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996145)

Hey, information is free. As in "it doesn't cost a corporation jack to know all about you".

Re:"Freedom of Information Act" (1)

JohnFluxx (413620) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996807)

Who on earth is modding this up? The Freedom of Information Act is exactly that. It's not an Orwellian use of the word at all. The act made a lot of information available that wasn't available before.

oh my! (0)

Probie (1353495) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995607)

What kind of people are his acquaintances? Fellow monkeys running the country?!?! Terrifying. I know sensor ship is a big issue and the internet should be free for all and all of that lovely stuff. But if you are so stupid to fall victim to something so ridiculously false, then you shouldn't be allowed to use the internet. You don't have the cognitive skills required!

Re:oh my! (3, Funny)

monktus (742861) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995751)

I know sensor ship is a big issue

Ah, the Sensor Ship, that must be Jack and Jacqui's new top secret surveillance vessel!

You don't have the cognitive skills required!

Let me correct that for you:

You don't have the cognitive skills required to use the preview button!

Re:oh my! (1)

Probie (1353495) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995855)

I deserved that. Â_Â Spotted it as I hit send. damn.

Re:oh my! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26996207)

At least you're mature enough to admit your mistake. That puts you above 90% of the know-it-alls around here.

Re:oh my! (1)

Probie (1353495) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996503)

because I'm a woman. I'm used to being wrong ha.

Re:oh my! (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26997121)

Huh?

A woman on /.? That admits to being wrong?!?

My head just exploded......

Re:oh my! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26995765)

sensor ship???? cognitive skills?

Re:oh my! (1)

GreenTech11 (1471589) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995913)

I was just the millionth visitor and won a free laptop!! all I had to tell them were my creditcard details

Re:oh my! (1)

VShael (62735) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995969)

If you're very good, I'll send you that laptop just before I max out your card.

So don't report it as stolen just yet, okay? Let the insurance suckers pay for the whole thing!

Not much detail in fta... (1)

jgurling (1333517) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995623)

I'd be interested to know how his account was broken into... particularly if he was bright enough to have a weak password and not keep it secret, or if he actually gave answers to secret questions. (I still find "secret" questions the most bizarre layer of security.)

Also, what kind of an image does a Hotmail address convey on a constituency?? Hardly sounds official and befitting a governmental website, to me at least.

Re:Not much detail in fta... (5, Informative)

jgurling (1333517) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995663)

Ok, so the bbc article [bbc.co.uk] gives more info.

Looks like it was a secretary who responded to a phishing e-mail. Good to know we're all in safe hands...

I always thought... (0)

Nathrael (1251426) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995649)

You know, I always thought of these Nigerian scams as intelligence tests...and having someone who fails even such a basic test in a quite high office is somehow scaring me.

Re:I always thought... (1)

prefect42 (141309) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995759)

He didn't fail the test. He's failed many others, but not this one.

Re:I always thought... (1)

Chief Camel Breeder (1015017) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995831)

It wasn't Straw who was conned. It was one of his constituency workers (according to the report on C4 news).

More like honesty tests (4, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995911)

1. Actually, from my experience, I've seen actually intelligent people fall to such scams once greed clouds their judgment. E.g., I failed to convince an otherwise extremely intelligent woman -- and for bonus points, usually she was the one selling snake oil to gullible PHBs -- to not "invest" in a pyramid scam. She understood exponents perfectly, but there was no getting her to accept that she is not in the first ranks who'll get their payoff, and/or that there aren't enough suckers any more to fill more than the first ranks of such a scheme.

At some point wishful thinking takes over any other kind of reason. They _want_ it to be true so hard, that basically cognitive dissonance rebuilds their mental model to something where they can win.

That's how the brain works: when you have two conflicting pieces of your mental model, it has to be resolved to something internally consistent one way or the other. And it's extremely uncomfortable while not yet resolved. All animals seem to work that way. What's different in humans is that you can essentially have a piece of the model that's so important to you that it can't be displaced, so something else has to go. Basically you _can_ distort your mental model as far as needed for any kind of wishful thinking, if you wish hard enough, and being intelligent or perceptive has nothing to do with it.

Among other things, that's why once someone started on such a path, it's harder than ever to quit. Accepting "ok, I've been a dolt, the Nigerian prince doesn't exist, I'll never see that money again" means basically a loss of self-respect, so it's a big no. So something else in that mental model has to be changed to support the idea that you're smart after all, too smart to be fooled in fact, and you only make smart investments. Hence the already lost money becomes a smart investment to be continued.

If anything, having such immovable ideas about oneself makes it easier to happen. If you're too convinced that you're too smart to be fooled, that just creates the setup for defending a dumb decision against all evidence.

2. Actually it seems to me like it's a test of honesty. As the saying goes, "you can't scam an honest person." Virtually all scams, from pyramid schemes to Nigerian advance fee scams to "Soapy" Smith's soap-with-banknotes scam to everything else, have the same common denominator: the "mark" thought he's getting some undeserved money at someone else's expense.

E.g., most people actually understand a pyramid scheme and that it will run out of marks soon very well, but they think they can join in early enough to be a part of the scammers not of the losers. E.g., I doubt that anyone in the Nigerian advanced fee scam was actually planning to dutifully give the widow's/orphan's/whatever money once it's in their account. And at any rate they were willing to break some laws and do shady stuff. So even if (ad absurdum) it were just for the promised fee, it's still a wannabe crook willing to break or bend the law for money. E.g., stock tip scams work on people who think that they can move fast enough to sell when it peaks and basically be a part of the scammers instead of the victims. E.g., the dolts who bought the Eiffel Tower from Victor Lustig thought they can give a bribe to get the rights to that metal at substantial discount, i.e., that they can use corruption to scam the state. Etc.

So basically it's just a honesty test. If you can say "no, that wouldn't be right", you can't be scammed. If you go, basically, "OMG, it's a one in a lifetime occasion to scam someone out of their money" then congrats, it's your own dishonesty that pwns you.

From there, again, being too convinced that you're too smart to be scammed is just making it actually easier. Those guys who bought the Eiffel Tower too were convinced that they're too smart to be fooled, savvy, good judges of caracter, etc, and know a genuine corrupt government official when they see one. The ones who think they understand exponents or the stock market too well to possibly be wrong about anything, just use that to support and defend the decision to jump on a pyramid scam or stock tip scam respectively, once greed started to cloud their judgment. Etc.

Straw and FOIA, best of friends. (5, Informative)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995671)

This is the same Straw that rather than filing a legal challenge to the information commissionars ruling that the Iraq war documents be leaked decided to just outright make the first use ever of ministerial veto against FOIA requests.

His reasons for vetoing were, from the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/7907991.stm) and I shit you not:

"Releasing the papers would do "serious damage" to cabinet government, he said, and outweighed public interest needs."

I'm not sure why he'd think it's in public interest to keep a corrupt, incompetent, totalitarian regime in power?

And:

"There is a balance to be struck between openness and maintaining aspects of our structure of democratic government,"

Sorry, I thought the whole point of democracy was that we get to decide that balance, not those in power? His decision flies in the very face of democracy.

So quite why anyone as per the summary would think Straw cares in the slightest about FOIA I don't know. He's just like Jacqui Smith and nearly all the others in the Labour party right now- a wannabe dictator who oppresses freedom of information to cling on to power.

Actually, Straw was honest (for once). (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26995861)

Releasing those documents would, indeed, do serious damage to the government.

Given what happened in those years it would be very likely expose behaviour and decisions that would very much be at odds with the "democratic" government they allege to run. So yes, it would result in serious damage to the current government.

The problem is that it seriously needs some damage to restore even the IMPRESSION of democracy - they don't even bother to pretend at the moment.

The sooner this lot goes the better. I hope the British public has learned their lesson and it takes at least 3 generations before a pretend Labour setup gets to power again.

Re:Actually, Straw was honest (for once). (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995965)

The trouble is, when this lot goes it's almost certain that a much worse lot will get in. Do you want to eat shit or eat shit with razorblades?

Although it's perhaps not so easy a call. Do you want evil that pretends to be good (this lot) or evil that admits it's evil (the tories)? I suppose the openness of the tories' evil does have a refreshing honesty about it. "Evil" in the sense of D&D 3.5 alignments, if no other.

Re:Actually, Straw was honest (for once). (4, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996107)

There's a decent possibility that the Liberal Democrats will hold the balance of power this time though as whilst Conservatives will almost certainly be the majority party, they wont have a big enough majority to do whatever they want by outnumbering the other two parties put together like Labour currently does.

Of course, on evil things Labour and the Tories may end up just banding together and ignoring the Lib Dems altogether but taking ID cards for example- right now Labour can go ahead and vote for them regardless of what the opposition thinks but in the scenario described above and if it was the Tories proposing the law and Labour opposed it just as the Tories oppose ID cards then the Lib Dems could side with the opposition to overthrow it.

It's not ideal still but at least it'd be a whole lot better than now where one party can push their entire agenda regardless of what the Tories and Lib Dems put together think. Right now for the Lib Dems and Tories to defeat a Labour proposal they need to manage to get support from some of Labour as well so it only works for as long as Labour's proposal is so bad that even half their own party wont support it, but seeing as most their party do support ID cards then we're talking about something pretty damn bad!

This is why I hope people that are considering voting Lib Dem do so, not because there's any hope of them getting power, but because there is at least hope of them holding the balance of power which is a major step forward on the last couple of decades. This is going to be a really important election for people to learn to vote for the party they want rather than voting tactically to avoid the party they don't want (which inevitably ends up in the situation we have now!).

Re:Actually, Straw was honest (for once). (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996765)

This is why I hope people that are considering voting Lib Dem do so, not because there's any hope of them getting power, but because there is at least hope of them holding the balance of power which is a major step forward on the last couple of decades. This is going to be a really important election for people to learn to vote for the party they want rather than voting tactically to avoid the party they don't want (which inevitably ends up in the situation we have now!).

Agreed completely -- I think the problem occurs when a government has so much power that it effectively loses accountability, whatever the political complexion of the government, so I would see a hung parliament or a fragile majority as a good thing. Unfortunately, the polls are moving the other way at the moment, with previous LibDem voters deserting to the Tories. That makes your prediction of a hung parliament look optimistic, unfortunately.

Re:Straw and FOIA, best of friends. (2, Insightful)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995871)

"There is a balance to be struck between openness and maintaining aspects of our structure of democratic government,"

Sorry, I thought the whole point of democracy was that we get to decide that balance, not those in power? His decision flies in the very face of democracy.

Er, so, what if I disagree with you about how that balance should be struck? You want these documents to be released, but I don't. Why does your opinion outweigh mine, if you are so keen on democracy?

Re:Straw and FOIA, best of friends. (2, Insightful)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995945)

in theory this is what the politicians are for, we elect them so that they can say, 'we were chosen by the people, so any action we take is that which the people want' which saves having 65M people argueing over what to do, but they do still get a say by informing their MP of their ideas/opinions etc which the MP then takes into account when s/he goes off to visit parliment.

Of course this is all in theory...and we all know how it rerally works out

Re:Straw and FOIA, best of friends. (2, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996017)

I'm not sure what your point is really. I never said my opinion outweighs yours but in this particular context no one has been given the choice anyway so even if I had said that then it's still be irrelevant. Of course, if you're defending his action then it's actually you who is effectively saying your opinion is more important than anyone who disagrees, because you're suggesting that anyone opposing your view should be ignored which is effectively what Straw has done.

But there's also the argument to be made that the FOIA was implemented as a democratic action which was voted on by all of cur elected representatives and as such defying such a democractically created act automatically goes against democracy if the defiance of that act was performed by a single person or small group of people, rather than as a result of the majority opinion of the people or their representatives.

But I'm not even sure you understand the point of a democracy, it's not about what a single individual wants, it's to enable each individual to have their say and the result being based on what the majority wants so even ignoring all the above what you want doesn't really matter if what you want is an absolute minority opinion. I believe where everyone can have, act on and enforce their opinion as you seem to be pursuing with your focus of the ideas of individuals you would have anarchy, not democracy.

Re:Straw and FOIA, best of friends. (1)

PhilHibbs (4537) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996567)

[blockquote]Of course, if you're defending his action then it's actually you who is effectively saying your opinion is more important than anyone who disagrees[/blockquote]Not at all. I'm not arguing for an unprecedented release of what has always been confidential and secret information. If you want to change something in our democracy, then vote for it. You are welcome to express your opinions about what should be done, and persuade others to take it seriously enough to sway their vote, and perhaps be persuasive enough to change the minds of the politicians, that's all fair game in a free speech democracy. I'm just saying that it isn't necessarily un-democratic for cabinet meeting discussions to stay secret until all those involved have left office, and that there are other opinions that are to be taken into account than those that loudly protest. There was a cabinet discussion in 1940 as to whether we should make peace with Germany. Those discussions were kept secret, rightly so, until long after the war was over.

Re:Straw and FOIA, best of friends. (2, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996915)

"Not at all. I'm not arguing for an unprecedented release of what has always been confidential and secret information."

But this is the whole point of the problem with the veto. The ICO ruled that it wasn't material fit to be protected as confidential and secret, it never actually was fit to have that label.

"If you want to change something in our democracy, then vote for it. You are welcome to express your opinions about what should be done, and persuade others to take it seriously enough to sway their vote, and perhaps be persuasive enough to change the minds of the politicians, that's all fair game in a free speech democracy."

We already did and got what's called the Freedom of Information Act, and that's what's being defied here by a single minister covering his own arse.

"I'm just saying that it isn't necessarily un-democratic for cabinet meeting discussions to stay secret until all those involved have left office,"

Until they've left office? So you're basically saying even if say, for example, a minister decides to pursue and illegal war that leaves hundreds of thousands dead who otherwise wouldn't be there should be no come back and no repercussions until it's pretty much too late? You do realise you're effectively advocating ministers to be able to do what they want no matter how wrong and be allowed to cover it up until it's far too late to act right? The whole reason FOIA exists is to ensure people spending our money - tax payers money are accountable for what they do with it. If they decide to spend it on waging a war that serves their self interests and not in fact the interests of the population you really don't think citizens should have a way to find out?

Again you seem to be forgetting ministers are there to serve the people and not vice versa, if they are serving us then we have the right to know how well they are serving us. We have the official secrets act for things that could expose undercover investigations and so on which is one of those things we can't really do much about, anything outside of that that isn't personal or private information but is instead public information exists for this purpose. What Straw has done is removed all accountability for something which has been determined internationally as illegal. You may suggest international rulings are irrelevant to national happenings but that's not the case, these events were international not national events- we can't take action internationally and ignore reaction internationally. The fact is, the decisions made in those meetings were wrong, lives both foreign and British and billions of tax payers money was wasted and the people responsible need to be brought to account for it. We need to know how or why those decisions were made, if not only so the mistake isn't repeated.

Re:Straw and FOIA, best of friends. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26995963)

What a tool!

In his eyes, I suppose "serving" in the government is a god-given right.

Re:Straw and FOIA, best of friends. (1)

magpie (3270) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996215)

This veto comes from a government that keeps telling people "If you've got nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" from what ever bit of big brother law there bringing in this week. Well the seem to have something to fear as they seem to have something to hide. Then again our 'betters'* in westmonster would never be hypocritical would they. * They think they are, but in fact I would be pushed to find someone they are better than and work with lawyers.

Re:Straw and FOIA, best of friends. (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996317)

"Releasing the papers would do "serious damage" to cabinet government, he said, and outweighed public interest needs."

I'm not sure why he'd think it's in public interest to keep a corrupt, incompetent, totalitarian regime in power?

Read that again, he doesn't. He knows it's not in the public interest; he's saying that preserving the status quo is more important than the public interest. He's corrupt, not stupid.

Similar to Sarah Palin's email blunder. (2, Insightful)

Deus.1.01 (946808) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995683)

Now i know most of that was mostly personal use but if i remember correctly they had the contacts to her aides and a drafted letter to the Calif governor.

http://www.wikileaks.org/wiki/Sarah_Palin_Yahoo_inbox_2008 [wikileaks.org]

Wrong scam... (4, Funny)

Bazman (4849) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995769)

I'd pay Nigerians to *keep* Jack Straw. As would a lot of people. Thank god we can vote him out, and get in... hmmm... well...

Re:Wrong scam... (1)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995893)

Yeah, I don't think the scammer quite appreciated the fact that nobody in the UK really gives a stuff if our government ministers are stuck in Africa. As for giving any money to them...

Re:Wrong scam... (2, Funny)

wrook (134116) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996825)

I loved the BBC radio report that went something like this (from memory):

"Government officials said that nobody was duped by the emails.

Indeed. Nobody sent money to free him."

A plan with no drawbacks... (5, Insightful)

carou (88501) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995905)

"any emails sent could not be necessarily accessed via the Freedom of Information Act."

That may be exactly why he uses it...

Re:A plan with no drawbacks... (2, Funny)

ilo.v (1445373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996301)

"any emails sent could not be necessarily accessed via the Freedom of Information Act."

It's not a bug, it's a feature!

Re:A plan with no drawbacks... (1, Troll)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996515)

That's why Sarah Palin did. She got hacked, too.

Unfortunately, government email systems are often _not_ as secure or reliable as those of such public systems. I've seen corporate and governmental systems where the It managers regularly lose email and find it impossible to recover, where their mailbox space is extremely small, where they will be censured if they receive or send personal email from that account and where the difference between personal and work email blurs and causes confusion, where the work system cannot handle usefully large attachments, and where they are still using POP{ email with the inevitable tendency of POP clients to be configured, by default to remove _all_ email from the server, permanently.

Combine this with the stunning instability of Outlook mail folders and their tendency to corrupt themselves, and you have an unusable service best replaced, quietly, by an outside service if you want to actually get any work done.

pretty common? (1)

ssintercept (843305) | more than 5 years ago | (#26995983)

the alder-critters http://www.waukeganweb.net/localgovernment.html [waukeganweb.net] where i live use their att and comcast emails as official POC all the time. i always thought that was weird. aside from the security angle, who am i to judge?

good lookin bunch, eh?

Suspicious (3, Insightful)

Teun (17872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996043)

When I receive an E-mail from a commercial contact and it's hosted at places like Hotmail, Gmail or Yahoo I have great trouble taking it seriously, as a matter of fact I find it suspicious.

When a national politician does it I can only imagine he's got something to hide.

Business is Business and at the level of mr. Straw this is even more important.
Even though I am well aware that many government institutions are only recently discovering the net as an integral part of society the various levels of government have since many years the ability to run their own mail servers, including all the extra security you'd expect.

Re:Suspicious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26996507)

He wasn't using it as a national politician, that's what his parliament.gov.uk address is for.

This was a CONSTITUENCY address used for communicating with constituency members in his capacity as a constituency MP, not a cabinet minster.

Nobody else seems to appreciate that all cabinet minsters are first and foremost constituency MPs, even the Prime Minister who has his constituency in Fife.

It wasn't even Jack Straw that was operating the account anyway, it was a constituency member of staff but please, don't let a minor matter of the facts get in the way of a good debate.

Switch (1)

tom_75 (1013457) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996065)

I'd suggest a switch to Gmail, it's got nicer themes.

Hotmail does not work via SSL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26996261)

The connection with Hotmail isn't even secure. All mail is read via a http:/// [http] connection. A well placed trace can see all this mail easily. Not quite what you'd expect for government mail.

Plausible Deniability ? (1)

daveime (1253762) | more than 5 years ago | (#26996925)

It's a sad fact that government based email messages have a tendency to "disappear" when the politician in question comes under internal investigation (US, I'm looking at you).

Providing a hotmail account is accessed every 30 days, I think Jack would have a much harder time "disappearing" those messages ... so in terms or transparency / auditability, maybe it's better to leave things as they are ?

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