Category: special relationships

Quality comment

A really intelligent blog contribution from someone who is a weird kind of Tory-Lib Dem hybrid as far as I can make out. Here goes:

I was always under the impression the intention of matching 15% of US commitment in order to earn Framework Nation Status with the command input that entails.

If we take Iraq as ‘typical’ example of a US style intervention then they have an average commitment of 140,000 troops through the main sequence of campaign, a period spanning six years. For Britain to justify the command input that comes with the 2IC slot, where we influence operations to reflect our priorities, we would have to sustain 21,000 troops in theatre. In reality this means three combat brigades and an additional brigades worth of supporting HQ, logistics and specialists elements. This is of course a generous calculation because if we wish to vie for Framework Nation Status as the strategic purpose of our expeditionary capability then we have to match our resources to the sum of US commitments. As can be seen in the table below that US commitment includes another 30,000 troops in a separate theatre of war, which means Britain needs to pony up another light-brigade at the very least. And yes, we really would have to consider this additional commitment, command input results from trust earned over time, not merely from meeting some arbitrary figure on only the missions we liked in the pic-n-mix bin.

It basically doesn’t work, and to the limited extent it does work it absorbs the ENTIRETY of our capability, and thus removes Foreign Policy as a competence of HMG.

We maintain force levels and structures defined by framework nation status, and more strategically, by the influence it is meant to bring. As a result, seeking it consumes all the resources we are willing to put in, and therefore eliminates our policy choices. Once the organisations required are set up, they must be used to justify their budgets, hence the hunt for somewhere ARRC HQ could go.

Because the practical aim is to do the least that provides framework status, the influence so gained is minimal going on none. Of course, the whole idea presupposes that our allies don’t go utterly crazy and leave us in the position of trying to avoid being in the same campaign.

Sometimes, you should read the comments.

The threat of preference modification

So YPlan. It’s a neat enough proposition. Basically, it’s a way of getting rid of spare tickets, or if it gets big enough, guaranteeing a minimum sale. It buys up what’s left. It asks new users some questions and runs a weighted Bayesian classifier to guess what they might accept and pushes recommendations to them. Whatever they take permits them to train the classifier further. They run an in-app credits system to make it easier to do giveaways and to let the app store handle payments.

This fills me with a sort of cybernetic horror. Recall this post from July and especially this quote:

maybe we could get the interface down to an iPhone app that would superimpose a bright white line over the camera’s view of the surrounding street just telling us where to walk and what to do and buy all day long. Wouldn’t that be a bit of a relief?

So that’s what they did. A magenta line running out of the office, with BUY popups. You might say this is a kind of hipster Luddism. All those years of self-fashioning and bedroom posters and obscure blogs and your girlfriend doing haughty walkouts from here and there, and these scum have an app. But this would be wrong. Ludd had a point, and the point was nothing to do with despising progress as such.

This is an example of a future beyond advertising. Advertising aims to influence you before you come to the point of needing to buy something. A different future tries to influence you at that point – my favourite example is a paint manufacturer whose mobile app matches the colour you point the camera at to the right paint and tells you where the nearest stockist is. This future, though, aims at something else.

The more college-smarty kind of economists like to talk about “desire modification”. If I could choose to like cheaper stuff I’d be richer! This is of course yet another failing of US education, with the homecoming jocks and nerd sessions and bull diamonds and whatnot, but that’s beside the point. A version of desire modification that might actually exist is preference automation, and here it is.

Rather than even having preferences that are influenced by advertising, why not hand them over entirely? Confirmation bias, the availability heuristic, and social proof will make sure you’re convinced pretty soon that whatever gets recommended is actually what you like. This means, of course, that preferences increasingly carry no information whatsoever, a serious blow for the entire notion of a market economy.

Whatever one says about “emotional labour”, it is difficult or perhaps impossible to deliver good service without taking the initiative, by definition unscriptable. Industry has long grasped this with regard to quality, as in Toyota production, or gone bust. Finance? Well, their managers either have no idea what they’re doing because they don’t or else they’re faking it.

In the future, at least in the UK, it’s even possible that we might end up enjoying more actual freedom at work than we do outside it. The consumer economy might be dominated by preference automation and spam that knows where your dog goes to school. The public sphere might be reduced to Tory badgering as replacement for public services or post-Blairite policing of social norms against talking in the street.

Get involved.

So, the Sun is on the move. This was a bit of a surprise to me, what with News reorganising to separate the UK papers from Sky. You might think the papers look like a cost centre without the TV assets, or that the division is intended for sale as a package. But they’re up to something interesting.

The headline is that the Sun website is going behind a paywall, but this is really beside the point. The core of the offering is a mobile app that provides football highlights and daily deals – the details are at the link – but the really interesting bit is that you have to buy the paper to activate the app. The website is here or there; it’s about the mobile app, the paper, and (as always with Murdoch) the crosspromotion.

The other really interesting thing here is that News knows in some detail who sells copies of the paper, how many, and where. In the UK, newspapers are distributed on a sale-or-return basis. The retailer orders as many papers as they think they need, and bundles up the unsold copies for collection with the morning’s delivery. These are counted, and deducted from the retailer’s bill. If you’ve ever been in a corner shop late at night, you’ll have seen the shopkeeper bundle up, count, and label the returns with the preprinted barcode supplied by the wholesaler.

The point of the exercise is that the newspaper, not the newsagent, takes the risk. This is important because, obviously, the paper cannot sell if it is not on the shelves. If the newsagent gets stuck with unsold copies, they will order fewer papers and take the chance of running out. Alone among British newspapers, The Guardian is distributed on cash terms, which is why it’s so often sold out. I think they consider it unsportsmanlike or something.

So, to shorterise: the sale-and-return distribution model requires the publisher to know all the points of sale. Another feature is that it is a great way to measure the newspaper’s effective circulation in detail, and as the papers are being accounted for, this is subject to the paper’s auditors. You can see why advertisers might like this.

Now, the Sun is going to be getting its readers to type or scan something in the paper into the app. If, as I pointed out on Twitter, this something is specific to the individual papers, it’s possible to identify where the user buys their newspaper. I had some doubts about practicalities in the printing process, and wondered if they intended to do something clever with the PayPoint API or hand out separate inserts to be added by the newsagents.

But today, the question is answered – I was able to examine a pile of the things, and they indeed carry a 9 12-character unique identifier, printed as part of the newspaper. Keen and agile minds will observe that this provides enough entropy to identify the whole print run uniquely, indeed, a print run substantially bigger than even the Daily Mirror‘s 1960s five-million plus. This might mean that it encodes more information than just a serial number, or alternatively that they’ve left space to do so should they want to in the future. Also, it’s not obviously sequential, so you can’t trivially work out the daily print run, although I haven’t made any serious study of this.

(Update): It’s actually 12 characters, in three alphanumeric groups of 4, and all the issues I’ve seen started SS… today. That might be part of a geographic identifier, but it might also be Sunday Sun. Anyway, that gives quite a bit of scope.)

Why is this useful? Well, this gives them insight into close-up neighbourhood geography across the UK. People are likely to buy their newspaper in the same place as they buy plenty of other things, for one. But it’s also a look into the UK’s cash economy. Newspapers have always been sold mostly for cash, anonymously. And the heavy dose of football in the experience points at other ambitions. After all, they can probably work out which is your local pub, and a lot of them have a WiFi hotspot provided by the Sky (ISP) subsidiary The Cloud.

It is probably telling that this comes just after their new “casual” Sky TV offering, something which seems to exist to satisfy demand generated by advertising in the Sun app. Also, Sky TV has always been very good at last-minute ad insertion.

But there’s also a political element here, especially for those of us who fundamentally wish ill to all Murdoch’s business ventures. When the News of the World was rolled into the sea like a sack of waste, as Hunter Thompson said of Richard Nixon’s mortal remains, I was very impressed by the public response, which was either rejoicing, or else, absolute apathy. None of its millions of readers was moved to protest or even to complain. Surprisingly few of them even bother to buy the Sun on Sunday. As a result, I asked on this blog if Sun readers actually exist, in the sense of people who self-identify as such, rather than being labelled by others, in the way that readers of the Guardian, Telegraph, or Mail do in Jamie Kenny’s sense.

In this sense, I think this project is an effort to make Sun readers out of people who happen to read the Sun in the same way as some people happened to consume the News of the World as a weekly kitschburger, a newspaper-style product. The polite way of saying this is “deepening user relationships”.

The really depressing element of this is probably how much of the ad revenue sounds like it’s going to come from gambling. No, it’s not even that, even if the goal of the week starts coming with an editorial soundbite like page 3 did in the Rebekah Wade years. (That said, the business model may well end up being all about cross-media advertising – the Springer papers in Germany seem to be trying to collect as many classified ad outlets as possible.)

The really, really depressing element of this is the increasing degree to which your local pub is being converted into an integrated Murdoch experience. I already resent this (how could I not?) but it’s only going to get worse. Note that the TV ad strapline for all this is “Get Involved”.

(Note: Le Monde‘s South Kensington correspondent Marc Roche argued a few weeks ago that the Sun‘s problems were down to the “disappearance of the blue collars and their replacement by immigrants who can’t speak English”. The Sun does not appear to be basing its strategy on this, to say the least.)

Hunt, through a non-sexist prism

So, did ya ever want to know social network analysis metrics on the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport’s special advisers during the spring of 2011, as Rupert Murdoch’s interests in the UK feverishly lobbied Jeremy Hunt and his staff and we raced towards the epochal eruption of Hackgate? ‘Course you did.

In June, 2011, Adam Smith, Hunt’s special adviser and the man who took the fall for his boss, attained a gatekeepership score of 1.42 – that is to say, people who lobbied him achieved a 42% greater improvement in their influence as measured by weighted network degree than the average lobby achieved. He did this on a personal weighted network degree of 0.175, which is piss-ant. His score on the West Point GREEDY_FRAGILE metric, which calculates how much more or less centralised the overall network would be without him, is -6.21635100991e-06.

In May, 2011, his colleague Sue Beeby achieved an even higher gatekeepership, 1.56, and the month before, she was actually the most powerful gatekeeper in the system after excluding the Scottish and Welsh Offices, at 1.928 on a network degree of 0.0875, and a GF of -7.92399753226e-06.

Who was getting this access? The answer is in Smith’s case, “big sport”, the FA, the ECB, and the RFU, although the Rugby League did manage to see him too. It turns out Beeby is far more interesting. In the first 6 months of 2011, she saw The Times 37 times, the Sunday Times 37 times, and Sky TV 8 times.

She also met “sports journalists”, the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, the English Cricket Board, and a PR company called Good Relations which only occurs in the dataset 5 times, all meeting her in March of that year. In the aggregate, the vast majority of influence going in here came from Murdoch.

She moved on with Hunt to the Department of Health, and lists herself on LinkedIn as a Conservative Party press officer. I don’t remember there being anywhere near as much fuss about her, though, as there was about Smith.

(Inspiration, of course, here.)

Public Affairs, the movie: three gang theory in action

Here’s the funny bit in this post:

OK, that done, a senior detective has been found guilty of leaking the phone-hacking investigation to the NoTW. This is the nut of the matter:

Casburn, who was manager of the national financial investigation unit with counterterrorism, claimed she had never asked for money when she telephoned the News of the World on 11 September 2010. She said she made the call because she was concerned that resources from counter-terrorism and her unit were to be diverted into a new phone-hacking investigation.

To put it another way, someone in the counter-terrorism command leaked to (effectively) a suspect, in the hope that the suspect would use their political influence to direct more police resources into the counter-terrorism command and not incidentally, away from an investigation into their own crime. The key evidence is a NoTW reporter’s notes of the conversation, summarised in an e-mail apparently recovered from Data Pool 3:

“PHONE TAPPING. A senior policewoman … who claims to be working on the phone-tapping investigation wants to sell inside info on the police inquiry. She says the investigation was launched yesterday (Fri) by Yates and he is using ‘counter-terrorist assets’, which is highly unusual. An intelligence development team is being used and they are looking at six people. Coulson, Hoare and a woman she cannot remember the name of. The three other people used to work for the News of the World and police do not know where they are now (she did not know their names either). Pressure to conduct the inquiry is coming from Lord Prescott.”

It’s interesting that the conversation was framed specifically in political terms, that she apparently named the individual suspects, and that the names included Sean Hoare’s. It’s also worth looking at this in the light of the timeline – in September 2010, there was a major push on by top management to destroy incriminating e-mail, in a race between their IT outsourcers’ funk at the thought of it and Sienna Miller’s lawyers. Knowing who was targeted meant knowing what to get rid of.

Among much else, deploying three-gang theory, this demonstrates the degree to which the police used the press to manipulate politics, and also the degree of influence the NoTW was thought by policemen to have over the police. It was simultaneously an effort by part of the police to influence their own institution, and by the NoTW to influence the police.

Another way to look at this is that the police side helped the Murdoch side’s effort to keep Andy Coulson in place, in exchange for the NoTW helping keep up the fear-level on terrorism and therefore protect their budget. I have pointed out before that Neil Wallis was recruited by Dick Fedorcio in part to influence the politicians on behalf of the Met.

If anyone still needs convincing of the importance of the whole thing, well, this really ought to do it.

Meanwhile, I saw Chinatown on Thursday night, a great movie to see for the first time, and I note that there is a plot twist that got imitated in reality by the Murdoch gang; Jake Gittis places the head of Water & Power under surveillance, photographs him repeatedly meeting the same woman…but as it turns out, she’s not the one he’s looking for, and in a sense, he’s in the wrong movie. Similarly, Alex Marunchak set Jonathan Rees to follow DCI Dave Cook, and Rebekah Brooks told Andre Baker that he did it to find out who the woman he kept seeing was. She turned out, of course, to be his wife. My reading, at least, is that the same thing happened in Chinatown or is at least planted as a false trail.

Obviously if you were to cast Public Affairs (Chinatown‘s working title was supposedly just Water & Power but was changed late in the day in case the public didn’t get the joke), Hugh Grant would play himself, but most of the cast would be wasted on the character of Andy Coulson, and Jack Nicholson as Tom Watson would be silly (although the Brummie accent’s a keeper). That said, Faye Dunaway as Rebekah Brooks would be worth staying up for. Although, who do we cast for the various bloggers? Abby Lee, there’s a role to kill for.

Unfortunately or fortunately, the ending wouldn’t be as unremittingly grim, although the original takes a different complexion when you remember that John Huston’s character has taken a gunshot wound to the stomach in the pre-antibiotic era and is therefore probably going to die horribly in the next few days.

M-Health apps that don’t suck.

Pretty much everyone in the mobile business loves “m-health” these days. There are a couple of reasons for this – they imagine there’s money in it, it’s great CSR/public relations/lobby fodder, and it’s the sort of thing futurists chinstroke about. But I think we’re all barking up the wrong tree.

Here’s the problem. The typical use-case is as follows – it’s something integrated in a special-purpose medical device, that is sold, and whose function is monitoring. What it monitors, in particular, is the patient or as we know her, the user, or indeed you. It is of course telling that you’re not considered the user. Partly, what’s going on here is that we’ve just repackaged 1980s SCADA technology. Here’s a SIM, here’s a cellular radio, and let’s have the flood level gauge text headquarters every five minutes. You’ll also note that there is no user interface.

The stereotype application could be defined as “bugging granny”. We’re going to check some metrics at intervals, stick them into a control chart, and then badger you about it.

Who does this really benefit? Obviously, device vendors, and telcos. It also benefits doctors, both in an absolute sense, and in a relative sense – a lot of this stuff would otherwise have been carried out by nurses, who are icky, girls, and in the union. It also attracts pseudomedical systems like insurance companies.

The underlying mental model here can be characterised as the surveillance-compliance model. The basic idea is that patients’ problems are their own stupid fault, and if they remain ill, it is because they didn’t comply with instructions. Monitoring generates metrics. They can be judged on the metrics and badgered. You get some lip service to patient autonomy, but to some extent all this does is to demand that the user internalises the surveillance. It is very depressing the extent to which doctors talk about “managing” their patients these days.

Now, there is obviously some truth to this. Giving up smoking is a really good idea, as is taking your damn pills. But it is also highly problematic. For one thing, it assumes that the problem is non-compliance. In that sense, it transfers your problem from the domain of reality – a physical problem to be solved – into the domain of morality – a statement about good and bad. Rather than being poor, stressed, addicted, etc, the problem is that you are wrong and a bad person. As a rule, this is normatively evil, and of course it only works if the problem is not actually a real problem.

Another problem is that it assumes that the medics are always right. They aren’t. And replacing the front-line carers with SCADA technology can be see as a way of hiding from criticism. You can shout at the box but it doesn’t record your voice and report that back.

Also, there is the surveillant temptation. If the surveillance itself doesn’t work – and it won’t, for reasons we have seen – the answer is usually to enforce it. Perhaps your sick pay might be cut, or your premiums hiked. I’m sure we can all name politicians who would fucking jump at this.

So, Cap’n Swing he say LUDD SMASH. Or…Stafford Beer, he say redesign system. What would a user-driven m-health app look like? One that was pro-you? One whose design brief began “Don’t be evil”?

Well, I would start by thinking about how to manage your environment in hospital. This is notoriously vital and difficult, and the current staff-solution is to get a really tough, intelligent, and assertive woman to visit every day and whip the piss out of the medics. But having someone like my partner around is a rare privilege and one which is unavoidably class-skewed, because it really helps to be of similar or higher social status than the doctors and also to know their code-words.

At this point you might think we’d stumbled into a TV show called Operationalise This!

But let’s consider this from a systems perspective. Most of the time, what is it that you’re actually doing by monstering the doc? It’s usually either trying to extract information, or else to intervene in the ward’s operational routine on things like hydration, food, sanitation, and nursing care.

Someone close to me was recently in hospital and needed various post-surgical care, which they were only insufficiently getting because they were in the wrong ward and being taken care of by people outside their specialisation. As a result they were in serious pain, and their recovery was making no noticeable progress. The problem was to find out what instructions had been actually written down and compiled into the ward routine, make the specialist aware of this, and get them to insert correct ones into the system. These are not, in fact, tasks that can’t be operationalised.

This is rather like Doc Searles’ notion of Vendor Relations Management or VRM as the opposite of CRM. The problem is getting a look at the invisible infrastructure of instructions, records, and organisation that defines the hospital environment.

When another relative of mine was seriously ill not so long ago, I got into the habit of photographing all the paper that crossed his bedside, so as to have copies for reference and also so as to distribute them to other members of the family. (At one point, I half-inched the case file and perched on a bed to photograph it page by page, like Olga the beautiful spy with her microfilm camera.)

Medical systems are very papery, and they do have their reasons – if you have to evacuate the flooded building into ambulances with the power out at 3am, you can just take the file along with each patient and you’ll be able to read it at the far end, and a lot of information technology still can’t really say that. However, there’s a lot of interesting stuff you can do with paper and mobile devices.

The really depressing thing here is that had we gone a different way in 2002 we could have had an Open311 or FixMyStreet for hospitals. But we don’t have sensible data exchange formats, privacy/authorisation models, or URIs for any of this stuff because Tony Blair said so, and by the time Gordon Brown was listening to people like Tim Berners-Lee and Tom Watson, the NHS NPfIT (like the National Identity Register) had become a bureaucratic-industrial monster so big it took a government-killing nuclear bomb to stop it. And the Tories…well, you’ve never seen people who are more suspectible to Atos Origin lobbying them to make sick pay conditional on adequate five-a-day performance, have you? Really? No.

Now, the other problem from my point of view is that my customers, over on the other side of the fence, still believe that this time, it’s going to be like they thought it would with ISDN and IMS and so on and so forth. Everything is a network service. Delivered by us. But I don’t think it will happen. As an industry, we have a terrible record of pushing things that make sense from our point of view but just suck, so badly that they never happen.

it began in the time of our grandfathers, but no-one now knows why

Here’s a photo from a MoD-BAE Systems study into future armoured vehicles for the British Army*.

OK, so we’ve got some heavy-to-medium, wheeled armoured vehicles, that are clearly battery-electric drive. They’re recharging from either wind power (on the right) or from some kind of deployable, containerised nuclear reactor (on the left – note the radhaz logo), in a roughly European environment, while two aircraft that might have escaped from this BAE Kingston study scream overhead.

Here’s another.

We appear to be in southern Iraq. Why? We’ve electrified land mobility. Oil is no longer so important.

Back in 1911, Winston Churchill and Jacky Fisher started to move the Navy from coal to oil, invented British Petroleum, and caused both Iran and Iraq. The historical icons are the Queen Elizabeth-class battleships, but by then the flotilla of destroyers, light cruisers, and submarines dedicated to fighting for the torpedo battlespace (Erik Lund’s awesome blog explains!) ahead and to one flank of the fleet was huge and was growing fast. The dissuasion du faible au fort provided by torpedos required speed and submersibility, which required getting rid of coal.

So, you can blame chippy northern techies from the Mechanics’ Institute for the Middle East (and also The Sound of Music), as well as their patrons for the first world war.

Surely, electrifying the army on land would be a technical change of a similar scale, which could be expected to bring about unexpected strategic and political consequences? Would we care as much about the GCC? Although the UK withdrawal from east-of-Suez was finally completed in 1977, the Navy was back in the Gulf in 1980 on the Armilla patrol, and, well, you know the rest. What if it suddenly didn’t matter so much? The presence of 160,000 UK nationals, a town bigger than Oxford or the size of Wigan, has a lot to do with this, but then, it’s the oil that draws them there.

(*Yeah – having spent £192 million on “concept work” without procuring a single vehicle while there were two wars on, and then bought a 40 tonne monster never used in battle as an agile reconnaissance platform, that’s meant to be air portable in the spec but only fits into 5 of the RAF’s transport aircraft, they’ve started another future design study. It’s only money.)

Companies House Webcheck, fount of moral judgment. And a full list of USSD code numbers, at last

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

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

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

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

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

the missing link between slimming tea and tactical electronic warfare

Well, speak of the devil. Peter Foster makes his appearance in the Murdoch scandal and fingers the Sun directly.

He said he then received an email from a Dublin-based private investigator calling himself ”Autarch”, who told Mr Foster he tapped into his mother’s phone in December 2002.

That month, The Sun published the ”Foster tapes”, which featured transcripts of Mr Foster talking about selling the story of his links with Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie. Yesterday, Mr Foster said he had since had a Skype conversation with the investigator in Dublin, in which Autarch described how he tapped into Mr Foster’s mother’s phone.

”He said she was using an analogue telephone which they were able to intercept,” Mr Foster said. Autarch said he discussed the hacking with Sun journalists.

However, this story – at least this version of it – probably isn’t true. It is true that the first-generation analogue mobile phone systems like TACS in the UK and AMPS in the States were unencrypted over the air, and therefore could be trivially intercepted using a scanner. (They were also frequency-division duplex, so you needed to monitor two frequencies at once in order to capture both parties to the call.) It is also true that they were displaced by GSM very quickly indeed, compared to the length of time it is expected to take for the GSM networks to be replaced. In the UK, the last TACS network (O2′s) shut down in December 2000. It took a while longer in the Republic of Ireland, but it was all over by the end of 2001.

So Foster is bullshitting…which wouldn’t be a surprise. Or is he? TACS wasn’t the only analogue system out there. There were also a lot of cordless phones about using a different radio standard. Even the more modern DECT phones are notorious for generating masses of radio noise in the 2.4GHz band where your WiFi lives. It may well be the case that “Autarch” was referring to an analogue cordless phone. Because a lot of these were installed by individual people who bought them off the shelf, there was no guarantee that they would be replaced with newer devices. (Readers of Richard Aldrich’s history of GCHQ will note that his take on the “Squidgygate” tape is that it was probably a cordless intercept.)

This would have required a measure of physical surveillance, but then again so would an attempt to intercept mobile traffic over-the-air as opposed to interfering with voicemail or the lawful intercept system.

The Daily Beast has a further story, which points out that the then editor David Yelland apologised after being censured by the Press Complaints Commission (no wonder he didn’t go further in the Murdoch empire) and makes the point that such an interception was a crime in both the UK and Ireland at the time. They also quote Foster as follows:

According to Foster, the investigator told him that, for four days at the height of Cheriegate, he had been sitting with another detective outside Foster’s mother’s flat in the Dublin suburbs, intercepting and recording the calls to her cordless landline

The Sun hardly made any effort to conceal this – they published what purports to be a transcript, as such.

Morgan Day blogging II: work in progress

I thought it might be interesting to establish some timeline information about News International e-mail disclosures and deletions, in the light of this piece in the Torygraph. As we know, the Telegraph is now opposed to the Osborne/Gove Murdoch group in the Tories, so it has no reason to carry water for Murdoch.

31st September 2004 – According to News International Chief Information Officer Paul Cheesborough, NI archived e-mail up to this date was deleted.

2005 – NI solicitor Julian Pike will later say that e-mail exists up to 2005. See 23rd March 2011.

Kickoff – 2006. 1st police inquiry into Glenn Mulcaire and Clive Goodman. Police raid Wapping, only search Goodman’s desk, by agreement with NI management.

29th November 2006 – Goodman and Mulcaire convicted.

“Early” 2007 – 2,500 e-mails disclosed to Harbottle & Lewis in parallel litigation (Goodman’s employment tribunal).

29th May, 2007 – Harbottle & Lewis write to NI, saying they reviewed them and found nothing.

31st September 2007 – E-mail from before this date was meant to be deleted (see January, 2011). NI operates a policy of flushing e-mail every three years, clearly.

December, 2007 – James Murdoch becomes the boss.

2008 – First civil litigation against NI, NI becomes bound to preserve evidence.

April, 2008 – James Murdoch authorises Gordon Taylor’s payoff.

November, 2009 – E-Mail Deletion Policy announced internally.

eliminate in a consistent manner across News International (subject to compliance with legal and regulatory requirements) emails that could be unhelpful in the context of future litigation in which an NI company is a defendant

November, 2009 – reports of frequent outages in the e-mail archive system.

January, 2010 – It is decided to destroy all archive e-mail before this point.

April, 2010 – HCL deletes three data sets. One is a public folder on a production (rather than archive) server “owned by a user who no longer needed the emails”.

May, 2010 – NI exec demands to know if e-mails destroyed.

May, 2010 – 200,000 delivery status notification messages deleted, plus 21,000 messages in an outbox, during recovery from system failure.

June, 2010 – NI solicitor, Julian Pike, will claim, falsely, that all e-mail before this point has been destroyed. See December 2010.

29th July, 2010 – “How come we still haven’t done the e-mail policy?” i.e. the deletion has not yet happened.

July 2010 – William Lewis joins NI.

4th August, 2010 – “Everyone needs to know e-mail before January 2010 will not be kept” i.e. still not deleted.

6th September, 2010 – Sienna Miller’s lawyers demand that e-mail be preserved.

9th September, 2010 – IT employee says “there is a senior management requirement to delete this data as quickly as possible but it need to be done in commercial boundaries”. i.e. data still there, and contractual issues with the IT outsourcers holding up the process.

September, 2010 – unspecified deletions of “historic” e-mail in connection with system stability problem.

October 2010 – News International papers move. Hard disk drives in NI workstations (not just the NOTW) are replaced and destroyed, but serverside e-mail is backed up at least in part.

December, 2010 – NOTW Scottish Editor Bob Bird tells Sheridan trial that the archived e-mail has been lost en route to HCL in Mumbai. This is entirely false.

December, 2010 – Julian Pike, solicitor for NI from Farrar & Co., tells the High Court that no e-mail exists beyond six months ago. This is also false.

January, 2011 – Paul Cheesbrough, News International IT chief, says archived e-mail back to 31st September 2007 has been destroyed. This is false.

January, 2011 – HCL are asked to destroy a particular database, refer NI to system vendor.

January, 2011 – NI executives demand destruction of 500GB of e-mail held at Essential Computing, Bristol. See 8th July 2011.

January 7th, 2011 – Miller’s lawyers release information about their case to NI in discovery.

January 12th, 2011 – NI managers order a halt to deletion, and give instructions to preserve e-mail.

Later in January, 2011 – 3 e-mails given to police. New police inquiry begins.

February, 2011 – some e-mail is lost in a software upgrade.

March 23, 2011 – “Don’t tell him!” Pike apologises to the High Court, admits that no e-mail has gone missing in India, admits that archives exist back to 2005. Pike blames Tom Crone, who claims that he was misled by another, unnamed NI executive.

June, 2011 – Information Commissioner abandons inquiry into e-mails disappearing from NI. NI had claimed that the data had disappeared en route to India.

July, 2011 – (i.e. in full crisis mode) an NI exec travels to “the company storage facility” and removes 6 boxes of unspecified records regarding themselves (possibly same person who spoke to Crone).

7th July, 2011 – Evening Strangler first reports NI bribes to police.

8th July, 2011 – Key Guardian story. An NI executive, not named but apparently identified by police, demanded the destruction of 500GB of archive e-mail in January 2011, around the time of the resumed police inquiry. First mention of another IT outsourcing company, Essential Computing, in the UK.

Police believe they have identified the executive responsible by following an electronic audit trail. They have also attempted to retrieve the lost data. The Crown Prosecution Service is believed to have been asked whether the executive can be charged with perverting the course of justice.

At the heart of the affair is a data company, Essential Computing, based near Bristol. Staff there have been interviewed by Operation Weeting. One source speculated that this company had compelled NI to admit that the archive existed.

The Guardian understands that Essential Computing has co-operated with police and provided evidence about an alleged attempt by the NI executive to destroy part of the archive while they were working with it. This is said to have happened after the executive discovered that the company retained material of which NI was unaware.

This seems to be a critical moment

10th July, 2011 – William Lewis of NI discovers 2007 e-mail dump to Harbottle & Lewis, finds evidence. Only finds 300 out of 2,500 messages – rest still unaccounted for.

July, 2011 – Management & Standards Committee starts functioning with managers from News Corp outside the UK, cooperating with police.

July, 2011 – New York Post staffers ordered to preserve documents. Probably reflects News Corp strategic decision to cooperate

July, 2011 – some e-mail is deleted by HCL due to inconsistency between systems after a migration.

September 7th, 2011 – HCL representatives tell House of Commons that NI demanded deletion of e-mail on 9 occasions starting in April, 2010.

September 13th, 2011 – A large quantity of e-mail is discovered at News International.

October, 2011 – Computer forensics work begins on supposedly deleted e-mail archives.

December, 2011 – “Data Pool 3″ e-mail archive is successfully restored from backup.