Accountability Theatre

I doubt you’ll remember reading about “Security Theatre” in my 2005 ID Card paper so I’ll repeat the passage here: I was commenting on the Home Office’s naïve concept of their ID Card as being somehow self-verifying.

It is a classic example of what Bruce Schneier calls “Security Theatre” where we make users go through the motions to make it look like we’re “doing security” but the procedures are actually meaningless “snake oil”

It’s taken me a while but I now realise that the concept is a useful template for another political/commercial deception I’ve been trying to tackle for some years. Most recently I’ve been trying to pique the interest of the only MP I know well enough to trust. Unfortunately he’s rather busy trying to manage at least two portfolios in Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. Despite which I see that he’s taken up the struggle against the Parliamentary Expenses Watchdog – IPSA – and their overweening bureaucracy.

I learned about his (so far) one man campaign from this standard mud-slinging DailyWail story  I’m sure Paul knows he’s got absolutely zero chance of succeeding with his proposal for fixed allowances. But the real issue he’s trying to address is an example of how a system designed to avoid real accountability has no idea how to create it when they’re forced to.

The normal mode of (All) Governments is to avoid disclosing any information which might be used against them while trying to appear as open and transparent as their citizens demand. The result is what I have decided, henceforward, to call “Accountability Theatre”. It can be defined thus:

ACCOUNTABILITY THEATRE

1 Setting up mechanisms, in order to pacify public demands for accountability, which are supposed to audit sundry claims and reassure the public that proper consideration and due process have been applied. But…

2  The mechanisms lack any provision for realistic forensically verifiable means of validating such claims. So…

3 The public are required to Trust the declarations of the auditor and the auditor is required to trust the limited evidence s/he is permitted access to.

4 Specifically, there is no mechanism for ensuring that the evidence accessed by the auditor is both complete and unedited.

5 In the most egregious examples, the auditor is also a member of or closely allied with the organisation they are supposed to audit.

As regular readers will know, the claims I’m most concerned about are those made by the State, such as “we only tapped this suspect’s mobile phone, to obtain call and location history because we had reliable intelligence that he was involved in a potential terrorist plot”

The Accountability Theatre in that situation consists of the fact that, at no point, can any potential auditor either see the raw data without the consent and collaboration of its custodian, nor, even if permitted to see it, to verify that it is complete and unedited. The entire process, in other words, is based purely on faith that the State can do no wrong, a ship which sailed at least a century ago.

Returning, briefly, to Paul’s complaint:

What MPs are stuck with, regarding Parliamentary Expenses is a direct result of recognising that they cannot get away with the normal Accountability charade in respect of their expense claims. i.e. following the expenses scandal  they are now forced to jump through a ludicrous set of hoops in order to retrieve sometimes trivial sums of money which are often not worth the effort. They are, in the name of “Transparency”, effectively forced to stand on the “naughty step” every time they hold out their hand to get back some of the money they spend while doing their jobs. Hence, for example, we know that both Jeremy Hunt and Amber Rudd each submitted claims of just 27 pence for two short car journeys.  This level of disclosure is considered necessary so that the public can be convinced that proper scrutiny of expenses claims is taking place.

And, frankly, it looks like they do a pretty good job. In the sense that no frivolous claims are ever likely to make it through a pretty rigorous checking system. The “Quick Guide” to what they’re allowed to claim  is a mere 11 pages. The detailed version  weighs in at 75 pages. IPSA employs about 70 civil servants, full-time, and are run by an “independent” board which includes at least one judge, at least one ex MP and an at least one real auditor. All this to manage the Pay and Expense claims of just 650 MPs, at an annual cost of around £5 million.  In a typical commercial organisation of similar size, you’d expect 2 or 3 relatively junior staff to deal with that workload. They’d report to the Company Secretary or Financial Director. Total cost, probably less than £150k.

I hasten to add, in case it’s not obvious, that what IPSA are doing is most definitely NOT Accountability Theatre. It is Political Theatre, designed to demonstrate just how thoroughly we’re now watching our elected representatives. It is also a useful distraction from the unpublished detail of much more serious matters we ought to be demanding.

Contrast the obvious overkill effort they put into scrutinising what MPs claim on the Expenses, with the trivial and meaningless scrutiny put into examining the thousands of security requests  routinely dealt with by the Home Office. At her Mansion House speech, June 2014 Theresa May proudly proclaimed that her role as Home Secretary included:

“If the Security Service wants to place a device in the property of a terrorist suspect, or the National Crime Agency wants to listen to the telephone calls of a drugs trafficker, they need my agreement first. On the basis of a detailed warrant application and advice from officials in my department I must be satisfied that the benefits justify the means and that the proposed action is necessary and proportionate.

The warrant application gives me the intelligence background, the means by which the surveillance will take place, and the degree of intrusion upon the citizen. Neither the Security Service nor other intelligence agencies, nor the police, nor other law enforcement agencies, can undertake sensitive surveillance without providing these details and gaining my approval. Ministerial oversight – which I share with the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – is a crucial safeguard to make sure that the most intrusive powers are used only when they are necessary and proportionate.”

Now then, how long do you think it would – or should – take to make a thorough assessment of the validity of just one such warrant application? Checking the content of the intelligence and, if necessary, its provenance; considering whether that content, in context, justified spying on a citizen; considering the means and degree of espionage being recommended; investigating whether the individual has previously been targeted and what, if any parallels there are between the circumstances of that targeting and the one being proposed; verifying that the appropriate risk assessments have been made and properly recorded; verifying and justifying the proposed cost etc. etc.

It is impossible to answer such questions without a detailed academic study, which we will, of course, not be permitted to make, but an intelligent guess has to be between one and five days of pretty intensive study. Yet, as MP David Davis pointed out in 2015, Theresa May was required, during the previous year, to approve up to 10 warrants a day – and that was just for phone interceptions.

That speech was supposed to illustrate how seriously she takes her responsibility for “political oversight”. I have no doubt she was sincere and believed that what she was doing actually constituted meaningful oversight. It was obviously, in reality, just a box ticking exercise and classic “Accountability Theatre”. I doubt she has the faintest idea how to seriously examine the validity of those warrant applications. She’s been trained and advised to rely on her Civil Servants, who will do all the real work on her behalf. All she needs to do is feed the monkey.

Their defence against such a charge would likely be along the lines:

well of course the Home Secretary doesn’t research the applications herself, that’s what the “advice from officials in my department” is supposed to mean.

But that’s no more than one branch of the establishment giving the nod to another branch, with which it has closely entangled, even incestuous relations. Why on earth are we supposed to trust that arrangement?

Their ultimate answer to that is the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee, which, ostensibly has the power to question everybody and see everything. Yet the Snowden revelations came as a surprise to this ultimate oversight body (search the page for “Snowden”)

And their subsequent investigation of the revelations regarding GCHQ “rather promptly” resulted in an absolutely clean bill of health. So “promptly” that even a former Chairman of the same committee, Lord King, was moved to comment that:

“the decision by the Rifkind-led committee to swiftly endorse the work of GCHQ was “unfortunate” because the endorsement came while new disclosures from files leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden were still being published by the Guardian and other newspapers around the world.

“I think their response was pretty quick,” said King, a former Northern Ireland secretary. “It came at a time when revelations were still coming out. It is very important the ISC maintains public confidence as a scrutiny committee.”

Quite so.

Not only are the committee members obviously part of the establishment that they are supposed to police, but NONE have anything like the skills or expertise required to make a thorough examination of the work of GCHQ, especially “promptly”. They don’t even know the right kind of questions to ask.

The ISC is designed to be Accountability Theatre and, on this occasion, they panicked and fluffed their lines. Normally, they would have made a big show of visiting GCHQ, interrogating its mandarins in both public and private, and, after a few months of due consideration, announced their august whitewash. But the veil slipped for a few moments and those of us who were paying attention spotted the naked Emperor.

So now let’s turn to the serious shit.

The Government Case for Watching All of Us All The Time

The chief response of the Government, to being caught with its pants down over the unregulated Bulk Surveillance of its own citizens has been to frame new powers which retrospectively justify that outrageous invasion of privacy and to pretend it hasn’t already been going on, illegally, for years. If you’ve got the stomach for it, you can read their arguments here:

It may surprise you but I am not going to take issue with any of their arguments for Surveillance. Such objections are, in my view, the weakest argument made by the Privacy/Liberty lobby and the one most easily defeated by the State. Given the right circumstances, there is NOTHING which can be definitively ruled out as a legitimate counter-measure for a State to employ in defence of its citizens. I certainly include the occasional need to assassinate one or two citizens in order to protect other citizens. Perhaps the most recent unarguable example of the legitimacy of that counter-measure being the killing of the French lorry driver who deliberately ran down 86 of his fellow citizens in Nice on Bastille Day.

But given that such circumstances obviously have arisen from time to time and will, inevitably, arise again, it must follow that less dramatic circumstances will arise which will justify all manner of lesser measures like Surveillance and other intelligence gathering activities. Here, I include, for example, the highly controversial embedding of “deep cover” agents inside hostile organisations.

But if we’re prepared to delegate such powers to the State, then it ought to be obvious to any intelligent citizen that nothing and no one should be (digitally) watched more closely than those we delegate such powers to. Then we would be in a position, after the event at least, to determine whether their action was justified and proportionate. And THAT is where we’ve dropped the ball. Or, rather, that’s where the State has chosen to run off with the ball and not allow us even to see it.

I really don’t want to start giving examples of how often and how badly the State has made indefensible and often disastrous decisions in this field and how seldom anyone has ever been held truly accountable for them. This blog and my other writings contain hundreds of examples and if you’re reading this, you’ve probably already read a few of those and many other similar analyses dotted around the web.

I’ll just touch on one area; the embedded agents. We used them to penetrate the IRA. That was necessary and justifiable; even when our agents took part in some of the killings. Anything less would have blown their cover. We’ve almost certainly got or are trying very hard to get embedded agents inside ISIS and Al Qaeda and their more serious offshoots. Those agents too will have to participate 100% like the real thing. That means they’ll take part in recruiting other Jihadis and even occasionally have to kill innocent civilians just to maintain their cover. Some of those citizens might even be British.

But if and when something goes wrong with these operations, the agents are exposed, the shit hits the fan and everything goes titsup, who are we going to trust to tell us the whole truth about how and why it happened? The people who screwed up in the field or in the back office? The politicians who authorised it?  Or should we trust the half-tamed “Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation” who has just endorsed the Bulk collection of Private Data as having a “clear operational purpose” as they “play an important part in identifying, understanding and averting threats in Great Britain, Northern Ireland and further afield”?

He can’t, unfortunately, provide concrete examples but he does advocate “very considerable caution” without coming close to providing a meaningful mechanism for proving that such caution was exercised.

And if you study the government’s own case for such powers (see the link above), you’ll find 3 references to “Safeguards within the Bill” and in each case, those safeguards amount to an assurance that the powers can only be used for purposes specified (chiefly National Security related) and will be independently audited.

Real – Digitally Verifiable – Accountability

If ever a government gets serious about Accountability, here’s what it will need to do, not just for matters related to snooping on their own citizens but for ALL government decision-making processes; though the obvious starting place is “Watching the Watchers”.

The audit trail should contain digital copies of all evidence, relevant conversations, policy decisions and the operational recordings of implementation, pertaining to the events being audited. Each item should have been cryptographically fingerprinted (hashed) and the hashes lodged on a public accessible immutable database (blockchains or protected hash-chains) in real-time as the items were created.

Case folders or periodic snapshots of such data should be similarly hashed so that no item can be withdrawn after the event, without the gap in the data being obvious.

These techniques are not new. I’ve been promoting them for more than a decade myself but Bitcoin has done a much better job of waking people up to the significance of immutability.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the government “Safeguards” contain no mention of real-time mandatory data storage on an immutable database, so there will be no way for the independent auditor to determine whether he is seeing the whole story and whether what he’s been  allowed to see is as it was when originally stored. The proposed safeguards are just routine Accountability Theatre.

In the optimally Accountable world, whenever an issue is raised regarding the validity of behaviour by the State, the audit team will include appropriate experts in the technical, legal and financial fields they are about to investigate. Their proceedings will be overseen by a Jury, not a Judge. It might be a specially vetted Jury and it may often choose to sit in Camera in order to protect genuine National Security. But Democracy requires the power to reside not in State Appointees who may have a vested interest in hiding incompetence or malfeasance but in  ad hoc representatives of the People who will, for the duration of the audit at least, have no other agenda.

The audit will have unfettered access to the data. With such a provably complete and unalterable (without detection) audit trail, the audit team and their Jury can now sift through the evidence and decide for themselves what questions need to be asked and whether the evidence fully answers them. If it doesn’t, they can establish culpability and publish the relevant facts, with due care to ensure sensitive secrets are not exposed. If all the questions are answered and the actions taken shown to be reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances, they can publish that finding and, unlike the situation today, we could safely believe them.

In such circumstances, for example, how do you suppose that process of true Accountability would have dealt with the disgusting overreach of the State in those other more famous embedding cases such as the 7 women who unwittingly had long-term relationships with undercover cops who were paid by the State to infiltrate legal political organisations like environmental groups, animal rights groups and Trade Unions? I suggest the mere knowledge that it would be impossible for the Police to hide such behaviour from the Audit would be enough to prevent that kind of abuse in the first place.

The Pitchford Inquiry  is supposed to be investigating a whole raft of other similar abuses. But many have already commented that unless the relevant Police could be compelled to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, it will be a waste of time. Given that none of the relevant material was immutably recorded at the time, we will never know how much, if any, of “the truth” they are telling. So the entire inquiry is bound to be just like all the other major inquiries. The Accountability Theatre Players will throw just enough meat to the baying wolves to make them think there’s been a real kill and then everything will return to normal.

The State already has vast Surveillance capabilities and total freedom to use them without any meaningful independent oversight. The crimes committed in our name in this century alone have illustrated the desperate need to eliminate Accountability Theatre with the relevant technology and the laws required to mandate its use. Yet, instead of moving in that direction, the government is intent on ramping up the extent of surveillance  to levels which make even the Police State of America’s USA PATRIOT Act look restrained.

If you’ve read this far can I suggest that if you wish to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, you could make a useful start by demanding that your own MP explain how s/he is going to fight Accountability Theatre.

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Wikipedia – First Among Fact Checkers

The Daily Mail’s creaming itself over being able to publish this attack on Wikipedia.

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: ‘This is a complete waste of money. Wikipedia is an intellectual crutch, often full of mistakes, and encouraging pupils to rely on it does not help them.

It’s rare to see a target so comprehensively missed. Not a glowing reference for his “Real Education”.

I challenge anyone to point me to a MORE trustworthy and up to date general information source than Wikipedia. You can start by pointing to one which has fewer mistakes (proportionally) and elaborate how you reach that conclusion.

You can then move on to the question of how this potential superior source identifies its errors; how it publicises that identification and how it fixes them.

And finally, you might point out how and whether we can review the history of its entries and check on the identities (pseudonymous or otherwise) of those who created them.

Wikipedia took a while to deal with its most obvious weakness – the unhindered free access to its editing tools by the ignorant or agenda-motivated. But since it sorted that out, about 10 years ago, it has become, by a distance of several light years, the first port of call for anyone wanting a reasonably objective summary of what is known about the widest range of topics arranged in one place anywhere on the internet.

It’s exceptionally useful as the “First Fact Checker”. Here’s a tip. Whenever you read some extraordinary claim about something you know little about, before you go spreading the story, why not check out what Wiki has to say about it? It will save you a lot of embarrassment.

Yes, it still has occasional errors and some rather amateurish entries. And yes, it can still be “spoofed” in small ways on topics that attract so little attention that nobody bothers to check them. But there is nowhere else on the web which has anything like the rich and vibrant support community and readership which ensures that it has at least as high an overall credibility rating as the “professional encyclopedias” (a fact acknowledged by the BBC – who used to love wiki-bashing as well – back in 2005, after research conducted by the journal Nature, which compared a range of scientific entries in Wiki and Encyclopedia Brittanica and found them broadly comparable)

Most significantly of all, Wiki keeps and publishes an ongoing assessment of its own reliability. Point me to ANY other online information source doing that.

So it’s a nod of appreciation to Leicester city council. Your pupils will gain considerably by learning how to evaluate and use Wikipedia as the best starting point for almost anything they need to research. Most important of all, they’ll learn how it never permits assertions to be made without references and it will let them go and check those references for themselves, to see whether or not the assertion is justified. THAT’S “Real Education”.

Perhaps one of the reasons tabloids like the Daily Mail love attacking Wiki is because it can so easily destroy the credibility of so much of their own bullshit.

So Journos get a bit more Protection, what about the rest of us?

The Daily Mail is crowing over its small victory but, as usual, hasn’t grasped the bigger picture.

The Authoritarian Law (RIPA), whose abuse they have reported on for years, is about to be tweaked with another Law forbidding cops from prying into Journalists’ phone records without more serious oversight than the pathetic “superintendent level authority” required for the police to carry on spying on the rest of us.

First, it’s a VERY small victory. It reputedly only even attempts to improve the protection for Journalists. Not citizens. So, at most, a few hundred of our fellow, more privileged citizens, will be “protected” by the proposed new restrictions.

But second, note the quote marks around “protected”. That’s no accident. The truth is that the Law does NOTHING to protect us from abuse of surveillance powers and never has. At most it might deter those who think they are at risk of being caught snooping, which given the fact that they are not being snooped on themselves, is a very low risk.

But, as the RIPA saga amply illustrates, the vast majority of its abusers don’t even grasp the concept of “Abuse” in this context. They have routinely justified their illicit access as “proportionate and necessary” in pursuit of their aims to pursue petty criminality, littering, illegal parking, dog fouling, fly tipping, cheating to qualify for access to favoured schools and other matters of dubious relevance to our “National Security” which RIPA was deemed necessary to protect. And what we’ve suffered here in the UK is trivial compared to the institutionalised abuse and assault on civil liberties arising from the wholly illicit USAPATRIOT Act and its associated legislation in the United States.

This kind of mission creep is rampant around the world. The USA clearly does it most egregiously and most “professionally” but while they’re among the worst offenders, there is probably no government on the planet which doesn’t routinely abuse its authority to obtain illicit access to private data for reasons which no intelligent citizen would approve.

And anyone who thinks “The Law” can protect them from this kind of abuse doesn’t begin to understand the problem. The only way to prevent such abuse is to make it technically impossible to spy without audited authority. Wot that mean?

It means that it has ALWAYS been technically possible to control access to the data they want to snoop on. It means that such control can easily be made to include a form of authentication and authorisation which ensures that all the relevant data is captured to an audit trail which cannot be tampered with by those requiring the authorised access. It means that, though we can never guarantee to prevent illicit access, we can guarantee that we can always discover it and who was responsible for it.

Laws which make something illegal and threaten sanctions are, at best, only a minor deterrent, as we see in real life every day (think War on Drugs, Fraud, Burglary, Rape etc etc as well as the routine abuses by the Authorities themselves).

Conversely, the near certainty of detection is a major deterrent.

The audit trail would, itself, contain no sensitive data and could thus be entirely publicly accessible. It would serve three functions.

First, all requests for access could be technically blocked and only permitted to proceed on receipt of a key from the audit trail. That one time access key would only be issued once the audit trail has been persuaded that the requestor was a) authorised to make such requests and b) had proved deposit of the documentary evidence required to justify the reason for access.

Second, the public audit trail presents to the world an anonymised record, in real-time, of what the authorities are doing. That public record would not, for example, reveal whose phone records they had just requested access to, but would reveal that one or more such access requests had been made in the last few seconds or minutes. Nor would it reveal who had requested access. But it would reveal at least the organisation responsible for the access request. That might be as vague as “The Home Office” or “NSA” or it might be as specific as “Precinct 99” or “East Devon County Council”. That’s a matter for negotiation.

Over the course of days, weeks, months, it would reveal the extent of surveillance activity against the citizens and the patterns of what authorities were doing what kind of snooping.

The third function of the audit trail would be, in the event of any challenge to the authorities, over a specific access session, to verify (or falsify) their claims as to why they did what they did. Remember the one time access key? That only gets issued if the authority requesting access asserts that it has documentary evidence supporting its reasons for the request and that they meet the terms of any relevant laws. They have to “prove” the existence of that evidence by lodging its digital fingerprint (a “hash” for those who aren’t yet familiar with this incredibly useful crypto tool) with the audit trail.

Come the challenge, they must present that documentary evidence to the auditors and, possibly, a court. The beauty of the Hash is that, while maintaining the complete confidentiality of the evidence, it proves unequivocally whether or not the documents they present are identical to those they claimed, at the time of the request, supported their access request. If they don’t match, or if they are found to be attempting to bypass the audit trail altogether, they are automatically committing a criminal offence.

If they do match, the auditors/court can now study the documentation to make a judgement as to whether their reason for access was legitimate or not. If not, then, once again, they’ve committed a criminal offence. If they do match, then it’s a fair cop!

None of the above is rocket science. It doesn’t require any new technology. It does require some new programming and authentication procedures but nothing dramatic, even though the effects would be.

There are two roles for the Law in this area. First – what they already do – they need to define what we democratically agree to be acceptable and unacceptable practice, with a view to enabling appropriate sanctions against those we find in breach of the law. Their second, so far absent, and more important role, is to mandate the implementation of the kind of technical protection which makes the abuses we’ve forbidden impossible to hide. No more, no less.

If the media, including the Daily Mail, could understand this issue and campaign for the introduction of such legally mandated technical protections across the planet – or at least in their own backyards – then they might actually improve the human condition, and not just protect their own interests.

Now that would be something worth crowing about.

One Law For The Rich


The sheer brazen effrontery of this corruption is breathtaking. Not just the banks’ corruption (15 years – in the case of HSBC – of criminal money laundering for drug cartels and terrorist groups) but the State corruption in the form of the decision that banks like HSBC are “too big to prosecute”. Oh, and don’t forget to ask yourself the routine question: why are you having to watch this on The Real News rather than mainstream media?

Few, if any, events in recorded history have so clearly illustrated not just the gap between the elite rich and the rest of us, but even the illegitimate means by which they are permitted and even helped to maintain their illicit advantages over civil society.

ANY criminal prosecuted, from now on, in any country where trial by jury is the norm, should now argue – direct to the jury – that whatever crime they are accused of cannot possibly be as serious as what the banks have been allowed to get away with for decades and that, if the banks can be let off with a token fine (less than a day’s profit), there can be no ethical case for any lesser prosecutions. Judges and prosecutors will, of course, try to resist that argument, but let’s see what the Juries decide…

Conrad Black and The Rule Of Law

Until I watched this interview, I was utterly indifferent to the fate of Conrad Black. Just another rich bastard caught with his hand in the till. Who gives a shit?

Check it out. I promise you will not be disappointed. And then we’ll have a bit of a chat about it…
(Newsnight – 2012-10-22)
Let me say, up front, I have no idea whether Conrad Black is guilty or innocent.

But given this confident and spirited performance, and given that absolutely everything he has to say about the corrupt Prison State of America is pretty easy to validate, I am forced to concede that he is more plausible, by far, than his accusers and moralistic interrogators such as Jeremy Paxman.

As you’ll have noticed if you followed the link, I stopped updating that page in 2007, when it became clear that Obama was about to replace Bush and I foolishly allowed myself to believe that he would – if not sweep away the Police State – at least reverse some of it’s worst excesses. He hasn’t even slowed its progress. Reluctantly I’m going to have to fire it back up one day and add another couple of hundred examples.

Be that as it may, Conrad Black produced such a barnstorming performance that I feel obliged to hedge my bets. ONLY two kinds of individual could have performed like that. Both of them would believe with utter sincerity absolutely everything they are saying. The first would be a complete Sociopath who has no concept of rational ethical analysis and sincerely believes he is right and entitled to behave as he did. The second is genuinely innocent. I leave you to judge which category Black belongs in.

But the vastly more important point is what Paxman appeared to believe was a killer question:

“Do you not think a man who has been found guilty by due process of law ought to be slightly penitent?”

If nothing else, it demonstrates that Paxman himself is a fine actor; probably a key requirement for someone who has to try to pretend to be interested in “balance”.

It was like watching someone to whom it had never occurred that innocent people can EVER (let alone frequently) be found guilty by “due process of Law”. Such innocence is not remotely plausible on the part of a premier league political interviewer. Especially not one who has – for decades – professionally interviewed so many of the participants in so many of the high-profile cases of wrongful conviction and abuse of process that we’ve suffered here in the UK.

He obviously isn’t that naive, but he had to ask the question. Why?

Because, as I wrote only recently in reply to a question on my forum:

Moral Obligation to Obey The Law?
First, most of the laws we all still live under fail the Reciprocity test and thus, to this ethicist at least, remain entirely illicit. Instead of challenging the validity of such laws, moral philosophers have often been the keenest apologists for them. If you need a clearer example of the failure of Moral Philosophy, I can’t think of one.

But second, secular authority has taken its lead from the success of the religious model and routinely frames its edicts as though they are solutions to moral dilemmas. The over-arching meme is the one that tries to portray Obedience To The Law as a moral virtue in its own right. The mere fact that something is a Law is supposed to be enough to give it moral weight. [emphasis added]

It is rare that something happens in the real world (so soon after I’ve written something like that) which illustrates my point so clearly and so powerfully.

I’ll be coming back to this theme from time to time but the question I urge you to consider is this:
We all know that when a dictator wins an “election” with 99% of the vote, that the vote was rigged and the system is corrupt and unfair. But what about the Law? What success rate (for prosecutors) would you expect in a genuinely fair and honest legal system?

Hillsborough: Why Conspiracy Theories Thrive

So now we KNOW the truth. Up until today, it was just another conspiracy theory. Think about that…
And then address the question of how we might determine which of the other million or so conspiracy theories floating around the web are also entirely (or at least mostly) true.

I’ll expand on this later. (he threatened…)

The Big Lie still a favourite Authoritarian Tactic

There was, it would seem, no prospect of Gu Kailai submissively playing her part in the show trial which took place in Beijing last week. Previously, the regime would simply have held the trial in secret and announced the results to its gullible public. But appearances now matter even to those currently holding the reins within the dictatorship. So they had to put on at least a token “one day” trial to make it look like something resembling justice was being delivered. When the star of the show refuses to co-operate, however, it’s necessary to recruit an understudy.
Frankly, in the context of a totalitarian regime, which China still is, even though it has dramatically loosened up since Mao’s day, it’s not even a particularly extreme behaviour. What IS bizarre, though, is that they made so little effort to cover up their subterfuge. Given that the point was to show her confession and docile acceptance of the punishment on Television, surely they could have found a better match and surely, even with the poor match they did find, a decent stage make-up artist could have made the actress look at least close enough to suppress giggles of disbelief!