Free Range Themes:
Weaponising Big Data
This site is the home of the ‘Weaponising Big Data’ Project, a Free Range research project on the military and intelligence sites in Britain that are preparing for offensive cyberwarfare and automated state surveillance.
Sites in Britain linked to the ‘Kill Chain’
Within the network of sites in Britain which plan and develop cyber-warfare and mass on-line surveillance, there is a subset which are – right now – actively waging remote drone strikes and special forces operations using these technologies.
Many of these operations have dubious legality. They arguably violate international law and the Nuremberg Principle of ‘crimes against peace’ – with our Government’s willing ignorance.
Turning a blind eye to human rights abuses
The UN Human Rights Council’s Rapporteur on the Protection of Human Rights in Counter-terrorism Operations has stated that the current use of armed drones probably offends both international humanitarian law, and the laws of war.
This subset of sites – elements of what is known as the ‘Kill Chain’ – is actively involved in planning, targeting, or running missions which are known to infringe international law.
Right now, as a result of Donald Trump’s new foreign policy, the use of these tactics are escalating. The reality is that as well as existing operations, the states involved in the ‘kill chain’ are actively developing and enhancing it – through ‘algorithmic warfare’ (formally known as the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, based upon the cloud computing systems of the IBM, Google and Microsoft AI systems), and the development of more lethal killing machines.
Unfortunately, our government refuses to acknowledge this – and has actively obstructed investigations by Parliament and the UN into how Britain deals with/regulates these matters.
For example, in 2017, a group of MPs in the UK Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Drones asked a series of questions of the Ministry of Defence about drone operations at USAF Croughton. When refused the information under the Freedom of Information Act, the group appealed to the Information Tribunal – which was refused. Instead, the Information Commission told them that their questions were not covered by the US government's official notice to the UK government on the operations at Croughton. As the APPG said in its press release:
The Tribunal did confirm that the US government’s notification to the UK government about the expansion of the Croughton facility did not address any of the concerns raised about the scale and purpose of the base’s expansion. This underlines the APPG’s concern that the US expansion of its UK facilities in its global drone warfare programme appears to have taken place with minimum consultation with the UK government.
In 2017 it was ruled that the collection of ‘bulk communications data’ by US and UK state agencies was unlawful. More recently, the new framework for bulk data collection under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2016 was ruled unlawful by the courts – and it had to be revised by Parliament.
This is because technology is moving faster than the law on these matters. Due to the secret nature of these operations, the military and intelligence lobby can refuse to comply with the law, and rely on governments to retroactively ‘fix’ the problem when they are discovered.
What we need are “Citizen’s Monitoring Groups”
As actions which violate international law and human rights, it is arguable that any state agency in Britain which co-operates with the operation of these sites, unless they can prove it does not involve the support of strike operations, are in breach of Section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998.
As our own state is seemingly blind to the legal and humanitarian impacts of these operations, it is our view that we must actively ‘monitor’ these sites and the operations which are attributable to them.
If our state refuses to comply with the law, then we, as citizens of that state, have a legal responsibility to enforce it ourselves. We have seen the effectiveness of this approach before.
During the Iraq War the Gloucestershire Weapons Inspectors sought to inspect the military weaponry being amassed at USAF Fairford for the unlawful invasion of Iraq. So desperate was the state to avoid this that the police repeatedly broke the law in order to try an curtail those protests – highlighting the state’s disregard for the law at home, as well as abroad, in the national media, and in the process highlighting the link between the two!
This is the broader purpose of the Free Range Network’s ‘Weaponising Big Data’ Project: Yes, we wish to support the establishment of ‘Citizen’s Monitoring Groups’ at all the sites in this network, if only to alert the local population. The greater project, though, involves lobbying and where necessary taking action to enforce a local policy of non-co-operation with the activities being undertaken at these sites.
We will produce more information on the mechanics project in 2020. In the meantime, if you would like to take part in this setting-up this process, please email us – lifechain☮fraw·org·uk.