Christmas has come early for the new British Prime Minister. Theresa May’s pet project, the ‘Snooper’s Charter’ to massively ramp up state surveillance, was defeated by Lib Dem opposition during the previous coalition government. But just hours after the ballots were counted on 8 May 2015, a triumphant May announced that the new, unrestrained Conservative government would resurrect the bill, in order to ensure the security services can “keep us safe and secure”. Last week this new Investigatory Powers (IP) Bill passed the final reading in the House of Lords and is likely to become law before the year is up.
Debate around the bill – limited as it was – has tended to polarise around two sometimes abstract positions: On the one hand, those who believe that ‘ordinary’ citizens should have no reason to fear a bit of state surveillance; on the other, those who issue dire warnings about freedom and privacy. So what’s the issue with this legislation – and what will actually change when the IP Bill becomes law?Read more
On October 3rd and 10th, sandwiched between Monday night episodes of Corrie, our 2016 This Is Scotland films were screened on STV. We were delighted and moved by the reactions to the films on social media so we've decided to collect them all up here.
Shot over the course of a year in a Danish school run by the Red Cross, At Home in the World offers a moving glimpse into the lives of five children struggling to learn a new language while adjusting to life in new surroundings. As they await the outcome of their family’s asylum claims, some of the children thrive and build friendships despite their traumatic pasts; others have difficulty containing their fears and sense of alienation.
With astonishing restraint, the film captures its young protagonists’ extraordinary resilience and fragility – while quietly paying tribute to their teachers’ remarkable humanity.Read more
We are very excited indeed that Thierry Garrel will be joining us to tutor our Bridging The Gap Development Workshop in October.
At the age of just twenty years old, Thierry joined the national French TV and radio broadcasting agency, ORTF, before going on to become Head of the Documentary and Junior Authors Division at the 'Institut National de l’Audiovisuel' (INA). From 1987 until 2008, he was the Head of the Documentary Film Department of La Sept and ARTE France, European cultural channel. While in this position, he developed many highly remarked programs and the renowned “GRAND FORMAT” collection which has coproduced and aired over 200 international award-winning feature length documentaries.
Read Thierry's reflections on the documentary filmmaker's duty to rebel!
Rebellion in documentary is about bearing witness not retribution.
This summer I have been back in the editing room, trying to make sense of the material I have been shooting in the Bijagos archipelago off the West coast of Africa, over the last 4 years.
Having closely studied their history I have learnt that they are many different ways of rebelling and how we define acts of ‘rebellion’ is not always obvious.
(Still from Noe Mendelle's forthcoming film shot in the Bijagos)
Bill Binney is not mincing his words. In a rallying battle cry against mass surveillance, the former NSA analyst tells an audience at the UK premiere of A Good American that we are basically at war. In every democracy across the world; in our very “hearts and minds”, a war “against the totalitarian temptation” is being waged.
Perhaps because Binney is such a quiet, considered man, his words seem to carry extra weight. But it’s not just his solemnity that captures attention. Binney is not just a campaigner for civil liberties, speaking of principles and rights. He was on the inside – one of them. A high-level NSA analyst, technical director, and one of the best mathematicians the agency ever had, Bill Binney was their man for 32 years. And then, suddenly, he was their enemy.
A Good American tells the story of Binney’s life work, and his persecution by the government. Summarising the situation for the audience at the Take One Action Film Festival, Binney runs through every major terrorist attack in recent years. Madrid, Boston, 9/11, 7/7, Paris, Orlando, the list goes on. “All preventable”, he says, glumly; “all we needed was to watch the metadata.” Instead, the NSA dragged in all the content, swamping analysts with unmanageable volumes of information. They’re still doing it now – NSA, GCHQ, French security and others – trampling privacy and missing clues. It’s this that makes Binney so angry.
Thankfully, he found someone who would tell his story.Read more
Fifteen years ago the world was still reeling from a terrorist attack on a scale previously unthinkable. The destruction of the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon attack on 11 September 2001 resulted in nearly 3,000 deaths and 6,000 injuries. Everybody old enough remembers watching the footage: smoke and ash billowing through Manhattan, people jumping from unimaginable heights, the second tower going down.
In the wake of 9/11 came invasion and never-ending war; many, many more deaths than the event itself caused. The erosion of civil liberties and privacy, not just in the US but across the world, followed suit, as government surveillance expanded even further.
The US government is vast. Its spying capabilities are vast too, and their precise nature – as well as what happens to you if you whistleblow about it – are the topics of upcoming film A Good American.
But you can’t really talk about the NSA without talking eventually about GCHQ, the UK equivalent. The Snowden leaks in 2013 showed how closely the two countries had collaborated in developing mass surveillance programs aimed at their own populations; but just two days ago, further leaks showed that the ‘collect it all’ ethos which came to dominate the American agency originated in the English countryside.
Still from A Good American: NSA's Bad Aibling listening post (now BND)
So in this third post on the issues raised in A Good American, we’re looking at the NSA’s friends in Britain, and how the UK’s current approach contrasts with developments in Europe. Three years since the first documents showing the extent of mass surveillance were leaked by Edward Snowden, even the US government has rolled back some of its spying, though not nearly far enough for many civil liberty advocates. The EU, meanwhile, has been getting tougher on companies sharing EU citizens’ data with the US.
But in the UK, where privacy protections are already poor, the government is apparently determined to increase mass surveillance to unprecedented levels.Read more