Bob – you reject the notion of someone …

Comment posted Spygate: Who was ‘John McKinnon’? Was Russell a victim of dirty tricks by a council false persona? by Tim McIntyre.

Bob – you reject the notion of someone deliberately tapping into the email system as a ‘conspiracy theory’ and then postulate a rather more unlikely-sounding theory of your own about a cleaner whose school is under threat, which doesn’t even make any logical sense. Why would such a person deliberately seek to damage the SNP group when they had left the ruling coalition some weeks earlier to oppose the schools proposals?

I don’t know whether to be relieved or worried at your assertion that council IT staff are not competent enough to find emails, but it seems a little unlikely – they managed without any obvious difficulty to dig up some pretty damaging stuff between Mr Bloomer & council staff in response to an FOI request from SRSN.

Finally, referring to the late & much respected & missed Councillor Donald MacDonald as ‘some halfwit’ is just bang out of order.

Tim McIntyre also commented

  • Thanks Sandy, I was just thinking out loud as usual…
  • If I remember rightly, part of the ‘scandal’ that the opposition tried to stir up over this issue was that Mr Russell had sent the email from his parliamentary email address. Isn’t it possible that it could have been intercepted, or even FOI’d, from the source end, i.e. the Holyrood mailserver?

Recent comments by Tim McIntyre

  • Problems with both pro-indy and pro-union campaigns
    “Johnson is also the Mayor of the UK’s biggest USP – the majestic London.

    Most of us wouldn’t want to live there but who doesn’t want it as ‘ours’ – the international envy of its huge economic engine…”

    I’m pretty sure this is the first time I have seen the conspicuous and ever-increasing concentration of the UK nations’ wealth and power in London portrayed as the ‘positive case for the union’ :-)

  • PR gaffes in Community Land Scotland’s ‘Bunchrew Land Declaration’
    Is it just me, or does this article, and the comments which follow, concentrate solely on sniping at the title of the initiative because no-one has anything interesting to say about its intent?

    From Rhoda Grant’s quote above: “The declaration also acknowledges the deep divisions in Scotland’s land ownership patterns addressing the terrible reality that fewer than 500 people own half of Scotland’s land.”

    That statistic is surely a pretty shocking anachronism in the 21st century isn’t it?

  • Donors, public money and funding the independence referendum campaigns
    Karl – “…if the SG ( SNP) had pushed the devo-max option I would have supported it 100%”
    They did. It was Westminster that refused the third option on the ballot paper.
  • The no-no campaign
    Jamie – I’m not sure if your point is about corroboration or democracy. Majority governing parties pushing through unpopular measures despite opposition is hardly indicative of a democratic crisis – it happens all the time in Westminster, where coalition government is the exception not the rule.

    In Scotland at the moment, there is a combination of lack of voter participation (turnout at Holyrood elections far too low) and a lack of credible opposition (other major parties sending all their best & brightest to serve in Westminster where the real power lies). Those two factors could be argued to mean that our democracy functions less than effectively. Oh, and the lack of a constitution or other means to check the power of politicians.

  • The no-no campaign
    That’s fine in principle Robert, but I think there is a fair expectation that journalists will at least try to interrogate people in positions of high authority who make assertions that are of crucial importance to a debate – you can’t dismiss something said by Mr Barroso as a mere ‘opinion’, like yours or mine – he’s the president of the EC! Marr should have gone into strong devil’s-advocate mode (as he did with Salmond) and drilled down into WHY Barroso thinks that. Perhaps it would have been genuinely enlightening, or perhaps we would have seen just as much prevarication as you say he got from Salmond.

    As former BBC Scotland journalist Derek Bateman said on his blog afterwards: “If you have a title, you get automatic respect from the national broadcaster, no matter what you actually say.”

    http://derekbateman.co.uk/chocs-away/

    http://derekbateman.co.uk/catching-up/

    http://derekbateman.co.uk/o-homem-e-um-asno/

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43 Responses to Bob – you reject the notion of someone …

  1. For the technically minded: an administrator on the IT system (with sufficient level of clearance) can presumably read any e-mail on the server. But does the system record who read a specific e-mail and when? Is it likely that, if someone with an administrator’s privileges was using search terms to comb through a large number of e-mails, the system would record the search?

    I suspect that anyone from within the Council’s IT department that was willing to hack councillors e-mails would also have had the technical capabilities to erase traces of their presence but I am intrigued as to how hard this would be to do.

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  2. Dougie,

    You are indeed correct that e-mails will be able to be monitored as they will be held on the e-mail server. IN fact I don’t think it is illegal for organisations to do so (although I could be wrong) as work e-mails are supposed to only be used for work purposes.

    As for your other queries I am not so sure however there might be someone who can help with that. I will e-mail and copy you in.

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    • Just checked – standard text in many IT policies is along the lines of

      In addition, all of the company’s internet-related resources are provided for business purposes. Therefore, the company maintains the right to monitor the volume of internet and network traffic, together with the internet sites visited. The specific content of any transactions will not be monitored unless there is a suspicion of improper use.

      Meaning monitoring is legal however there has to be sound grounds for it which in this case, if it is proven to be correct, is not the case.

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      • oops that is internet use. e-mail standard text is pretty similar though. Samples (available one businesslink.gov website) read

        [business name] accepts that the use of email is a valuable business tool. However, misuse of this facility can have a negative impact upon employee productivity and the reputation of the business.

        In addition, all of the company’s email resources are provided for business purposes. Therefore, the company maintains the right to examine any systems and inspect any data recorded in those systems.

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  3. Dr DM: You probably know more about this than I do, but there seem to have been some quite remarkable cases in recent years where that new breed of forensic human IT bloodhounds now working in some police forces – and elsewhere – have succeeded in retrieving material from supposedly carefully ‘laundered’ computers. If the current situation doesn’t warrant the attention of the very best of those ‘bloodhounds’ – if there’s the slightest hint of a ‘whitewash’ – then the activities of this administration will remain suspect until they’re kicked into the long grass.

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  4. E-mail reading:
    Surely no-one could believe that Messrs Smith, Loudon and Sneddon could put themselves in the frame to replicate Mr Murdoch’s staff shenanigans?
    Besides who could shut down the The News of the Argyll and Bute?

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  5. lets separate the politics from the use of computers at work. There are essentially 3 areas of control to which government, public bodies and the vast majority of companies would agree on.
    They expect their employees to use a degree of censure when using computers. The word used is “reasonableness”. They expect the computer tool to be used for their business. The odd personal email and scan of the Internet is acceptable, as long as it doesn’t interfere with work. Most organisations circulate reinforcing information of dos and don’ts at regular intervals; Next is systems – most organisation go to some length to protect their systems – my organisation for example blocks certain websites and deals with attachments to emails in a set manner for the safety of its users and systems. My lead team has automatic rights to examine all email correspondence – indeed it is the way the organisation manages holiday cover – my boss can scan my emails and look at my diary – its not secretive – its the way we work. Personal stuff is handled by gmail; Data protection – all companies that gather data must have a prepared methodology and statements about who, what, when, how, why and for how long and how they destroy the data they gather from and give to.
    A&B Council will have a nominated Data Compliance Officer. Their job is to ensure that the Council and its employees comply with the Data Protection Act and its six (or is it eight) principles and that data is managed for and by its clients (us) in compliance with the Act, both legally and in the spirit of the law.
    All staff, officers and contractors working on behalf of A&B Council therefore have to operate ultimately within the Data Protection Act’s framework – there is no wriggle room. That’s the way it is.
    So if an employee, officer or contractor does any computer presentation from which the inference is that there may perhaps have been a breach of Council’s data caputure and use policy or a breach of the principles of the Act then any such alleged breach must be investigated by the Council’s Data Compliance Officer. I would have thought that sending off newspaper clippings and a covering note to both the Data Compliance officer and Data Protection people in Edinburgh or London would see the start of exposing who did what to whom. Or have I missed the point?
    Late addition – Argyll and Bute Council is registered under the Data Protection Act 1998 and as a data controller (notification number Z5909574), the register entry can be inspected at the Information Commissioners Website. http://www.ico.gov.uk/for_organisations.aspx
    [What does “fair processing” mean?
    The first data protection principle requires you to process personal data fairly and lawfully. Ensuring fairness in everything you do with people’s personal details is, in our view, central to complying with your duties under the Data Protection Act. In practice, it means that you must:
    have legitimate reasons for collecting and using the personal data;
    not use the data in ways that have unjustified adverse effects on the individuals concerned;
    be open and honest about how you intend to use the data, and give individuals appropriate privacy notices when collecting their personal data;
    handle people’s personal data only in ways they would reasonably expect; and
    make sure you do not do anything unlawful with the data.
    Fairness generally requires you to be transparent – clear and open with individuals about how their information will be used. Transparency is always important, but especially so in situations where individuals have a choice about whether they wish to enter into a relationship with you. Assessing whether information is being processed fairly depends partly on how it is obtained. In particular, if anyone is deceived or misled when the information is obtained, then this is unlikely to be fair. - Notes on Guidance from the Information Commissioners Office]

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  6. John McKinnon will have a IP address and Im very sure that its been checked and someone knows who he is……..Its very basic stuff……….So who is it? Also every company has the right to check employees e-mails so no law broken there………. I would hope the administrators are doing this anyway.

    Get rid of anyone who breaks the law is the only way that things will start to be done right….

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  7. So where do these articles and comments get us? nowhere.
    The question to ask is “what do we achieve by what we do”. I guess that ForArgyle now has enough news clippings and comments to suggest that there may have been a breach of the Data Protection Act’s First Principle and that if it gave a copy to each elected Officer and the Council’s Data Protection Officer then A&B Council would need to investigate. If such a breach existed then it (The Council) must inform the Information Commissioners Office; and it is for the Commissioners to conduct an enquiry. So, is anyone going to bell the cat? In all probability – I think not. It will all be punted into the very long grass and yet again the Councillors will return to their petty squabbles and pointless political point scoring. We get the councillors we deserve. And ForArgyll? – Well of course “lets all have a heated debate” – It’s what they do best. Just a bunch of stirrers if you ask me.

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    • Hamish, aside from the fact that no-one trusts this council at all, let alone to conduct an investigation into wrong-doing on itself, your point about stirring is completely bogus.

      The biggest stirrer on here – and I say this actually as more of a compliment than a jibe – is Simon. A stirrer of world-class proportions.

      And in most things he is in opposition to the views of the people on here you accuse of doing the stirring, so your comment just doesn’t hold water….

      unless you are trying to stir it yourself.

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    • Hamish, there aren’t many people left in Argyll & Bute who have any faith in the Council’s ability to censure itself. The call, across the spectrum, has been for an independent investigation and indeed that’s what Sally Loudon seems to have promised. Various people have moved with their own FOI requests which, if they show irregularities, may prompt complaint. It’s a slow process though and we’re unlikely to get any instant answers.

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  8. If I remember rightly, part of the ‘scandal’ that the opposition tried to stir up over this issue was that Mr Russell had sent the email from his parliamentary email address. Isn’t it possible that it could have been intercepted, or even FOI’d, from the source end, i.e. the Holyrood mailserver?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. I’ve followed this debate with interest and anyone who doubts ABC would not involves itself in hacking or leaking emails or issuing false statements is living in another world.

    Both myself and my company were the subject of sustained campaign of harassment that was active for over 3 years and included senior council staff on web forums using assumed names, issuing of misleading statements to the press, fabricated complaints to the police, off the record briefings to elected members behind closed doors, an abuse of the court system by the raising of numerous (failed) legal actions and even went as far as the council’s legal department giving bogus legal advice to members banning them speaking to me. The campaign involved the council leadership at the top and employees at head of service level and at least one director. And all to prevent the public knowing the full extent of the failings of the disastrous Argyll Air Services project and in particular the Oban Airport part of the scheme.

    Thankfully most of those involved found early retirement and others were found surplus to requirements and quietly allowed to leave the council. However, there is no doubt in my mind that there was and still is a moral vacuum at the heart of ABC.

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  10. I’m aware that to engage with a troll will only encourage them, but I just had to in this instance. Rarely have I read a more speculative article. Firstly, this statement:

    “The core facts are that:

    it very much suited the council administration at that particular time to leak this email,
    only the administration, with the collusion of senior staff, could effect such an intervention,
    the LibDems had hoped to recover the Argyll and Bute seat which the SNP’s Jim Mather had taken in 2007 and one of their council members was the party candidate in opposition to Mr Russell,
    the Alliance of Independent Councillors were set to wreck vengeance on the SNP in their own well documented way, following the SNP group members – against Alliance expectations – going through with their threat to walk out of power if the Alliance would not drop the closure proposals.”

    In what way are any of these facts? OK, I’ll admit that the libdem’s wanting to recover a seat may have some basis in fact, but the rest of this comes across as, frankly, delusional.

    You then go on to list a number of terms that may have been used in a search string in order to locate an email on the server. Of course these terms could have been used, but that doesn’t mean they were.

    You then say that when the coucillors concerned were asked about the issue:

    “There were vague and implausible stories of a cleaner finding that Councillor Macdonald had left his computer on after leaving the building… You get the general drift.”

    Why on earth is this less plausible than covert surveillance? Are you actually sugesting that a more reasonable explanation is that employees of the council’s IT department were tasked with trawling through the email servers looking for dirt on the councillors?

    No, you’re probably right – I mean, that sounds far more likely than some halfwit forgetting to turn off their PC and then a cleaner comes along, perhaps one who’s childrens’ school is under threat of closure. Maybe this cleaner is understanably annoyed and wants to put a stop to it. One thing leads to another, and before you know it a certain email has been sent to people it wasn’t intended for.

    But no, that could never have happened could it? A far more likely explantion is the one involving a conspiracy that reaches to the very highest levels of the council and relies on the strictest secrecy from all involved.

    I know a fair few Council employees and frankly, I doubt they’d be competent enough to carry out something that complex (Sorry guys, but you know it’s true!).

    Onto the source of the leaked email – so, a reporter from the Dunoon Observer doesn’t get a reply to an email they sent? There we have it then! Conclusive proof that the Council and its employees are up to the most nefarious of activities.

    Almost the enitre body of the article after the heading “The final question” comes across as a conspiracy theory and the sentence concerning Ms Smith’s possible use of a theoretical surveillance programme is frankly libellous.

    I’m no fan of the council, but this article seems like nothing more than a set of egregious allegations linked together by a mixture of speculation and personal attacks.

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    • Bob – you reject the notion of someone deliberately tapping into the email system as a ‘conspiracy theory’ and then postulate a rather more unlikely-sounding theory of your own about a cleaner whose school is under threat, which doesn’t even make any logical sense. Why would such a person deliberately seek to damage the SNP group when they had left the ruling coalition some weeks earlier to oppose the schools proposals?

      I don’t know whether to be relieved or worried at your assertion that council IT staff are not competent enough to find emails, but it seems a little unlikely – they managed without any obvious difficulty to dig up some pretty damaging stuff between Mr Bloomer & council staff in response to an FOI request from SRSN.

      Finally, referring to the late & much respected & missed Councillor Donald MacDonald as ‘some halfwit’ is just bang out of order.

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      • Firstly, let me apologise unreservedly for my poor choice of words and for any offence or distress I may have caused – I’ve recently moved back to the area and had no idea that Councillor MacDonald had passed away.

        I don’t reject the notion that someone deliberately retrieved a sensitive email from the server, I suggested that an equally (perhaps more) plausible explanation would be that a security breach occurred e.g. someone leaving their computer on. I worked in IT for many years and this happens with depressing regularit. I used the example of a cleaner because that was the example used in the article. It could just have easily been anyone else.

        The fact that the email damaged the SNP group is, to me at least, incidental. I am suggesting that it had nothing to do with party politics.

        The Council staff are competent enough to find emails on the server, of course they are. It is a comparatively easy procedure. However, some points I would like to make are:

        1. I think the suggestion that council staff would do something as morally ambiguous as this is utterly disgusting. The vast majority of them are hard working, principled people who would never even contemplate this type of action.

        2.They’ve got far better things to do with their time.

        You reference to an FOI request is something completely different. Employees are legally obliged to fulfil these requests and to disclose everything, without prejudice. If any damaging material was disclosed then it is the responsibility of the person who originally wrote it, not the employee who was tasked with retrieving the information. Who, I can pretty much guarantee, wouldn’t read what was in the disclosed documents anyway.

        This is an example of the paranoia I referred to in my original post – council employees simply WOULD NOT set out to disclose damaging information. Not on the request of their line manager, head of service, chief exec or even one of the councillors. I used to be a council employee (many moons ago) and if someone had asked me to dig dirt on anyone, they’d have been rapidly and unequivocally told where to stick it.

        The over-arching point I was trying to make is that the original article reads like awful piece of paranoia-driven theorising. The writer obviously has an agenda and it looks worryingly like they are trying to defame Ms Smith at every opportunity.

        The article about “spy accounts” (which, by the way is a very widely used term when referring to computer accounts of all types) that appeared in the Herald was based on one slide from a powerpoint presentation that was taken completely out of context. Is it fair that the writers of this website are allowed to use that as the basis for a witch-hunt that has absolutely no basis in fact? The very fact they seem to want to drag the issue up at every opportunity leads me to believe that it’s no more than idle gossip. After all, if you say something enough times especially in print, people will come to believe that it’s true.

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        • Bob, you strike me as a right-minded and balanced individual. Long may it continue. Schools campaigners began with the same set of assumptions that you have. It took some time for everyone to work out what was happening and people were genuinely shocked. If you had the time, no doubt most of them could now show you evidence of misinformation, manipulation and downright dishonesty. If we, and FA, come across as paranoid it’s testament to nothing more than the tactics of a council that’s determined to defeat the very people it’s supposed to serve.

          Of course you’re right, that the vast majority of its employees are decent, honest, hard-working people. We’re assured that if this administration is kicked out in May, most of them will heave a sigh of relief.

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        • The term “Spy Accounts” is most emphatically not used within the on-line computer community and is not a widely used term.

          Perhaps only within local government maybe?

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  11. “I’m no fan of the council, but this article seems like nothing more than a set of egregious allegations linked together by a mixture of speculation and personal attacks.”

    Well said nothing more than the usual spurious rubbish on here or as Bob Loblaw so elgantly put it. “egregious allegations”.

    I understand last week’s Dunoon Observer -still thriving despite another of FA’s “we understand2 exclusives – are taling about dirty ops AGAINST Council. Would FA know anything about that? :)

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  12. Ooops sorry Granty. I’ll rephrase that – just for you – “last week’s Dunoon Observer -still thriving despite another of FA’s “we understand” exclusives – are taling about dirty ops AGAINST Council. Would FA know anything about that?”
    That better??? :)

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  13. Crazy – “Wow! I’ve never seen 10 thumbs down before! LOL”

    You are very easily impressed. ;)

    But let me ask you – have you noticed that nobody, including yourself – has come on here to explain why the snp group voted with Dick Walsh?????

    The duty of opposition is to oppose. Yet, these clowns desert their ‘leader’ and vote with Dick. Why????

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  14. “The duty of opposition is to oppose”

    The duty of the opposition is to scrutinise, agree with what’s good and disagree with what’s bad. Opposition for its own sake is tribalism at its most mindless.

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  15. I can’t comment for anyone else, but I can explain my lack of contribution to this quite easily. I’ve read reports about what happened that day (not just from For Argyll) and still don’t feel I have all the facts about what happened. I also don’t feel the need to defend the actions of my chosen party as I have no political affiliation.

    Having attended Kilmory during the schools episode, it always reminded me why I am completely scunnered with politics and politicians. Always came out feeling dirty and needing a shower – and that wasn’t because of the tropical heatwave in the Chambers.

    If I had been at this meeting and have seen and heard the goings on for myself, I would be able to form more of an opinion about events. As things stand, I just feel I am missing something.

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  16. Simon clearly lives on another planet when he says that “the duty of the opposition is to oppose”. As Anne has stated, “the duty of the opposition is to scrutinise, agree with what’s good and disagree with what’s bad”.

    I certainly oppose many things that the ConDemAll administration does. That includes their shambolic school closure proposals and also their second shambolic school closure proposals. I could list many others such as the CHORD Waste of £50 Million Programme.

    Opposition just for the sake of it is totally pointless but there again, it is Simon that we are talking about.

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  17. For Bob Loblaw?
    There was never at any time a suggestion that Donald Macdonald left any computer open to any outside scrutiny. He was always most professional and aware in his Council activities. I did hear of an incident that may have been the basis for this story but I assure you that the individual in question was not Donald Macdonald.!!!

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  18. Bob Loblaw refers to the possibility of the late Councillor Donald MacDonald leaving a computer on when he left the building and some cleaner then accessing information on that computer. I find that explanation unbelievable.

    Councillors have laptops that are used at home for Council business only. Very few councillors take these laptops to Kilmory or any other Council office with them. I think I can state without challenge that along with myself, there are only three other councillors who use their laptops at Kilmory. I am also certain that none of them would leave the building and leave their laptop behind with it still switched on and with them still logged in.

    If we turn our backs on these laptops for just a couple of minutes, they automatically log the user out. The user can only access information again by using their password to log on again.

    Apart from the laptops referred to above, there are two PCs in the Members Room that any councillor can use by logging on to their account. This room is very seldom used and I only know of two other councillors who have used these PCs. Again, if these PCs are in use and are left untouched for a couple of minutes, they automatically log the user out.

    It is just not plausible that the scenario put forward by Bob Loblaw could have happened.

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  19. Well said George Freeman.

    Good to hear the still small voice of reason in a welter of frankly loopy contributions. If Bob Loblaw really has only recently returned to Argyll & Bute perhaps he should learn a bit more about the Council administration and how they operate before he starts to pontificate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Pingback: School Dinners and Spygate | Edinburgh Eye

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