10 Years after Penhallow: Have we learned anything?

It is now 10 years after Penhallow, which has been described as the worst British hotel fire for 50 years and I think that it is important to look back at what we have learnt from this tragic failure of our fire safety laws. To add to this we now have the Grenfell Tower Fire that will surely be the worst fire that the UK has seen in living memory. I am also including some of the fire safety failures that I found during my recent undercover inspection of hotels in the South West for the BBC to illustrate the problem.

The Penhallow Hotel Fire 2007 For those who may have forgotten what happened this was an article that I wrote following the fire The Penhallow fire: accident, arson or imcompetence? The one part of this tragic incident that has remained with me over this period is this statement given by one of the witnesses at the inquest. She told the inquest how she saw one of the victims, 80-year old Joan Harper, trapped in her blazing room. She said that firefighters with just one engine and no firefighting ladder were to ill-equipped to come to the rescue. Describing the moment firemen did arrive at the scene, she is quoted as saying: Everybody was shouting at the fire brigade to save the lady, but they did not take any actions to save her When I saw their single fire engine with one hosepipe, this just reinforced my despair. They did not have the capability to deal with the fire. Tragically, this was not the only fatality as Peter Hughes jumped from a third story window and his 86 year old mother Monica Hughes also perished. At the inquest there were also many other factors that came to light including a poor fire risk assessment, poor access, lack of water, lack of equipment (high rise ladder) and the FRS (Fire and Rescue Service) being sent to the wrong address. Following this incident the FRS went around the country informing interested parties about this fire and when I asked them about aspects such as being sent to the wrong address they replied that they had no knowledge of this but these items are clearly in the inquest records both written and recorded.

The Grenfell Tower Fire 2017 Whilst obviously I cannot say a lot about this fire I think it is important to say that, if what has been reported in the media is true, then there are a number of similarities to the Penhallow Hotel Fire particularly in respect of people being trapped in the building and late arrival of a high rise ladder.

10 Years of Fires So what have we learnt in the last 10 years as we are always informed following these tragic incidents that we must learn from these tragic fires so they never happen again . Clearly when we find out what happened in the Grenfell Tower Fire there does need to be some major changes and Brexit should give us the opportunity to make these changes but I wonder if the will and impetus is there to make the radical changes that in my opinion are needed. Another important aspect that has come to light since the Grenfell Tower Fire is the subject of how we investigate serious fires and it is my view that I have stated many times that we need to establish a more robust, independent and open system that people can trust and respect. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 Whilst Fire Certificates issued under the Fire precautions Act had their drawbacks I think that on balance it was a far better system than Fire Risk Assessments that in my opinion don t really work. There are many reasons for this and one of them is how the legislation is enforced. Figures released to the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act showed the number of specialist staff in 26 fire services had fallen from 924 to 680, a loss of 244 officers between 2011 and 2017. Between 2011 and 2016, the government reduced its funding for fire services by between 26% and 39%, according to the National Audit Office, which in turn resulted in a 17% average real-terms reduction in spending power. Together with cuts to the FRS we have to look at how FRA are carried out and with no real standard assessment in place and poorly defined competency levels this was a recipe for failure. I found these words from a very well respected hotelier during the BBC investigation very interesting: I wish that the old system of fire certification with annual inspection was still in place.

The interesting thing here is that back in the 70 s/ 80 s each Fire Brigade interpreted legislation differently from area to area. The problem now is that consultants and operators interpret differently which of course in turn leads to a plethora of interpretations. In addition it is hard enough being a good hotelier let alone an expert in Health and safety/fire/food safety etc etc as well, however we do try to comply coupled with contracted professional guidance. Whilst the RRO appears on the surface to offer a better solution to our fire safety needs by placing the onus on the responsible person in practice I don t think that it works for the following reasons: Poorly defined standards. Poorly defined competency levels Poor enforcement and training/experience. Lack of clarity and transparency by enforcing authorities. Fire Deaths The latest figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that 294 people died in fires in England during 2015, an increase of 21% compared with the 242 deaths recorded in 2014 and the largest increase since figures were published in 2001-02. The rise comes after a decade in which the long-term trend in the death toll from fires fell, from a peak of 469 in 2003 and obviously don t take into account the Grenfell Tower Fire. Significant Fires There are a number of significant fires that I think highlight why the system doesn t work and these are just four that highlight the tragic loss of life, our heritage and to fire service personnel.

The Clandon Park Fire 2015 I looked at this investigation because I was a National Trust Member and would like to have seen what the NT investigation had to say and because I had some concerns about the FRS Report but even though I registered an official request and complaint the NT has never made this information available about what steps they took to protect our heritage neither did they address my complaint. Whilst there was no life loss in this fire it shows how difficult it is to get answers to questions raised by the media and public. The Cathedral Green Fire (Royal Clarence Hotel) 2016 This hotel was destroyed by a fire that started in Cathedral Green in Exeter and again it raised questions from the media and public that would not be answered. This was the article that I wrote unfortunately, we still don t have answers to these important questions. Lakanal House Fire 2009 Tragically, six people, including three children, died on the 10th and 11th floors. It is reported that those who died had been told to stay in their homes by 999 operators, who believed fire safety measures would be sufficient to prevent flames and smoke from reaching them . Southwark council admitted it failed to address fire risks at Lakanal House in Camberwell, south-east London, in the years leading up to the UK s worst ever tower block fire up to the 3 July 2009. Atherstone on Stour Warehouse Fire 2007 On 2 November 2007 a major fire occurred at a warehouse near the village of Atherstone on Stour in Warwickshire. Four firefighters from the Warwickshire Fire and Rescue Service were killed whilst tackling the blaze.

This was the largest loss of life for a fire brigade in the United Kingdom for 35 years. BBC Inside Out South West Investigation This is the third investigation that I have carried out for the BBC and this does not convince me that the level of fire safety is improving in fact quite the opposite. The BBC asked me to look at two hotels that had recently appeared on the Enforcement Register and the first one was so bad that I notified the FRS of my concerns because of a missing fire door at the head of the stairs and a fire exit that would not open. The second one had done some fire safety improvement work but still had many problems including combustible rubbish and compressed gas cylinders stored under an external fire escape, poor fire compartmentation and poorly fitting fire doors. The third hotel was one that I could see had carried out a lot of fire safety work but needed improvement because of poor housekeeping, unprotected escape routes, fire doors wedged open and poor electrical installation. It was also good that the hotel owner was very cooperative and agreed to action the items that I had raised. The fourth hotel was one that had not been covered in the TV programme but one that I had stayed in and this was a hotel that had a great 150 year history together with many fire safety problems these were just a few: Hotel bedroom fire door with lock removed Corridor fire door poorly fitting at head Poorly fitting fire door in corridor Unprotected window adjacent to external fire escape This is where both fire escapes meet note the portable building and ventilation plant under the common bridge and staircase. There were a lot more problems that I noted but I think that you can understand my concerns I did write to the hotel and the FRS and the hotel responded indicating that they wanted to resolve the problems. Clearly, this hotel would have had a Fire Certificate under the FP Act together with a number of Fire Risk Assessments under the RRO so how did we get to this position?

1. Looking at the hotel and the standard of fire safety I can clearly see what was done under the FP Act to gain a Fire Certificate and this would probably have included bedrooms fire doors and separation of the main stair case to allow people to by pass it.

2. It is rather more difficult to establish what has been done under the RRO as the standard does not appear to have changed a great deal but there may have been some upgrading of the fire alarm and automatic fire detection but this is just a guess.

3. Clearly, the biggest problem here is where to two fire escapes converge above the portable building and the associated ventilation plant below the one stair case as any fire here may render both escape routes useless. Unfortunately, in my travels I find many hotels with similar problems and this is why I feel that the RRO is not working.

During the course of the BBC investigation I stayed in 2 hotels and visited two more and all four had problems of varying concern including one where the FRS took 7 bedrooms out of use following my report because a fire door had been removed at the head of a stair case and a fire exit would not open. I was interesting to note that this hotel had recently been the subject of enforcement action. Where to now for fire safety? The last 10 years have seen some significant failures of our fire safety standards that have clearly not given us the level of fire safety that I feel are required in this day and age.We have seen significant failures in both life and property safety in the UK and whilst it is hoped that the outcome from the Grenfell Tower tragedy will provide an answer I think that with Brexit on the horizon we need to think about how we can overcome these problems with a more open and transparent fire safety regime that people can have confidence in. Having started my career in the age of fire certificates I am well aware of the advantages and disadvantages of this form of control and wonder if a combination of fire certificates and risk assessments may provide a better solution. This could take the form of a combined building control and fire certification authority that certified the building structure and approved the occupiers operational plan for its use. I does appear inconsistent in this day and age when we can go to a restaurant and find out its hygiene rating or buy a car and find out its crash rating but have no idea of the fire safety level of buildings that we stay/work in together with no way of establishing this. It would be nice to think that this information could be obtained by Freedom of Information (FOI) requests but the FRS are constrained by the Data Protection Act and are also using the response that they cannot provide this information because it may be used for acts of terrorism. I was recently trying to establish how many fire risk assessments that selected FRS had carried out in hotels and how many were found to be unsatisfactory and I was surprised at the variation in replies whilst a number gave me their figures, one indicated that they did not record this information and one required a payment of 450 for the information.

I would have personally thought that this was fairly basic information that should be easily available. I think that now is the time that the fire safety profession needs to get behind a scheme to improve fire safety to protect people and our heritage and not just to protect individual organisations or interests. Free Download: A Technical Guide to Fire Detection and Alarm Systems Fire legislation, which is written for the purpose of life safety, requires duty holders in non-domestic premises to assess fire risks and put in place arrangements for the prevention of fire and to protect people from fire when it occurs.

This guide provides an overview of the need to know information for fire detection and alarm systems and your legal requirements, key actions, key terms and more.

Click here to download now Related Topics

The value of cyber risk assessments and how to reinforce your soft underbelly: your employees

Headlines revealing the latest cyber-attack have cropped up with concerning regularity in 2017. It will therefore come as little surprise to learn that the latest institutions to be found wanting in the cybersecurity department are universities, as reported recently in The Times . Following a Freedom of Information request, the paper discovered that the number of attacks experienced by leading universities has almost doubled in the past two years, with advances in military and energy technology being particularly targeted.

The director of cybersecurity research at the University of Warwick was reported as saying that lax cybersecurity was a problem at many universities. Another security expert claimed this was due to their use of open networks, insufficient investment in both software and staff to monitor security, and the difficulty of managing a range of different networks. While universities are an obvious target for cyber-attacks (many of which appear to be sponsored by nation states) due to their rich seam of research data and inadequate defences, every business should be aware of the damage cybercriminals can inflict by disrupting their operations. The ransomware attack on a range of organisations (including the NHS) demonstrated this only too clearly earlier this year. Protecting your networks from cyber-attacks Cybercriminals are always looking for the chink in the armour so every business must take cybersecurity seriously to avoid becoming a victim. The first step is to carry out a risk assessment to establish what personal data and other confidential data the company holds and how it is used, transmitted and stored. Once you have identified any weak spots where cybercrime poses a particular risk, the next step is to implement security measures to protect your networks from cyber-attacks. Employees are a weak spot It is right to acknowledge that one of your major weak spots is likely to be your employees. You need to put clear procedures in place, encapsulated in a company policy, to deal with the risk of cybercrime.

And all staff should be trained on what steps they can/should take to prevent it. You can insist that any memory sticks, tablets or mobile phones used by employees outside the workplace must be scanned before using them on company network systems. Indeed, you might even consider whether every employee should have permission to use portable media. Companies should bear in mind the reputational damage it might suffer if found to be excessively monitoring employees You can consider taking out insurance or engaging a third party to manage your cybersecurity where the risk of attack is high or the implications particularly severe. Employees use of social media can also compromise your cybersecurity unless you have a clear social media policy that sets out limits to social media use in the workplace. This is particularly relevant where employees work with, or have access to, sensitive information. Individuals right to privacy versus security Naturally, there are implications for companies which need to monitor and store employee information or data. Any such monitoring must be proportionate and carried out in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. Individuals rights regarding their data will be further strengthened by the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018.

The Employment Practices Code contains further guidance for businesses on monitoring employees at work. You need to inform employees that they may be monitored and it may be necessary to seek employees express consent in cases where employee communications are being intercepted. Failure to do so could mean a business facing a claim for damages from the sender, recipient or intended recipient of the communication. Employees also have a right to privacy under the Human Rights Act 1998. An employee can bring a claim for unfair dismissal where they believe their dismissal was based on evidence gathered about them through their employer s monitoring equipment that interfered with their right to privacy. Companies should also bear in mind the unquantifiable reputational damage that it might suffer if it is found to be excessively monitoring its employees. All businesses can be badly affected The bottom line, as university cybersecurity chiefs will attest, is to: Carry out a risk assessment Invest in security measures to keep your networks safe Train your staff to understand the risks to the business from cybercriminals Put clear policies in place so everyone knows what they can and cannot do in relation to portable devices and social media use Although cybercrime poses a particularly virulent threat to high-tech research, development and manufacturing organisations, everyone needs to be aware that a cyber-attack can have very serious financial implications for any business. Free Download: the CyberSecurity Crashcourse Are you even aware if you have been the victim of a cybersecurity breach? This report will help you to find out and protect yourself, Eric Hansleman from 451 Research presents a rapid-fire overview of cybersecurity , because a firewall just won t do, you need multi-layered defences to truly protect your data.

Click here to download now Related Topics How to follow up sales leads following IFSEC and FIREX International How content marketing is boosting web traffic and engagement in the security industry Many engineers are far more valuable than their managers and their salaries should reflect this

Reform Surveillance – Official Site

Reform Government Surveillance

Global Government Surveillance Reform

The undersigned companies believe that it is time for the world s governments to address the practices and laws regulating government surveillance of individuals and access to their information. While the undersigned companies understand that governments need to take action to protect their citizens safety and security, we strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed. Consistent with established global norms of free expression and privacy and with the goals of ensuring that government law enforcement and intelligence efforts are rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight, we hereby call on governments to endorse the following principles and enact reforms that would put these principles into action.

The Principles

  1. 1

    Limiting Governments Authority to Collect Users Information

    Governments should codify sensible limitations on their ability to compel service providers to disclose user data that balance their need for the data in limited circumstances, users reasonable privacy interests, and the impact on trust in the Internet. In addition, governments should limit surveillance to specific, known users for lawful purposes, and should not undertake bulk data collection of Internet communications.

  2. 2

    and Accountability

    Intelligence agencies seeking to collect or compel the production of information should do so under a clear legal framework in which executive powers are subject to strong checks and balances. Reviewing courts should be independent and include an adversarial process, and governments should allow important rulings of law to be made public in a timely manner so that the courts are accountable to an informed citizenry.

  3. 3

    Transparency About Government Demands

    Transparency is essential to a debate over governments surveillance powers and the scope of programs that are administered under those powers. Governments should allow companies to publish the number and nature of government demands for user information. In addition, governments should also promptly disclose this data publicly.

  4. 4

    Respecting the Free Flow of Information

    The ability of data to flow or be accessed across borders is essential to a robust 21st century global economy. Governments should permit the transfer of data and should not inhibit access by companies or individuals to lawfully available information that is stored outside of the country. Governments should not require service providers to locate infrastructure within a country s borders or operate locally.

  5. 5

    Avoiding Conflicts Among Governments

    In order to avoid conflicting laws, there should be a robust, principled, and transparent framework to govern lawful requests for data across jurisdictions, such as improved mutual legal assistance treaty or MLAT processes. Where the laws of one jurisdiction conflict with the laws of another, it is incumbent upon governments to work together to resolve the conflict.

Voices For Reform

AOL is committed to preserving the privacy of our customers information, while respecting the right of governments to request information on specific users for lawful purposes. AOL is proud to unite with other leading Internet companies to advocate on behalf of our consumers. Tim Armstrong, Chairman and CEO, AOL Reports about government surveillance have shown there is a real need for greater disclosure and new limits on how governments collect information. The US government should take this opportunity to lead this reform effort and make things right. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, Facebook The security of users data is critical, which is why we ve invested so much in encryption and fight for transparency around government requests for information. This is undermined by the apparent wholesale collection of data, in secret and without independent oversight, by many governments around the world. It s time for reform and we urge the US government to lead the way. Larry Page, CEO, Google These principles embody LinkedIn s fundamental commitment to transparency and ensuring appropriate government practices that are respectful of our members expectations. Erika Rottenberg, General Counsel, LinkedIn People won t use technology they don t trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it. Brad Smith, General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft Twitter is committed to defending and protecting the voice of our users. Unchecked, undisclosed government surveillance inhibits the free flow of information and restricts their voice. The principles we advance today would reform the current system to appropriately balance the needs of security and privacy while safeguarding the essential human right of free expression. Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter Protecting the privacy of our users is incredibly important to Yahoo.

Recent revelations about government surveillance activities have shaken the trust of our users, and it is time for the United States government to act to restore the confidence of citizens around the world. Today we join our colleagues in the tech industry calling on the United States Congress to change surveillance laws in order to ensure transparency and accountability for government actions. Marissa Mayer, CEO, Yahoo

May 19, 2015

Dear Members of the Senate,

Later this week the Senate has an opportunity to pass meaningful and balanced surveillance reform by considering the bipartisan USA Freedom Act. The bill overwhelmingly passed the House with 338 votes. Members from across the political spectrum supported it. Delaying action on reform by extending expiring authorities for two months or any extended period of time would be a missed opportunity. The USA Freedom Act prevents the bulk collection of Internet metadata under various authorities. The bill allows for transparency about government demands for user information from technology companies and assures that the appropriate oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place.

Our companies came together two years ago to push for essential reforms that are necessary to protect national security, strengthen civil liberties, reaffirm user trust in the Internet, and promote innovation. The Senate can begin delivering on those reforms by passing the USA Freedom Act. Sincerely,

Reform Government Surveillance

RGS Statement In Support of Bipartisan, Bicameral FISA Reform Legislation

Statement of Reform Government Surveillance:

Reform Government Surveillance commends the introduction of surveillance reform legislation today in the House and the Senate. We support the bicameral, bipartisan legislation, which ends existing bulk collection practices under the USA Patriot Act and increases transparency and accountability while also protecting U.S. national security.

We thank Representatives Goodlatte, Sensenbrenner, Conyers and Nadler and Senators Lee, Leahy, Heller, and Franken, as well as other Members, who have worked hard over the past several months to draft a common sense bill that addresses the concerns of industry, the Intelligence Community, and civil society in a constructive and balanced manner. We look forward to working with Congress to pass this legislation by June 1st.

An open letter to Washington

December 2013

Dear Mr. President and Members of Congress,

We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer s revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favor of the state and away from the rights of the individual rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It s time for a change.

For our part, we are focused on keeping users data secure deploying the latest encryption technology to prevent unauthorized surveillance on our networks and by pushing back on government requests to ensure that they are legal and reasonable in scope. We urge the US to take the lead and make reforms that ensure that government surveillance efforts are clearly restricted by law, proportionate to the risks, transparent and subject to independent oversight. To see the full set of principles we support, visit ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com1


AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo

2014 – 2015.

All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


  1. ^ (

Newspaper That Published Map Of Gun Permit Holders Hires Armed …

journal news rocklandThe Journal News, a New York newspaper, caused quite a stir after publishing a map1 with information about gun permit holders in several counties. The move didn t sit well with many, despite the paper s defense that all the information was legally acquired though Freedom of Information requests. Now, in light of negative correspondence, the paper has hired2 armed security guards.

RELATED: New York Newspaper Under Fire After Publishing Names, Addresses Of Gun Permit Holders3

The Rockland Times reported4:

A Clarkstown police report issued on December 28, 2012, confirmed that The Journal News has hired armed security guards from New City-based RGA Investigations and that they are manning the newspaper s Rockland County headquarters at 1 Crosfield Ave., West Nyack, through at least tomorrow, Wednesday, January 2, 2013.

Journal News Rockland Editor Caryn A.

McBride, per police reports on public record, was alarmed by a barrage of negative correspondence, which included phone calls and emails. Thus, safety concerns prompted them to hire armed security.

According to the report, there haven t been any issues at the paper s office, despite the high volume of reaction they ve received.

The Journal News story included names and addresses about gun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties. Putnam is still withholding5 the requested information.

Unsurprisingly, it quickly caught attention and drew backlash6 with one blogger even retaliating by7 publishing addresses of the newspaper s staff members.


  1. ^ publishing a map (
  2. ^ has hired (
  3. ^ RELATED: New York Newspaper Under Fire After Publishing Names, Addresses Of Gun Permit Holders (
  4. ^ reported (
  5. ^ still withholding (
  6. ^ drew backlash (
  7. ^ retaliating by (

Cabinet Office launches open consultation on FOI data release

Cabinet Office launches open consultation on FOI data release The Cabinet Office has launched an open consultation on new guidance for public authorities on how to handle Freedom of Information requests for dataset release. The guidance will complement new provisions governing the release of data in the Freedom of Information Act planned to come into force next April, in turn giving public authorities time to prepare for their new duties. Members of the public can already request datasets under the Freedom of Information Act.

However, the amended act brings together all provisions for the disclosure, use and re-use of data. The new guidance will clarify exactly what’s expected of public authorities undertaking their new duties. Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: Enhancing the right to data is a key driver of our transparency agenda, so we have amended the Freedom of Information Act to ensure that public authorities publish datasets for re-use and in a re-useable format.

To help them meet these new obligations, public authorities must have the best possible guidance. The open online consultation invites feedback on how we can improve the draft Code of Practice that authorities will use. Maude added: “The prize as well as ensuring we deliver better value for money in public spending is to drive real social and economic benefits by making it as easy as possible for businesses and other organisations to exploit datasets held by public authorities.” Preparation across several months The draft Code of Practice (datasets) aims to make clear what is meant by the terms set out in the new provisions in the Freedom of Information Act, such as an electronic form which is capable of re-use or a re-usable format .

Over the last few months, the Cabinet Office has prepared this draft alongside the Ministry of Justice, the National Archives and the Information Commissioner s Office. The online consultation fulfils an Open Data White Paper commitment to open up the process of developing guidance to the public. The online consultation tool employs an open approach based on crowd-sourcing principles.

As well as allowing responders to comment on each section of the draft Code of Practice, it lets them see what other users are suggesting and have a conversation with them in real time as to whether a particular paragraph, sentence or term in the draft Code of Practice could be improved. The traditional e-mail route for submissions is also available, and all contributions should be made by 10 January 2013. In parallel with the Section 45 Code of Practice The new Code of Practice (datasets) will sit alongside the existing Section 45 Code of Practice for the Freedom of Information Act.

The changes the Government put forward last year to the Freedom of Information Act, through the Protection of Freedoms Act, received Royal Assent in May 2012. Read the amendments in full. Together with the Open Government Licence, which the draft Code of Practice encourages public authorities to use, and the Non-Commercial Government Licence, a new licence has been drafted for potential use by public authorities that have reason to charge for the re-use of datasets they hold or produce.

This new licence, with the working title of the ‘Charged Licence’, will form a suite of specified licences provided for in the new datasets provisions of the FOI Act.

The National Archives has published the licence in beta form and welcomes comments as to whether its Terms and Conditions adequately meet the requirements of licensors and re-users, as well as feedback on the working title of the new licence.

Any comments should be sent to the Information Policy Team via e-mail: [email protected] by 10 January 2013

Mickadeit: PI had woman try to trap Costa Mesa official | righe …

The private investigator who followed Costa Mesa Councilman Jim Righeimer out of Skosh Monahan’s bar in August told me on Thursday that he was at the bar in an attempt catch bar owner and Councilman Gary Monahan in a compromising position with a woman who’d been sent into the bar for that very purpose.

Furthermore, Murrieta-based private investigator Chris Lanzillo says, he was hired to get dirt not only on Monahan but on the other two City Council candidates who are trying to overhaul pensions and cut back on city government, Councilman Steve Mensinger and slate-mate Colin McCarthy. Who hired him, Lanzillo wouldn’t tell me. But I’m told the district attorney is looking into that.

Costa Mesa city council candidates Gary Monahan, Steve Mensinger and Colin McCarthy, from left, await election results at Skosh Monahans in Costa Mesa Tuesday night.



It’s one of the most stunningly despicable political stories I’ve ever reported.

“I’ve got nothing to hide,” Lanzillo told me. “I do this stuff every day. … To other people, it looks wrong, … but it’s not illegal. You ever watch ‘Cheaters’?”

The statement by Lanzillo largely jibes with what Righeimer and Monahan told me on Election Night as we sat in Skosh’s waiting for results to come in.

On Aug. 22, Righeimer went into Skosh’s and ordered a Diet Coke. Monahan was working that afternoon, as usual. When Righeimer left, he was followed by Lanzillo, who called police saying that he thought Righeimer might be driving drunk. A Costa Mesa cop showed up at Righeimer’s house and gave him a sobriety test in front of his family. He passed, of course.

This prompted widespread speculation that the unions had tried to set up Righeimer because Lanzillo regularly worked for a law firm that represented the Costa Mesa police union. The union denied it and fired the Upland-based law firm, Lackie, Dammeier, McGill & Ethir.

The District Attorney’s Office launched an investigation. Within a week, Lanzillo had issued a statement saying he wasn’t at Skosh’s to tail Righeimer but rather was on another, confidential, assignment. He wouldn’t say what that was. Now we know.

Monahan and Righeimer say that about the time Righeimer arrived at the bar, an attractive brunette in her 30s, wearing a low-cut top, came in and started talking to Monahan in a flirtatious manner.

Lanzillo was at the bar to catch Monahan, who is married, in a compromising position. He apparently had no idea Righeimer was going to show up, but when he did, he took notice and decided to follow him home, thinking he might be able to catch him driving drunk. As Righeimer told me, “I was just a bonus.”

Both Monahan and Righeimer say they have been told by a district attorney investigator that the District Attorney’s Office is pursuing this angle and has a tape of the woman in the bar. I put in a call to the D.A.’s Office, but it never talks about an ongoing investigation. I called Dieter Dammeier, one of the law firm partners, but had not heard back as of my deadline. I also hadn’t heard back from Monahan, whom I wanted to contact again regarding what Lanzillo told me.

Lanzillo, a former cop who was fired by the Riverside Police Department, wouldn’t tell me who his female operative was or what she said to Monahan. He said that he did some background research on Mensinger and McCarthy but never followed either. At no time, he says, did he do anything illegal.

“I was a cop for 18 years. Why would I give up my license to do something illegal? I know the law.”

He said told me he will not talk to the district attorney because, “I can’t trust them. I’m not going to talk. They are all affiliated with each other.”

This stuff gets scarier and scarier. People scoffed at Monahan when a brick went through his window. They said Righeimer was chasing ghosts when he said he was being set up. Now we have an operative somebody’s operative admitting he was hired to perform the scummiest of political dirty tricks. What kind of people are these?

Lanzillo said he decided to talk because he was tired of being smeared in the media for doing something that was legal.

Until we find out who was behind this, the whole union-based, anti-Measure V/anti-Righeimer faction is smeared. But I predict the culprits will roll over on each other in the face of a relentless district attorney investigation. That’s the oldest law-enforcement trick in the book. And it’s legal.

Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or [email protected]

ICE Tries To Revoke Mobile Surveillance Records It Made Public In …

ICE tries to revoke mobile surveillance records it made public in 2011

By Zach Rausnitz

A year after Immigration and Customs Enforcement produced records of its requests for Internet and cellphone service providers to share information about customers, the agency asked the Electronic Frontier Foundation to destroy the records.

In September 2011, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the EFF, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, ICE produced records showing that companies such as Comcast and T-Mobile resisted or did not comply with requests for information about their customers.

One document (.pdf) showed that the company SouthernLinc Wireless would not provide real-time location information for a phone belonging to someone involved in an immigration case, though it was willing to provide 1-hour-old location history. In a money laundering case, officials complained that T-Mobile had repeatedly lost several surveillance orders that were faxed to them.

Just-Released Documents Show 'Huge Increase' in Warrantless …

Just-Released Documents Show Huge Increase in Warrantless Surveillance

John Glaser, September 28, 2012

The Obama administration has fought tooth and nail1 to keep the details2 of its surveillance activities hidden from the public. For years it has insisted that its snooping on Americans phone and email communications fell perfectly within the law (that is, the extremely broad and invasive FISA Amendments Act, which authorizes warrantless surveillance of Americans international communications, checked only by a secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that doesn t make it s activities and procedures available to the public.) Despite repeated demands by civil liberties groups, the administration refused to disclose how many times they gathered intelligence about American citizens.

But now, the ACLU, after months of litigation, has been provided with some details. And it doesn t look good3:


Justice Department documents 5released today by the ACLU reveal that federal law enforcement agencies are increasingly monitoring Americans electronic communications, and doing so without warrants, sufficient oversight, or meaningful accountability.

The documents, handed over by the government only after months of litigation6, are the attorney general s 2010 and 2011 reports on the use of pen register and trap and trace surveillance powers. The reports show a dramatic increase in the use of these surveillance tools, which are used to gather information about telephone, email, and other Internet communications. The revelations underscore the importance of regulating and overseeing the government s surveillance power. (Our originalFreedom of Information Act request7 and our legal complaint8 are online.)

Pen register and trap and trace devices are powerfully invasive surveillance tools9 that were, twenty years ago10, physical devices that attached to telephone lines in order to covertly record the incoming and outgoing numbers dialed. Today, no special equipment is required to record this information, as interception capabilities are built into phone companies call-routing hardware.

This news will be completely ignored by the network news outlets, so voters will by and large know nothing about it. It will not inform people s voting decisions. But even if it did, the question again arises, as it was so elegantly put11 by The Atlantic s Conor Friedersdorf earlier this week, how much evil are lesser evil Obama voters willing to accept?


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Glen Doherty, Security Officer Killed In Libya Attack, Fought …

One of the security guards killed during an attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that may have been related to an incendiary anti-Muslim video was active in a group that fights religious proselytizing in the U.S. military.

Glen Doherty, 42, a former Navy SEAL, was one of the four diplomats who died Tuesday, according to a report by the WCVB Boston news site1. He grew up in Winchester, Mass.

“He was the most wonderful person,” his mother, Barbara Doherty, told WCVB in confirming that she had been told Wednesday night that he was among the dead. “We are all in pain and suffering.”

The State Department has not released the names of the two security guards who died along with U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and Sean Smith, a Foreign Service information management officer. But Doherty’s sister, Katie Quigley, told the Boston Globe2 that her brother “was on security detail and he was protecting the ambassador and also helping the wounded when he was killed.

Although U.S. officials now suspect the attack may have been a planned terrorist operation3 and not a spontaneous reaction to the anti-Islamic video — itself now thought to be the work of a Coptic Christian in California4 — Doherty himself had a history of opposing religious intolerance.

Doherty was an “extremely active” member of the advisory board of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation5 (MRFF), an advocacy group that fights6 inappropriate religious proselytizing7 inside the armed forces, said founder Mikey Weinstein, a retired Air Force lawyer.

“He confirmed for me how deeply entrenched fundamentalist Christianity is in the DoD Spec Ops Department of Defense Special Operations world of the SEALs, Green Berets, Delta Force, Army Rangers USAF … and DoD security contractors like the former Blackwater,” Weinstein said in an email to The Huffington Post. Doherty “helped me on many MRFF client cases behind the scenes to facilitate assistance to armed forces members abused horribly by fundamentalist Christian proselytizing.”

According to Doherty’s bio on the MRFF website, he was a veteran of multiple combat deployments during his nine years as a “highly decorated” Navy SEAL. He had attended the 18 Delta Special Forces Combat Medical School8 and the SEAL sniper course. He was the co-author of “The 21st Century Sniper9,” a guide to the latest advances in clandestine shooting.

Doherty left the Navy in 2005 and, according to MRFF, “spent four years working as a security and intelligence specialist for US Government Agencies conducting operations in high threat regions,” including Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

An accomplished pilot, Doherty was a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and also a certified paramedic.

According to his LinkedIn profile10, he was vice president of operations for Wind Zero, a San Diego company that was involved in a controversial proposal11 to build a military training facility in the California desert. Local residents opposed the project, which they associated with the unrelated but controversial security firm Blackwater12, and eventually the project was killed13.

Doherty is also listed as a trainer at Sealfit14, a fitness company founded by a fellow SEAL veteran, and has written for a special operations blog15. Among the interests he noted on his Facebook page16 were 80s alt music, biking, surfing, bantering, adventuring and flying.

Weinstein said his “irreplaceable” friend was passionate about maintaining the wall of separation between the military and religion.

“Glen told me he took criticism from both current and former SEALs for being a part of MRFF but also received much support for doing so from other former and current SEALs,” Weinstein said. “He was also a close friend to me and my family. He will be sorely missed by us all. No dry eyes out here.”

This story has been updated with further information about Glen Doherty’s work and interests.

Related on HuffPost:

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  8. ^ 18 Delta Special Forces Combat Medical School (
  9. ^ The 21st Century Sniper (
  10. ^ LinkedIn profile (
  11. ^ controversial proposal (
  12. ^ Blackwater (
  13. ^ was killed (
  14. ^ Sealfit (
  15. ^ special operations blog (
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100,000 cameras in schools amid concerns over accountability

100,000 cameras in schools amid concerns over accountability There are more than 100,000 CCTV cameras in secondary schools and academies across England, Wales and Scotland, according to new research. The claim comes in a report from Big Brother Watch, which also highlights concerns that there are more than 200 schools which have cameras installed in changing rooms and toilets. In the 2,107 schools providing data in response to a freedom of information request, there are 47,806 cameras, a ratio of cameras to pupils of 1 to 38.

Ninety percent of the schools surveyed had cameras installed. The average number of cameras in each secondary school surveyed was 24, while the average number in each academy was 30. The report The Class of 1984: The extent of CCTV in secondary schools and academies goes on to warn that the government s proposed system of regulating CCTV is not fit for purpose , as the newly created role of surveillance camera commissioner has no enforcement or inspection powers.

This research raises serious questions about the privacy of schoolchildren across Britain, with some schools having one camera for every five pupils and hundreds of schools using cameras in toilets and changing rooms, said Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch. The full extent of school surveillance is far higher than we had expected and will come as a shock to many parents. Schools need to come clean about why they are using these cameras and what is happening to the footage.

Local authorities also need to be doing far more to rein in excessive surveillance in their areas and ensuring resources are not being diverted from more effective alternatives. The full extent of school surveillance is far higher than we had expected and will come as a shock to many parents Nick Pickles, director, Big Brother Watch The Home Office s proposed regulation of CCTV will not apply to schools and the new surveillance camera commissioner will have absolutely no powers to do anything. Parents will be right to say that such a woefully weak system is not good enough.

The report makes three key recommendations: The Home Office code of practice for CCTV cameras should apply to all publicly funded bodies The surveillance camera commissioner must have the power to enforce the code of practice and penalties for breaching the code must be available The government should commission an independent review of CCTV use in schools to explore the evidential basis upon which cameras have been installed. This should include ensuring any school using CCTV has appropriate policies in place so teachers and parents are fully aware of why surveillance is being used, when footage can be viewed and by whom. Responding to the report, a Department for Education spokesperson said: We have already acted to make it unlawful for schools to use biometric data like fingerprints without parents’ permission.

CCTV can be beneficial in some cases but this is a decision that head teachers should take.

Schools using CCTV are required by law to adhere to the Data Protection Act.