Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Breaking the Official Secrets Act

I don't know why, but for some reason I seem to have acquired a selection of Monday Books on my Kindle. For some reason I keep going back and reading more and more of their publications. I think there is something in the genre of books that appeals to me.

These are my "Top Ten" books, written by people who are not normally "allowed" to give information about their everyday jobs.  The authors are often bound by the "Official Secrets Act." [1] Because the much vaunted whistle-blower legislation has not protected anyone yet from sanctions from speaking out. The fact that someone feels the need to anonymously highlight the problems in doing their daily job, whilst at the same time risking loss of employment should give some indication of their credibility and the culpability of their masters. 

This government postulates on the Police service at great length. To understand the problems in policing our streets you need to go to the cutting edge. You cannot trust the Home Secretary and the mandarins in Whitehall to sort the problems - Because many of the problems are of their making. Targets have changed from criminals arrested to politically correct nonsense.

Each of the books provide a "fly on the wall expose" of what is going on without our knowledge. Within the front line emergency services, such as the police.

PC David Copperfield: Wasting Police Time The Crazy World Of The War On Crime: An ordinary beat bobby quietly waging the war on crime... when he gets time. He's usually drowning in a sea of paperwork, government initiatives and bogus targets. Wasting Police Time is his hilarious but shocking picture of life in a modern British town. 

It's a world where teenage yobs terrorise old folks, drunken couples beat each other up in front of their children and drug-addicted burglars and muggers roam free. PC Copperfield reveals how millions and millions of pounds in taxpayers' money is wasted and frittered away while the thin blue line is crushed under the burden of mad, politically correct bureaucracy, as crime statistics are fiddled shamelessly (he explains how )and crime spirals ever upwards (he shows why). It's the first time a British policeman has addressed these issues in a book.

Download a PDF Extract Here.

The  follow-up is PC David CopperfieldWasting More Police Time When Copperfield blew the lid off British policing in his hilarious, shocking and best-selling book. Now serving officers from all over the country shine a gripping and unique new light on modern law and order - and what makes ordinary coppers tick
It's a strange and fascinating world of blue lights, red tape and black days, where you can break the news of a toddler's death, roll around in Tesco with a baghead bacon thief and fight with rioters - all in the space of a single shift - and where violent thugs stab you in the chest while self-serving senior officers and lying politicians knife you in the back.

Inspector Gadget: Perverting the Course of JusticeFor the first time ever, a senior policeman – writing under an assumed name for fear of exposure – breaks ranks to tell the truth about the collapse of law and order in the UK. With access to statistics about front line police strength (much lower than you think), exclusive inside information on the political targets and interference which are bedevilling officers and detailed analysis of the lies politicians and senior police officers tell. Crime is modern Britain’s obsession. 

Every day brings another horrific news story: law-abiding men beaten to death outside their homes, teenagers stabbed in gang killings, young women raped and murdered by callous attackers. How did the country get like this?

Follow Inspector Gadget on his blog Here.

WPC Ellie Bloggs: Diary of an On-Call Girl True Stories From The Front Line. If crime is the sickness, WPC Ellie Bloggs is the cure. Well, she is when she's not inside the nick, flirting with male officers, buying doughnuts for the sergeant and hacking her way through a jungle of emails, forms and government targets.

Of course, in amongst the tea-making, gossip and boyfriend trouble, real work sometimes intrudes. Luckily, as a woman, she can multi-task... switching effortlessly between gobby drunks, angry chavs and the merely bonkers. WPC Bloggs is a real-life policewoman, who occasionally arrests some very naughty people. Diary of an On-Call Girl is her hilarious, despairing dispatch from the front line of modern British lunacy.

Download a PDF Extract Here.

Enough with the police, lets take a look at another of the front line service. The NHS and the ambulance service. This government is trying to privatise the NHS. To understand the problems in the NHS you need to go to the cutting edge. You cannot trust the government ministers and the mandarins in Whitehall to sort the problems - because the problems are of their own making. There are also some wonderful insights from your local GP and the trials and tribulations of working with the NHS.

Stuart Grey: A Paramedic's Diary Life and Death On The StreetsStuart Grey is a London Ambulance Service paramedic and this is a diary of a year in his working life. It’s a moving, funny and absolutely gripping insight into the business of saving lives in the world’s most famous city. 

I am a Registered Paramedic, with a degree in Paramedic Science. I work for the London Ambulance Service in Central London. I have been involved in pre-hospital care at every level (including the army) since 1992. This diary reflects my daily routine in my own words, as accurately and honestly as possible.

Read more from Stuart's blog Here.

Download and Extract Here.

Dr Tony CopperfieldSICK NOTES True Stories From The Front Lines Of Medicine The hilarious, shocking and occasionally tragic truth about the working life of a British GP – written for the lay reader.  Everyone visits the doctor – but few really know what goes on in the surgery (or the doctor’s mind). 

Dr Tony Copperfield is an average GP in an average town. He spends his life fighting off the worried well armed with Internet print outs and health pages torn from newspapers, dealing with youngsters with meningitis (three live, one doesn’t), worrying about swine flu, mopping up vomit, shouting at bureaucrats and banging his head against the brick walls of the NHS. If you’ve ever wondered whether you have ‘Syndrome X’, if doctors believe all those guidelines about daily booze limits and why they don’t do night calls any more, Copperfield has the answers. Dr Tony Copperfield is a Times medical columnist, former Medical Journalist of the Year and Pulse writer.

Download a PDF Extract Here.

Ever wondered what goes on in our schools. Michale Gove the minister for education certainly has no idea about schools. He just seems to be tinkering for the sake of it. This is a real eye opener.

Frank Chalk: It's Your Time You're Wasting A Teacher's Tales Of Classroom Hell. Frank Chalk is an ordinary teacher in an ordinary British school. A school where the kids beat up the teachers, get drunk and take drugs - when they can be bothered to turn up. It’s Your Time You’re Wasting is Chalk’s bleak but blackly humorous diary of his final year in the modern education system. 

He fights apathy (his own and everyone else's), battles the tearaways and worries about the few conscientious pupils, recording his experiences in a dry and very readable manner. He offers top tips for dealing with unruly children and their parents, muses on the shortcomings of the staff (including his own) and even spots the occasional spark of hope amid all the despair. 

His book will horrify (and amuse) millions of parents and will become a must-read for many of the country‘s 400,000 teachers. Frank Chalk is a pseudonym. He taught for ten years in comprehensive schools in an English city before being driven out of teaching by a combination of fear, despair and anger. 

Download a PDF Extract Here.

Read Franks blog Here.

I have left the worst until last. I can't express how angry I feel about the way our troops are being sidelined by this government who seem to be more interested in protecting bankers and the tax cuts of the global corporations. With the Police being over stretched by the meltdown of G4S. The troops returning from the theatre of war abroad for much needed rest and recreation. Are now being subverted to Olympic Duty before they get a P45 rather than a medal. How bad can it get...

Chris Hughes: Road Trip To Hell Tabloid Tales Of Saddam, Iraq and A Crazy War. Chris Hughes is the Daily Mirror's defence correspondent. Chris was the first western reporter into Iraq after 9/11, the first into Saddam's secret bunker and the only one to visit Osama bin Laden's mountain lair. He was also the only western journalist present when American Marines killed and wounded unarmed demonstrators in Fallujah, sparking the savage insurgency. He’s survived car jackings and missile attacks, watched mothers weep over the skeletons of sons dragged from mass graves and joined mercenaries flying crates of guns out of Baghdad. 

Hughes has been to every major trouble spot in Iraq in a dozen visits. He contrasts the disciplined professionalism, restraint and good humour of British troops with the gung-ho sloppiness of their American counterparts, and mixes with the SAS, British mercenaries and ordinary Iraqis; in Road Trip To Hell he tells their stories with wit and irreverence in a very readable style. He admits he’s no expert on the Middle East - 'I wanted to call this book 'Clueless in Gaza',' he writes, 'but George W Bush rarely invades places with potential for witty literary allusion' - but he has a fine eye for detail and black humour and gives a unique insight into a terrible, crazy war.

Download and Extract Here.

Tony McNally: Watching Men Burn: A Soldier’s Story. The Falklands War... And What Came Next. Missile operator Tony McNally had a vital job in the Falklands - to protect the British ships and men from air attack by the fearless and desperate Argentinian pilots. On the 8th of June, 1982, McNally and his Rapier system were dug in on the hillside overlooking Bluff Cove, guarding the Sir Galahad troop ship as it sat waiting to offload hundreds of soldiers. Suddenly, enemy fighter bombers screamed into the bay... and McNally’s system failed. 

He watched, helpless, as bombs rained down on the defenceless ship. Fifty men of the Welsh Guards lost their lives and many others - famously including Simon Weston - were horribly burned. McNally’s life changed in that moment. He left the army after the war and - though he re-enlisted and even volunteered for two tours of Northern Ireland - he was riddled by guilt and plagued by nightmares and flashbacks of that awful day. He later fought a groundbreaking Post Traumatic Stress law suit against the government but continues to suffer the after-effects of Bluff Cove to this day. Twenty five years on, Watching Men Burn is his gripping, moving and occasionally funny story of army life and the dreadful reality of warfare and its effects on the survivors. Foreword by Simon Weston.

Download an Extract Here.

Dan Collins: In Foreign Fields True Stories Of Amazing Bravery From Iraq and AfghanistanIraq and Afghanistan are two seething cauldrons of hatred and death - lands of roadside bombs, rocket propelled grenades and savage ambushes. Day after day, our soldiers face implacable and ferocious enemy forces in the searing heat and choking dust. But the young men and women of our armed forces do not have the luxury of deciding where they fight, and in these faraway deserts and towns, a new breed of hero is being born. 

Life Guards Lance Corporal of Horse Andrew Radford ran 70 metres through a hail of machine gun fire and RPGs to rescue a terribly injured colleague. Royal Marine Sergeant Matt Tomlinson charged machine gun posts during a river ambush outside Fallujah, and saved the lives of the US Marines he was attached to. Parachute Regiment Lieutenant Hugo Farmer led his men in a desperate, three-hour fire-fight against the Taliban – in the same action for which Corporal Bryan Budd was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. This list goes on and on – and now, for the first time, they tell their own stories, in their own words.

In Foreign Fields features 25 medal winners from Iraq and Afghanistan talking about the actions which led to their awards. Modestly, often reluctantly, they explain what it’s like at the very sharp end, in the heat of battle with death staring you in the face. Destined to become a modern classic of war reportage, In Foreign Fields will appeal to all who care about our armed forces.

Download an Extract Here.

I don't know how the members of the coalition government go to sleep at night. As the world of emergency and armed services crashes down all around. All to protect the tax cuts for the wealthy, bankers and their obscene bonuses and multinational companies their Olympic tax benefits. See the Great Olympic Tax Swindle. Just where do their their priorities lie.
[1] The Official Secrets Act 1989 is a piece of legislation used in the United Kingdom that provides for the protection of official information. Often parodied as protecting the number of paper clips or pens on an officials desk. Its a default gagging order oft used by government ministers to duck uncomfortable questions.

The 1985 Ponting Official Secrets Act case was in some ways the landmark. Clive Ponting, who had worked at the Ministry of Defence, walked free from court after a jury cleared him of breaking the Official Secrets Act. He was guilty, but the jury realised that the act was being used for personal vengeance and acquitted Ponting.

Parodied today in the glaring light of Rupert Murdoch and the bugging of phones. The Official Secrets Act was drawn into further controversy in 1985. Former MI5 officer Cathy Massiter told a Channel 4 television documentary that MI5 had been illegally bugging the telephones of politicians, human rights campaigners, and pressure groups like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

The high water mark of Lady Thatcher's Official Secrets' battle came in 1987 with the publication of Spycatcher by former MI5 officer Peter Wright. The book alleged that in the 1960s, MI5 conspired to discredit Labour prime minister Harold Wilson. Whitehall mandarins controlling the security services for political gain.

Former MI6 officer Richard Tomlinson was sentenced to a year in prison in 1997. An injunction was later placed on Tomlinson preventing him from further breaching the Act. He says he intends to write a book on MI6 which would be a "much better read than Spycatcher".

However a rare success for government enforcement of the Official Secrets Act was the conviction of Sarah Tisdall. The young Foreign Office clerk leaked to The Guardian newspaper details of when controversial American cruise missiles would be arriving on British soil.

Julian Assange is best known as the spokesperson and editor-in-chief for WikiLeaks, a whistleblower website which has taken up where the others left off. This will run and run for years to come as more an more of the truth comes to the surface.



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