Thursday, June 28, 2012

secret state



golemxiv | We are all now sadly familiar with the role of Off-shore tax havens. They allow companies to avoid having to pay tax. They also allow companies to hide any dealings they may not want scrutinized by prying regulatory authorities. Tax havens are, as Nicholas Shaxson in his wonderful book Treasure Islands has suggested, better thought of as ‘secrecy jurisdictions’. They are purpose built for shrouding in impenetrable and legally protected secrecy any morally dubious financial arrangements which might be embarrassing or costly if revealed to regulators or governments. The world of Off-shore provides a legal and moral nul-space in where most things can be arranged for a price.

But that nul-space is growing and more than simply growing it is maturing.

Recently Off-shore havens have added to financial secrecy another valuable service – data and communications secrecy. There are now companies based in off-shore havens which offer to protect emails and data caches from prying regulatory or legal scrutiny. Take this company for example – Private layer. Private Layer operates out of Panama and Switzerland. It’s purpose? This is from its web site.

In the recent years, the amount of frivolous litigation that companies face has grown exponentially,…In many of these cases, companies are irreparably damaged when their private communications and company data is exposed to competitors and the public by frivolous blanket subpoenas. This problem can be easily circumvented by locating your communications and data in a jurisdiction that protects that corporate privacy and by choosing a hosting company that actually cares about your privacy.

If News International had used their services there would be no phone hacking scandal and certainly no Leveson enquiry. An enquiry would have been impossible for the simple reason that Leveson would have got zero compliance. Private layer would have got their lawyers to write to Mr Leveson pointing out that he had no jurisdiction whatsoever over data held in Panama and that Panama had no treaty with the UK, or anyone else for that matter, obliging them to hand over data or to cooperate with any other nation’s enquiries. And that would have been the summary end of that.

There is a clear disdain for democracy being voiced among those who run and own global finance, who make up the supra-national world of the IMF, the WTO and other non-national, non-democratic global technocratic bodies. We all know what disdain the global financial and media companies have for the laws which ‘regulate them’. We know how far outside their own laws and international law our governments have gone in rendition and torture of civilians.

It seems to me you don’t have to subscribe to any conspiracy theory to find this enough to worry about.