http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4280653,00.html Michael Gillard Guardian October 19, 2001 Fear of information leaking about the computer security system protecting Britain's 8m Barclaycard holders has led to unprecedented secrecy in a 25m alleged blackmail case. Two court hearings have already taken place in camera. The draconian measure of holding criminal proceedings behind closed doors is usually only reserved for espionage or intelligence-related cases involving national security, and then normally only over a few sensitive parts of the evidence. Lawyers cannot recall the procedure being used before in cases involving commercial secrets or blackmail threats against companies. The procedure for conducting the full trial, due to begin at the end of this month at the Old Bailey, is not yet known. If it is held in camera, there are likely to be objections from those concerned about maintaining the long-established British principle of open justice. Graham Browne, a former encryption expert at Barclays, the bank which owns Barclaycard, denies the charge that he made an unwarranted demand for 25m to be paid to 14 named individuals by Barclays. Press and the public were barred from a preliminary hearing at City of London magistrates last October following discussions of the issue with counsel for Barclays, the owner of Europe's largest credit card system, and with the crown prosecution service. The bank's concerns are understandable: disclosure in open court of highly sensitive information about their operations might necessitate replacing all the millions of Barclaycards held worldwide. A spokesman for Barclays told the Guardian yesterday: "This case is still before the court so it is inappropriate to say anything. But I can assure you that customers can use their cards and accounts with confidence." Banks are highly sensitive to any publicity about alleged or potential security weaknesses which might make customers concerned that personal financial data is vulnerable to access by computer "hackers". Courts will sometimes make an order granting anonymity to individual witnesses who claim to have been blackmail targets. This is used to encourage them to come forward since otherwise they might fear that dis cussion of the complaint in open court would achieve the blackmailer's object. But no such order has been made in this case. The provision has not normally applied to business corporations. In high-profile cases involving extortion demands on companies, previous victims such as supermarkets, stores, food companies and banks - including Harrods, Sainsbury's and Barclays - have been identified in court. One possible procedure the Old Bailey might adopt at the trial is to blue-pencil sensitive technical parts of the evidence concerning computer systems. Material about computer keys or codes could be heard in camera or be removed from documents used in evidence Mr Browne, 57, lives in a village near Crewe. He was arrested following an investigation by the City of London police. He has pleaded not guilty and denies any intention to blackmail his former employers. He worked at one of the computer centres for the Barclaycard operation at Radbroke Hall near Chester. He resigned from his post running the encryption unit early last year. At Mr Browne's first appearance before City of London magistrates in October last year, the proceedings were not held in camera, but his second court appearance was. It is understood the procedural issues faced by the courts in going ahead with the case are so difficult that discussions were held with the then attorney general, Lord Williams. - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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