Newspaper headlines: 'The war on Facebook'

Just one big story for Wednesday's papers - the report by the House of Common's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) saying that the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby by two fanatics in Woolwich might have been avoided.

In particular, the ISC was critical of Facebook, saying the social media site should have brought extremist posts by one of the killers to the attention of the security services.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption MPs say Lee Rigby's murder might have been prevented had the security agencies received better information

The Daily Mail says the "social network's staff failed to tell MI5 about the 'graphic and emotive' posts from Michael Adebowale, made just six months before the atrocity took place.

"In a damning indictment of US-based tech firms, it said the same mistakes could have been made by websites run by Google, Yahoo, Apple, Twitter or Microsoft, which have become a 'haven' for terrorists."

In a sidebar article, the paper accuses David Cameron of "cosying up" to the "tax-avoiding net giants", suggesting that companies like Facebook and Google "have the ear of the government on sensitive topics".

The Daily Telegraph says there has been "fury" at Facebook over its stance on security.

The company's automated systems had closed five of Adebowale's accounts because they discussed terrorism, but had not informed the US or UK authorities.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who chairs the ISC, writes in the paper that it was "quite possible that the [security] agencies would have been able to prevent the attack", had Facebook brought a conversation Adebowale had with an overseas jihadist to someone's attention. Adebowale and the man discuss murdering a soldier.

Sir Malcolm adds that internet giants like Facebook did not feel themselves compelled to release information requested by UK warrants.

"However unintentionally, the company is providing a safe haven for terrorists," he concludes.

The Sun speaks to Lee Rigby's stepfather Ian, who says:"Facebook failed us all when they failed to alert the authorities. They should hang their heads in shame."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Michael Adebolajo (centre) was arrested in Kenya in 2010 on suspicion of trying to join a jihadist group

The Daily Mirror lists a string of errors in the surveillance of Adebowale, and his co-murderer Michael Adebolajo.

These include MI5 delays investigating Adebolajo following his arrest for suspected terror offences in Kenya; failure to scrutinise his phone records - which showed contacts with overseas jihadists; GCHQ failing to report evidence linking Adebowale to extremists; and police failure to arrest Adebolajo just before the attack - on suspicion of drug-dealing - after they "lost his address".

The Independent says the report is part of a "war on Facebook".

The paper quotes campaigners who accuse the ISC of "spin" and trying to "shift the blame" for intelligence failures onto tech firms.

The paper interviews Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who says: "Given that 'Adebowale was not under active investigation at the time the exchange took place' the suggestion is clearly not that such techniques be used in a highly targeted way but rather that we demand that corporations used advanced technology to spy on all of us all the time.

"Remarkable, to say the least. And by 'remarkable' I mean the East German Stasi would have wet themselves with excitement if they had such techniques at their disposal."


'Existential crisis'

The riots in the American town of Ferguson - following a jury's decision that a white police officer should face no criminal action after fatally shooting an unarmed black 18-year-old - are the top foreign story.

A lawyer for the dead man's parents is quoted in the Guardian, saying: "All across America, whether it's in New York, Los Angeles, California or Cleveland, young people of colour are being killed by police officers."

The paper says the comments came as 10,000 police and national guards prepare to face a second night of violence and destruction in the St Louis suburb.

Image copyright Getty Images

As cars and buildings blazed, the Guardian's reporters at the scene are told by one protester: "All they had to do was give us justice and look at this - this a war zone now."

"Gunshots were fired throughout the night. When the sound was close enough, riot police and reporters crouched or shelter behind cars and buildings," the paper adds.

The Daily Telegraph says it is likely that the police officer, Darren Wilson, will face a civil damages case from the parents of the teenager, Michael Brown.

Mr Wilson contends that Mr Brown - who was stopped for a theft offence - had lunged at him and tried to snatch his gun.

The paper says Ferguson's unrest has spread to other parts of St Louis, and arrests have been made at protests in other US cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Oakland.

The Independent's editorial says that while there was "overwhelming evidence" to support Mr Wilson's account of the confrontation, it "is painfully clear that the American legal system is too light on officers who use lethal force.

"It makes it much too easy for officers to resort to fatal force if they claim to fear for themselves or other innocent parties."

Writing in the paper, African-American Bonnie Greer says America has an "existential crisis with black people and black men.

"What that means, among other things is this: if you're stopped by the police you put your hands on the top of the wheel and keep your mouth shut. It means that you can cause havoc by just walking into a shop, and maybe you act stupid because of that."

She concludes that for Michael Brown, it was the reason he was shot.


'Clocking in, clocking out'

The Daily Mirror continues to pursue the story of the "Lords A-Leeching" - a potential expenses fiddling scandal in Parliament's upper house.

It says that police have launched an investigation following claims by jailed peer Lord Hanningfield that at least "50 other Lords" were abusing the expenses system.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Lord Hannigfield

Lord Hanningfield, a former Essex County Council leader, was jailed for falsely claiming for overnight stays to visit Parliament.

The Mirror says, "our investigation found he was ripping off the expenses system by claiming £300 per day for just minutes in Parliament."

The Mirror says its inquiry, which includes video and photographic evidence, revealed the peer often claimed the £300 tax-free attendance allowance after spending just 40 minutes in the building.

Labour peer Lord Kennedy tells the paper, "Hanningfield will now have to name names and justify his claims about others.

"Any wrongdoing must be properly investigated but the vast bulk of peers would not do anything like that."

Lib Dem President Tim Farron adds: "This clocking in and clocking out scandal shows we need to call time on an unelected House of Lords."

The paper says Lord Hanningfield, who was released from prison in 2011 but suspended from Parliament, has been interviewed by police, as have Mirror journalists who worked on the story.

The peer is quoted in a report by the House's standards commissioner Paul Kernaghan as saying, "All I am saying is I think that there are a few [Lords] that do not do very much. They just go in, but I am not going to name them...

"I am sure dozens of people only spend 20 minutes in there sometimes. Hundreds. Everyone."


'Get on the bus'

Another former parliamentarian who has reasons to avoid reading the papers is David Mellor.

The former cabinet minister was the subject of a front page story in the Sun on Tuesday, when the paper published the transcript of an angry tirade of insults he had directed at a cab driver who was driving him home from a restaurant.

According to the Guardian, Mr Mellor now faces blacklisting by London black cab drivers over the incident.

Image caption A thing of the past for David Mellor?

Mick Cash, of the RMT - which represents some cab drivers - tells the paper: "[Mr Mellor's] sneering and snobbish verbal assault says it all about the elite that run this country and their attitude towards the working classes that they expect to transport them.

"Taxi drivers have a tough enough job already... and at least the Mellor tirade has poured some light on the kind of aggravation our members experience day in and day out."

The Sun seems to encourage this, printing a notice for cabbies to put up in their taxis, listing David Mellor among the things forbidden aboard the vehicle.

The paper talks to other cabbies who claim to have driven the former politician, now presenting a talk radio programme on LBC. Few have a good word for Mr Mellor.

"He's well known for being rude. He talks down to people quite a bit," says one.

The driver who recorded the original outburst said, "Just as it begins to get icy and cold outside, he's going to have to get on the bus like so many hard-working Britons".

Mr Mellor has said the cabbie had not driven the route he asked him to, and "ruined the day" for his partner, who had earlier collected a CBE at Buckingham Palace.

No portrait of Mr Mellor is quite as damning as Daily Mail sketch writer Quentin Letts' feature.

"Many people may have forgotten how important this conceited toad once was in our nation's government. Perhaps that eats at him today. Something was certainly firing him up in that post-prandial taxi ride," Letts writes.

He concludes that Mr Mellor will not "care a hoot" about the bad publicity.

"The man, like so many of the moneyed metropolitan lawyers and politicians who set themselves up as our betters, is shameless."

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