Thursday, 9 June 2016

Snoopers' Charter or Necessary Precaution?
The Investigatory Powers Bill.


http://media.gizmodo.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/may-620x349.jpg

Whilst everyone in the British media and political hinterland was obsessing about the IN/OUT vote on the European Community (EC), hardly noticed, Parliament passed a measure with potentially, far-reaching consequences for both 'national security' and personal confidentiality.
On the 7th June, 2016, the House of Commons passed by 444 to 69 votes The Investigatory Powers Bill before passing it to the House of Lords for detailed scrutiny. Although the latter is made up of appointed and hereditary members, and therefore hardly representative in a democratic sense, it has often proved itself irreplaceable as a champion of historic protections for the citizen. It will therefore be interesting to see how it handles this particular extension of government power.
Certain amendments have already been achieved to gain Labour Party support. In particular a new clause has now been added "to ensure that privacy is at the heart of the Bill." The issue is whether this is anything more than 'window dressing'?
More important is what it allows government agencies to do lawfully, that it could not do lawfully before, although no one should be under any misapprehension that these state organs - particularly MI5, MI6 and GCHQ - have been too concerned about legal niceties in the past, when in pursuit of personal or sensitive information. We should assume all wireless, Internet and postal communication has been accessible and accessed by them whenever and wherever it was considered necessary. 
In addition it is well known that intelligence so gained has been shared between at least four other nation states (the so-called 'Five Eyes' of Britain, Canada, United States, Australia and New Zealand).  But it is not limited to them, with Israel and EC and NATO states inevitably in the loop. And this is without considering the whole matter of foreign interception and espionage which presumably continues as it ever did, short-cutting and largely negating the whole secrecy business.
Of course how this all works in practice is largely withheld from us 'the people', and indeed the Parliamentary representatives. There is a Parliamentary Committee - The Intelligence and Security Committee - that supposedly oversees the workings of the secret agencies, but again how it does so is largely opaque from public view. 
From http://isc.independent.gov.uk/ we are told this: 
"The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) was first established by the Intelligence Services Act 1994 to examine the policy, administration and expenditure of the Security Service, Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). 
The Justice and Security Act 2013 reformed the ISC: making it a Committee of Parliament; providing greater powers; and increasing its remit (including oversight of operational activity and the wider intelligence and security activities of Government). 
Other than the three intelligence and security Agencies, the ISC examines the intelligence-related work of the Cabinet Office including: the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC); the Assessments Staff; and the National Security Secretariat. 
The Committee also provides oversight of Defence Intelligence in the Ministry of Defence and the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office."
What this means in practice, is that the public gets to know virtually nothing about how these agencies operate, who is being targeted or why. We must trust they are acting in our interests, lawfully and for good reason. Unfortunately these are assumptions that cannot always be relied upon. Leaving aside the fact that it has been proved that both MI5 and MI6 have been in the past infiltrated and run by agents of foreign powers - in this case Germany and USSR - nor that we know they are today hugely influenced by secret agencies of the United States and Israel, we know virtually nothing of the over-arching strategy and objective, shaping policy and activities.
The trouble is that there have been many warning signs that these agencies cannot be trusted to either abide by the law or even be trusted to be honest. 
The fact that the huge criminal fraud of 9/11 has been actively been covered up and misrepresented, proves not only that they are disingenuous and in league with their opposite numbers in the CIA and military, but also that they have been and are disinterested in the truth or in protecting innocent life. 
Closer to home the misrepresentation of the events of 7/7, with full political backing, has been a disgraceful matter. 
We have all witnessed how the secret services have not only been implicated in the matter of sleaze and particularly child sex, but must have known and covered up the matter to protect the powerful. 
Only recently we have seen how MI5 worked in concert with Northern Ireland paramilitary forces to kill or at least not prevent, innocent civilians deaths. (See: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/britains-secret-terror-deals-truly-disturbing-bbc-panorama-allegations-of-collusion-must-be-fully-investigated-says-amnesty-international-31261593.html and  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-36486779) 
Actions abroad are no more reassuring as with the case of Abdel Hakim Belhaj shipped to Libya to be imprisoned and tortured with CIA assistance. (See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36489647) 
These are only two of many such instances both home and abroad that do not reassure any libertarian or person concerned with civilised behaviours in a violent world.
In any event a big question relates to the apparent FAILURE of these agencies, despite all their enormous powers of surveillance, to be aware of, or stop, all the high profile so-called 'terrorist events' on American or European soil. Yet no one has been criticised or penalised. This raises a profound and very worrying question as to how effective they really are in doing their job and what they are really trying to achieve?
So the House of Commons in a blind leap of faith has decided to entrust these secret - even dangerous - bodies and agencies, with the following extensions to their powers and abilities:
* bulk interception of communications, 
* bulk collection of communications data – meaning 'metadata', essentially the data about data  
* bulk equipment interference - aka hacking.
If and when these powers are made lawful, everyone in Britain must assume that their Internet activity will be tracked and recorded for current or future examination. It would be naive to assume that all details will also not be accessible.
 Bella Sankey, Director of Policy for Liberty, puts it like this:

"This Bill would create a detailed profile on each of us which could be made available to hundreds of organisations to speculatively trawl and analyse. It will all but end on line privacy, put our personal security at risk and swamp law enforcement with swathes of useless information."

This raises an important point, that too much information can be as dangerous as too little. Even the security services think so. They have officially stated: 

"We can currently collect (whether itself or through partners …) significantly more than it is able to exploit fully… This creates a real risk of ‘intelligence failure’ i.e. from the Service being unable to access potentially life-saving intelligence from data that it has already collected." (See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-36469351)

In a recent poll commissioned by Liberty, 90% of people questioned thought the powers of interception should only be used in a targeted way against suspected criminals or risks and the Lords may support this view. We shall have to wait and see. 

The basic issue is: Can the Government be trusted with dystopian levels of surveillance and knowledge of all the citizenry? Clearly it can't and this is not just paranoia. 

Events in America, Britain and France have proved beyond peradventure, that despite the trappings of civilised democracy and denials, dark forces embedded within government, have and are, prepared to sacrifice people in fraudulent 'terrorist' events. 

It could not be clearer on 9/11, but 7/7 and the Paris attacks prove it too. Nor can we be sure that powers provided for one laudable purpose, will not be used for another disreputable one. This has been demonstrated too many times to need listing. 

Given that the whole 'terrorist threat' from 'Muslim extremists' used to justify the measure, is either fabricated or created by the west itself, we should all with one voice state clearly, we do not wish our privacy and freedoms to be jettisoned so easily and comprehensively. 

We have been abused and deceived by our own organs of government for long enough.

What is required is a REFORMING PARLIAMENT neither 'left' or 'right', dedicated to cutting back the secret state and reestablishing and reinforcing principles of DEMOCRACY and personal liberty with entrenched positive rights of privacy from government snooping and interference.


The integrity and sovereignty of the country must be protected against those that wish to damage or undermine it. Despite the dangers, it convinces me that our political dalliance with the EC should end and a parliament elected to represent the true interests of all the people, not just the rich, which seems to be the case, needs to be elected. 

Corbyn has proved that the electorate, particularly the disenfranchised young, can be reengaged and activated by honesty and idealism. What is required is a simpler and more environmentally friendly and self-sufficient Britain that trades on its innovation and optimism as it once did. 

In short, one that we can trust not to snoop unnecessarily. One which will protect us from terrorist events, not create them.

See: http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/11/12/public-privacy-perceptions/
See: https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/news/press-releases-and-statements/draft-investigatory-powers-bill-liberty-calls-full-redraft

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