A response to knee-jerk calls to revive Snooper’s Charter
In a typical knee-jerk response in the wake of the barbaric murder in Woolwich last week of Lee Rigby, allegedly by a couple of religious nutjobs, Theresa May, the UK’s control freak Home Secretary has threatened to revive the so-called “Snooper’s Charter” (news passim).
In this move she has been joined on the bandwagon by a couple of former Labour Home Secretaries, Lord Reid and Alan Johnson, who have backed her proposals. Furthermore, Alan Johnson suggested she should resign if she could not get cabinet backing for the stalled Communications Data Bill, as the Snooper’s Charter is better known in official circles.
In addition, these authoritarians have been joined by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile, who has been making some very illiberal noises indeed and attacking his party’s defence of civil liberties: “The reason [the Bill] was vetoed, as Nick Clegg, the leader of my party, knows very well, was purely political because of demands from inside the Liberal Democrats.”
Let’s face it, the logic of those politicians mentioned above is flawless: a man hacked to death in the street therefore we obviously need more internet surveillance.
However, political commentators on both the right and the left remain unconvinced by such flawless logic.
Crucially, we have seen nothing in the last few days to suggest we need a Snooping Act. And although power-hungry ministers never admit it, MI5 and MI6 already have full legal powers to intercept anything that can be described as a ‘communication’- from smoke signals to SMS. The Snooping Bill was more about granting espionage powers to the taxman and other nosy government agencies.
Meanwhile at the other end of the political spectrum, The Morning Star also commented as follows on Sunday:
In truth, state agencies such as GCHQ, MI5, MI6 and Special Branch have no need of additional powers.
They have all the means required to monitor actual or wannabe terrorists in Britain, buttressed by the issue of 500,000 intercept warrants each year.
We also know that in practice the security and intelligence services have no compunction about acting outside the law should it be deemed necessary.
The insatiable nature of the UK’s law enforcement and security services for communications data is further reinforced by the fact that UK law enforcement made more requests for user data from Skype last year than any other country. In 2012 the UK was the source of 1,268 requests for Skype user information, while the whole of the USA (population 316 mn., 5 times that of the UK. Ed.) made only 1,154 requests and German police made a paltry 685. The UK was looking for information on 2,720 different users in its requests.
When will the UK’s law enforcement and security services for surveillance be satisfied? When they have reached the ultimate Orwellian scenario of state CCTV in every building in the land and all communications being monitored and their contents archived by the state?
The murder of one man – no matter how brutal – should not be used as the excuse to treat all of the 63 mn. citizens of the UK as criminal suspects.