The current UK government has been attempting to take away YOUR freedom piece by piece since they came to power.
From stealth legislation, rushing snooping legislation through parliament, and spending a lot of time and effort on making sure the mainstream press spread fear about an alleged threat to the UK’s (YOUR) national security.
At the heart of restricting your freedom has been the ongoing government battle to convince you to surrender your privacy rights relating to digital communication.
In no particular order, the government has attempted to give itself more power to snoop on your digital activity through several ‘initiatives’.
- The Communications Data Bill which would have given the ‘security services’ (which means the government) unprecedented powers to gather information about you. This was rejected by Parliament.
- Then the government revised the Bill – which was also rejected.
- Cameron and his cronies jumped on the paedophilia bandwagon, and made wildly overinflated claims that the disgusting practice of sharing images/information depicting child abuse needed to be stopped by increasing snooping powers. Interestingly, we have heard nothing more from them on this subject since their ‘justifications’ were exposed as being phoney – downright lies. – having more holes in them than Swiss cheese.
- Rushing through legislation just before the summer recess of Parliament which requires internet service providers to retain data for longer so there was little time for proper analysis and debate.
- More recently the government has concentrated on the threat of ‘terrorism’ to the security and safety of UK citizens as the latest justification for introducing more powers to snoop.
What may be puzzling/confusing to most of us is why the security services (government) need more powers. After all, they can already gain access to our telephone records, mount surveillance operations on any method of communication we use (including digital communication such as the internet), access our bank accounts and freeze them if necessary, and access ANY other information they want about us and our lives. They can even track our movements if they want to.
Perhaps one of the main reasons the government want to introduce more widespread legislation is that under current legislation many of these snooping activities require a warrant. To obtain a warrant the agency must provide a court with reasonable justification for invading the privacy of an individual or entering a premises and so on, usually by way of showing reasonable suspicion that the person is up to no good and the security services action is necessary.
It is not difficult for security services to obtain a warrant – provided they have reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place or is in the process of taking place etc.
The issuing of a warrant is part of the checks and balances in place to try and reduce the likelihood of security services (government) overstepping their power and abusing citizen’s rights.
As an aside, this could be one of the reasons the UK government is so keen to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights which places obligations on signatory states to prevent their abuse of power.
If it became unnecessary to obtain a warrant, and if legislation became vague in its definition, this would enable the security services to do what they wanted with little or no justification for their actions. In effect, the checks and balances currently in place to provide us with some protection would disappear and we would become a state more akin to that of a Stasi controlled East Germany of the Cold War than of a ‘democratic’ nation.
The government’s argument that more powers are needed to combat terrorist activities do not hold true. Legislation is already in place to ensure the security services have the ability to conduct their activities against undesirable elements in our society. What the government want to do is conduct uncontrolled mass surveillance and build up information (profiles) on every citizen in the country – which they are currently doing to some extent.
New legislation has nothing to do with protecting UK citizens from potential threats, and everything to do with government protecting itself. If the government are permitted to introduce the legislation they propose they will be able to identify threats to their power from anyone in society. This will include trade unions, campaign groups, bloggers, people using social media to express opinions, and a whole lot of other avenues of freedom of expression and criticism of government policies we have become used to in our society.
This would give the government unprecedented control over the information citizens of the UK are permitted to access. We have seen an attempted restriction on information with the recent changes to press freedoms.
To this end, the government are using whatever they can to try and convince the public to give up their protection and freedoms.
In an exclusive report in The Guardian, the head of the National Crime Agency, Keith Bristow, said that Britons must accept a greater loss of digital freedoms in return for greater safety from serious criminals and terrorists in the internet age. He added that it was necessary to win “the public consent to losing some freedoms in return for greater safety and security”.
Bristow is a former Chief Constable of Warwickshire Police and was appointed as Director General of the National Crime Agency in 2011 by Home Secretary Theresa May.
Bristow has been a continual supporter of May’s initiatives, including the failed Communications Data Bill, and has called for wider powers for UK security services since he was installed in his current position. Bristow has also called for more power to be taken from Scotland Yard and given to his organisation.
It appears as though Bristow is far too close to the current political arena than is healthy for the head of a crime agency. But then, if he was to oppose May and her strategies he may well find himself replaced rather quickly.
This is the case with others who have supported May’s initiatives such as the Intelligence and Security Committee (members nominated by David Cameron). They are far too close to the current government than is good for the general public, and will support May’s initiatives whatever the consequences to the citizens of the UK.
Despite all of the smoke and mirrors and overly complicated explanations and analysis of proposed legislation, the core reason for introducing new legislation is about control not protection.
Some of us may think that it will never affect us because we live ‘ordinary’ lives and never come into contact with security agencies – unless we become victims of crime. That is wrong. You are already involved with them whether you like it or not, in the future one word out of place could change the course of your life forever. Think of the implications similar freedoms of the security services have had in other countries in the past. If you think the UK is any different, think of the way the current government has conducted itself since being in office, and of the underhand tactics it has tried to use to manipulate the public. Perhaps you will start to see the wider picture. NCA director joins government propaganda campaign.
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