No matter what Nick Clegg might say, the Coalition government will be reintroducing – and rushing into effect – Theresa May’s long-cherished Snooper’s Charter on Monday.
This is her plan to ride roughshod over your right to privacy by requiring telecommunications companies to keep a complete record of all of your telephone and Internet communications. While the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill does not include the content of the calls or messages, it does include the location of the people called, the date and time of the call and the telephone number called.
Theresa May’s Snooper’s Charter would have called on telecoms firms to record the time, duration, originator and recipient of every communication and the location of the device from which it was made.
Anybody who cannot see the similarities between these two would have to be blind and stupid.
Apparently the move has been necessitated by a European Court of Justice ruling in April saying current laws invaded individual privacy.
This means that the government has been doing, already, what it proposes to enshrine in law now.
But hang on a moment – this court ruling was made in April. In April? And they’re just getting round to dealing with it now?
Perhaps they were busy. But no! This is the Zombie Parliament, that has been criticised for muddling along with nothing to do, so it can’t be that.
It seems far more likely that this Bill has been timed to be pushed through without any consideration by, or consultation with, civil society – in order to restrict our ability to question what is nothing less than an attack on our freedom.
Cameron is desperate to justify his government monitoring everything you do: “The ability to access information about communications and intercept the communications of dangerous individuals is essential to fight the threat from criminals and terrorists targeting the UK.”
It isn’t about fighting any threat from criminals or terrorists, though, is it? It’s about threatening you.
Has anybody here forgotten the disabled lady who received a midnight visit from the police, at her home, in relation to comments she had posted on Facebook about the Department for Work and Pensions’ cuts?
She told Pride’s Purge: “They told me they had come to investigate criminal activity that I was involved in on Facebook… They said complaints had been made about posts I’d made on Facebook.”
Facebook is an internet communication, not a telephone communication – so you know that the security services have already been overstepping their mark. This was in 2012.
There’s always the good old postal service, embodied in the recently-privatised Royal Mail – which has been examining your correspondence for decades. You will, of course, have heard that all your correspondence with HM Revenue and Customs about taxes, and all your correspondence with the DWP about benefits, is opened and read by employees of a private company before it gets anywhere near a government employee who may (or may not) have signed the Official Secrets Act. No? Apparently some secrets are better-kept then others.
If you want proof about the monitoring of letters, I’ll repeat my story about a young man who was enjoying a play-by-mail game with other like-minded people. A war game, as it happens. They all had codenames, and made their moves by writing letters and putting them in the post (this was, clearly, before the internet).
One day, this young fellow arrived home from work (or wherever) to find his street cordoned off and a ring of armed police around it.
“What’s going on?” he asked a burly uniformed man who was armed to the teeth.
“Oh you can’t come through,” he was told. “We’ve identified a terrorist group in one of these houses and we have to get them out.”
“But I live on this street,” said our hero, innocently. “Which house is it?”
The constable told him.
“But that’s my house!” he said.
And suddenly all the guns were pointing at him.
They had reacted to a message he had sent, innocently, as part of the game. They’d had no reason to open the letter, but had done it anyway and, despite the fact that it was perfectly clear that it was part of a game, over-reacted.
What was the message?
“Ajax to Achilles: Bomb Liverpool!”
Neither of these two incidents should have taken place but many more are inevitable if this legislation goes the distance and allows the government to legitimise its current – illegal – actions.
One last point: It should be remembered that this is a government composed mainly of a political party with one member, still active, who managed to lose (or should that be ‘lose’) no less than 114 files on child abuse – files that could have put hugely dangerous people behind bars 30 years ago. Instead, with the files lost, it seems these individuals were permitted to continue perpetrating these heinous crimes.
Now, this government is launching an inquiry into historic child abuse by high-profile people, headed by a woman who is herself tainted by association with some of the accused, and by some of the attitudes she has expressed.
It is a government that should put its own House in order before it asks us to give up our privacy and let it look inside ours.
Or, as Frankie Boyle tweeted:
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