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The long slow slide into tyranny

Posted by on January 21, 2015.

21 Jan, 2014

Just yesterday F-Secure published a blog titled Why David Cameron’s Communication Promise is Foolish. Cameron, you will recall, has latched on to the Charlie Hebdo terrorist outrage in order to promote what he and the UK intelligence agencies want for the UK: access not just to everyone’s metadata but also to their content; and the effective abolition of encryption.

Cameron is not the first to try this. He would be following Russia, Syria and Iran. All of whom have struggled to implement it.
Why David Cameron’s Communication Promise is Foolish

There is a reason that these countries have attempted communication control – they are all repressive regimes. Cameron’s velvet-gloved iron grip on the media, and increasingly the judiciary, makes it less obvious but no less true that Britain is also a repressive regime. This is the right company for the UK. “The message is clear,” continues F-Secure; “the British Government wants to unilaterally invade the British people’s privacy. Britain as a surveillance state is becoming [has become] a reality.”

Of course, the US is going the same way. There’s nothing like a good terrorist outrage to fool the people into believing that security is more important than liberty. Both the UK and the US have photogenic leaders that care nothing about freedom for the people; but they smile a good smile and talk a good lie. Sadly, the people of the UK are more interested in Big Brother on TV than Big Brother in the State.

At least, one might think, Europe is safe from this creeping authoritarian repression. It has a convention on human rights that overrides all national and European laws. Article 8 of that European Convention on Human Rights states:

Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

This should ensure our liberties. Sadly it does nothing of the sort. Notice the inclusion of, “except… in the interests of national security.” Have you noticed how stringent our anti-terrorist laws have become? Have you noticed how almost all questioning and arrests are undertaken under anti-terrorist laws? That’s because if terrorism is concerned it is automatically a matter of national security – and any rights we have under the European Convention of Human Rights go straight out the window. And according to the government, we are all at the very least suspected terrorists.

Jan Philipp Albrecht, Green MEP

Jan Philipp Albrecht, Green MEP

But it gets worse, because now even the European Union wants to spy on its own people. Statewatch today leaked an internal EU document preparing for the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Riga on 29 and 30 January. It calls for closer ‘cooperation’ with internet companies and cites the UK as an example of what should be done.

Jan Philipp Albrecht, justice and home affairs spokesperson of the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament, is in no doubt that this is an early move towards placing backdoors (political or technological) in the ISPs of Europe:

After David Cameron’s attempt to grab from the toolbox of repressive regimes like China or Bahrain, we now have the EU´s anti-terror coordinator de Kerkhove demanding backdoors into safe communication. If a Member State allows for such security-breaking measures, instead of protecting citizens, it will actually endanger citizens’ net security and trample fundamental rights to data protection and privacy.

Instead of placing every citizen under general suspicion, Kerkhove should provide for an effective exchange of existing information about suspects between police and security agencies of EU Member States. The EU’s current patchwork of information-sharing jeopardises citizens´ security. Furthermore, we need better equipped police and justice on the ground to tackle radicalisation.

There is no doubt that if half the money currently spent on ineffective surveillance were instead spent on improving traditional policing and intelligence, the world would be both safer and freer. Instead, we are now a long way down that slide into tyranny, where the way of life our government pretends to be protecting is actually being destroyed by that very same government. Terrorism is less the cause of this than it is an excuse for it.

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