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Scaring the children, by MI5

Posted by on November 1, 2016.

Those who correlate such things will have no surprise over Tuesday’s Guardian interview – the big guns are always rolled out just before contentious bills come before parliament for their final vote. The contentious bill is the Investigatory Powers Bill, likely to be law by January. And the big gun is Andrew Parker, the director general of MI5. This was the first newspaper interview by an operational MI5 DG in its history.

The purpose of such interviews is to scare the children into acquiescence. He did his job well. Russia, he said, “is using its whole range of state organs and powers to push its foreign policy abroad in increasingly aggressive ways – involving propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks. Russia is at work across Europe and in the UK today. It is MI5’s job to get in the way of that.” Russia is a new addition to the enduring Islamic extremism threat: now we have both Russian bogeys and Islamic jihadists to worry about.

The government’s solution to this threat is to assume we are all Russian Jihadists and listen into what we say and do on the internet. It’s a reversal of what is generally considered correct behavior in a free country: law enforcement no longer has to prove, or at least have reasonable suspicion, that we are guilty of an offence – we have to prove that we are innocent.

According to the Guardian,

Critics of the controversial investigatory powers bill, which went before the House of Lords on Monday, say it will offer the security services access to personal data, bringing a reality to bulk surveillance. Parker said the data was necessary in the fight against terror and he thought the government had reached the right balance between privacy and security.

Incidentally, the threats coming from Russia are exactly the same as those we deliver to Russia, and receive and deliver with China (and probably France and Israel and every other country with a technological capability). It is not false, but it is blatant scaremongering from MI5.

But the important information from this interview was the exchange over the investigatory powers tribunal ruling that the security agencies had been behaving illegally by “collecting bulk data – which may have included medical and tax records – for 17 years from 1998, in contravention of article 8 of the European convention on human rights.”

The Guardian asked if this had vindicated Snowden’s revelations. Parker said it did not. “I spoke out at the time about the damage that was done to the work of British and allied intelligence agencies, about having so much about how we operate revealed to our adversaries,” he said. “Secrecy is not something we need for its own sake.”

So let’s look at this. GCHQ was breaking the law. If we had never heard about it, nothing would have happened – it would have simply continued because “Secrecy is not something we need for its own sake.” The clear implication is that GCHQ was above the law. The likelihood is that it will continue in its belief that it is above the law.

And the scaremongering? That will likely increase over the next two months.

(And I haven’t even mentioned my lingering suspicion that the UK government engineered Brexit to allow the passage of laws such as this without any pesky interference from Human Rights laws and European constitutions.)


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Submitted in: Expert Views, Kevin Townsend's opinions | Tags: