Before we proceed in republishing (links and full prints) of these absolutely terrifying must reads articles (from The Guardian) by John Naughton & Heather Brooke, lets make a brief point, mainly taken from the most significant piece of film-making ever, V For Vendetta.; a film that shows the true state of fascist Britain today.
In one scene the principal character ‘V’ says;
‘People should never fear their governments, but it is their governments who should fear its people’
One can say it is exactly why Britain (since 1940s; that is, after formal creations of spying/intelligence services and equally can be said same of US) have strived hard to institute unaccountable mass surveillance over its ”subjects” (you are not a citizen, and more so if you are a Muslim, fact; non-Muslims you are just a work-force serfs/peasants/slaves etc).
On the next scene ‘V’ says:
‘Fear became the ultimate tool of the government’
Never was it not!
After thought: After completing your two recommended readings below (here or visiting the links) we would also recommend this last post readings; heavily updated with all the essential and up to date materials, articles and commentaries on ‘snoopers charters’ and other must read pieces like The London Garden Bridge, amazing disturbing story of a min-state of surveillance.
Now the links to the articles;
When the Home Office and intelligence agencies began promoting the idea that the new investigatory powers billwas a “climbdown”, I grew suspicious. If the powerful are forced to compromise they don’t crow about it or send out press releases – or, in the case of intelligence agencies, make off-the-record briefings outlining how they failed to get what they wanted. That could mean only one thing: they had got what they wanted.
So why were they trying to fool the press and the public that they had lost? Simply because they had won.
I never thought I’d say it, but George Orwell lacked vision. The spies have gone further than he could have imagined, creating in secret and without democratic authorisation the ultimate panopticon. Now they hope the British public will make it legitimate.
This bill is characterised by a clear anti-democratic attitude. Those in power are deemed to be good, and are therefore given the benefit of the doubt. “Conduct is lawful for all purposes if …” and “A person (whether or not the person so authorised or required) is not to be subject to any civil liability in respect of conduct that …”: these are sections granting immunity to the spies and cops.
The spies’ surveillance activities are also exempt from legal due process. No questions can be asked that might indicate in any legal proceeding that surveillance or interception has occurred. This is to ensure the general public never learn how real people are affected by surveillance. The cost of this exemption is great. It means British prosecutors can’t prosecute terrorists on the best evidence available – the intercepts – which are a key part of any prosecution in serious crime cases worldwide.
Those without power – eg citizens (or the more accurately named subjects) – are potentially bad, and therefore must be watched and monitored closely and constantly. The safeguards mentioned in the bill are there to benefit the state not the citizen. The criminal sanctions aren’t so much to stop spies or police abusing their powers, but rather to silence critics or potential whistleblowers. That’s clear because there is no public interest exemption in the sweeping gagging orders littered throughout the bill. The safeguards for keeping secure the massive troves of personal data aren’t there so much to protect the public but to stop anyone finding out exactly how big or invasive these troves are or how they were acquired. Again, we know this because there is no public interest exemption.
While the concerns of the state dominate, those of the citizen are nowhere to be seen. There is almost no mention in the bill of the privacy and democratic costs of mass surveillance, nor of seriously holding the state to account for the use and abuse of its sweeping powers.
The adjectives used to describe the “stringent application process” (for warrants) or the “robust safeguards” and “world class scrutiny” are doing the heavy lifting of conveying the robustness of the regime. The reality is quite different.
Not everything needs a warrant. Our digital lives can be accessed after authorisation within the agency itself. No judicial approval necessary.
In addition, business owners would have to contend with the man from MI5 ordering that they create new databases or monitoring tools. If companies don’t keep these, they’ll have to create them and face a criminal offence if they fail to put in place security measures to “protect against unlawful disclosure”. Possibly the state may compensate them for all this, possibly not. It’s up to a minister.
Business owners will not be able to speak out about this to anyone, even their employees, or appeal to any court or legal authority. Their only recourse appears to be to appeal to the secretary of state: what sort of independent adjudication will they get from that office?
Companies can be legally compelled by the security services to hack their customers’ equipment. The immensely worrying power to acquire bulk personal datasets, means there’s nothing to stop the entire NHS being used in service of spying. After all, why not? I’m sure there are useful leads that could be mined from our health records. If avoiding risk at all costs is the goal then why allow any personal freedom or privacy at all? The reason we do is because the concentration of power in the state is the most dangerous threat of all.
There are two types of transparency: downwards – where the ruled can observe their rulers, as codified in Freedom of Information Acts – and upwards, where those at the bottom are made transparent to those at the top, such as by state surveillance. Democracy is characterised by transparency downwards, tyranny by the opposite. It is telling that at the same time this government is seeking to undermine the Freedom of Information Act, it has introduced an investigatory powers bill that puts us all under the spotlight of suspicion.
FULL ARTICLE 2
Reading through the draft investigatory powers bill on Wednesday evening, one name came to mind, that of Frederick Douglass. He was an African American former slave who became one of the most eloquent campaigners for the abolition of slavery and was the living refutation of plantation owners’ contention that their “property” lacked the intelligence to function as independent citizens.
Douglass was a remarkable orator and at least as remarkable a writer. His autobiography is one of the glories of the 19th century. In it, he records how, as a slave, he managed to learn to read, partly due to the initial kindness of his owner’s wife. But when her husband learned of this, he forbade her to continue. “The first step in her downward course,” recalls Douglass, “was in her ceasing to instruct me. She now commenced to practise her husband’s precepts. She finally became even more violent in her opposition than her husband himself. She was not satisfied with simply doing as well as he had commanded; she seemed anxious to do better. Nothing seemed to make her more angry than to see me with a newspaper. She seemed to think that here lay the danger.”
What had happened, of course, was that his master and mistress had realised that reading and slavery were incompatible with each other. “From this time,” he writes, “I was most narrowly watched. If I was in a separate room any considerable length of time, I was sure to be suspected of having a book and was at once called to give an account of myself.”
As the US republic evolved, the lesson of Douglass’s insight – that there is an indissoluble link between liberty and the freedom to read what one chooses – was baked into its civic culture. It is what made American librarians into such doughty defenders of private reading. “Lack of privacy and confidentiality chills users’ choices, thereby suppressing access to ideas,” says the website of the American Library Association.
“The possibility of surveillance, whether direct or through access to records of speech, research and exploration, undermines a democratic society,” it continues. “Confidentiality of library records is a core value of librarianship. One cannot exercise the right to read if the possible consequences include damage to one’s reputation, ostracism from the community or workplace or criminal penalties. For libraries to flourish as centres for uninhibited access to information, librarians must stand behind their users’ right to privacy and freedom of inquiry… The right to privacy is the right to open inquiry without having the subject of one’s interest examined or scrutinised by others.”
These lofty arguments cut no ice with the rulers of the UK’s national security state. The draft bill proposes that henceforth everyone’s clickstream – the URLs of every website one visits – is to be collected and stored for 12 months and may be inspected by agents of the state under certain arrangements. But collecting the stream will be done without any warrant. To civil libertarians who are upset by this new power, the government’s response boils down to this: “Don’t worry, because we’re just collecting the part of the URL that specifies the web server and that’s just ‘communications data’ (aka metadata); we’re not reading the content of the pages you visit, except under due authorisation.”
This is the purest cant, for two reasons. The first is that, in a world dominated by machine-learning technology, the metadata is what intelligence services really crave because it can easily be mined for patterns and connections. The second reason is that metadata can be incredibly revealing, as the German parliamentarian Malte Spitz discovered when studying six months of his own digital trail in 2011. But Herr Spitz’s metadata was just detailing his physical movements. The details of one’s clickstream can be equally revealing, as Mikey Smith, the Daily Mirror’s online reporter, brilliantly demonstrated by showing that homepage URLs do not require a warrant under the new bill.
Given that the distinction between metadata and content is eroding and the fact that, in a digital world, so much of our reading is done online, what we are looking at is the end of private reading in this country. This particular provision in the bill is highly intrusive and will become more so in the years to come. The political calculation underpinning home secretary Theresa May’s draft legislation is that the great British public, which is famously relaxed about surveillance, will wear it. She may well be right.
As Frederick Douglass shrewdly observed over a century ago: “Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”