"Officials from the top of Government to lowly council officers will be given unprecedented powers to access details of every phone call in Britain under laws coming into force tomorrow. The new rules compel phone companies to retain information, however private, about all landline and mobile calls, and make them available to some 795 public bodies and quangos. The move, enacted by the personal decree of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, will give police and security services a right they have long demanded: to delve at will into the phone records of British citizens and businesses. The Government will be given access to details of every phone call in Britain. ....The initiative, formulated in the wake of the Madrid and London terrorist attacks of 2004 and 2005, was put forward as a vital tool in the fight against terrorism ....Files will also be kept on the sending and receipt of text messages. By 2009 the Government plans to extend the rules to cover internet use: the websites we have visited, the people we have emailed and phone calls made over the net.... The new measures were implemented after the Home Secretary signed a 'statutory instrument' on July 26. The process allows the Government to alter laws
"The failure of Messrs Bush and Blair and the neo-cons to understand Arab grievances has been translated into a 'clash of civilisations' and a threat to Western values 'by people determined to destroy our way of life', as the Prime Minister put it. But there is no clash of civilisations unless we are determined to create one. We are not going to live under a universal caliphate. Osama bin Laden and his gangsters have not the faintest chance of destroying our way of life, unless we do so ourselves..... The misconceived 'war on terror' has made the world a much more dangerous place.... America and Britain should leave Iraq as soon as possible. There are no other options. .... it is the American occupation of Iraq, like the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, that has become the magnet for the international jihadis....."
Lord Norman Lamont, British Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1990-93
America and Britain should quit Iraq as soon as possible
Daily Telegraph, 10 November 2006
30 September 2007
As of tomorrow (see report below) logs of all your phone calls will be at the disposal of Her Majesty's government and hundreds of its branches and agencies. By 2009 so will logs of all your email traffic and web site visits.
And the crucial factor squeezing these measures past the parliamentary gate-keepers of our civil liberties? 'Terrorism'.
As if terrorism didn't exist before the invention of the telephone, email, and the web. What electronic communications did Guy Fawkes have? Did the IRA need mobile phones, email, and the web? The IRA were killing and bombing long before their availability.
Terrorist organisations, who will continue to have a virtually infinite number of unprotected targets at their disposal as we continue to occupy other people's countries, will just revert to 'manual' systems running couriers etc (just as bin Laden abandoned using his satellite phone). The net result being that the impact on professional terrorism will be limited. Yet the potential for government bodies to exercise their own form of manipulation over law-abiding citizens will be extended immensely.
Consider what will happen if there is another major terrorist attack in Britain and New Labour is driven even further to the right on these issues (i.e. well beyond the fractious Tories, who actually can spot where all this is heading and are trying to stop it - as are the Liberals and the Greens) on a wave of circulation-seeking media headlines.
Consider all this digital information on the general law-abiding citizenry being held in the hands of an emerging 'data mining' authoritarian government focused on a dangerous mixture of 'national security' and its own political survival.
Consider the opportunities for abuse, and for access to 'insider information' suitable for political and other forms of blackmail (certainly the calls and web searches made by former Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesman, Mark Oaten, would have been vulnerable to this had he not been more publicly exposed).
Consider where all this has the potential to slide by stealth through incremental legislation over time once the basic information gathering infrastructure has been put in place.
Suddenly Chile in the 1970s starts to look a bit more attractive.
How the terrorists must be laughing. Our way of life is not being destroyed by them, but by our own government. Already a panicked New Labour is acting as a de facto 'outsourcing' contractor to al Qaeda as our freedoms quietly shrink.
Does the country want spineless tabloid-driven political panic? Or does it want leadership?
All this is hugely irrational and disproportionate.
It is over a decade now since Bin Laden first declared his war on 'the armies of the American Crusaders and their allies', following their 'occupation of the land of the two Holy Places' (Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia) after the first Gulf oil war. So make a graph of all the causes of death and injury in society during that time, and see where terrorism comes in the rankings.
Compared to those other causes, you will barely be able to see it.
Look at the thousands of homicides in the US every year and you will find that Americans are a far greater threat to Americans than jihadists. Look at the figures for road accidents in any western country, and compare them to lives lost and injuries sustained through terrorism. Yet 'terrorism' gets the big headlines and more and more billions.
Every billion spent on our response to terrorism (the projected bill for the related British ID card scheme is currently estimated to be heading towards £20 billion) is another billion less for the health service. But which billion saves more lives? Is death by cancer any less tragic than death by a bomb?
Whatever happened to the British 'stiff upper lip', and the spirit of the blitz? Is terrorism today really a bigger threat than the Third Reich and the Soviet nuclear arsenals of earlier decades? Where is the country that stood up to the IRA without flinching and sacrificing its freedoms, even though the IRA bombed government ministers and the general public alike?
Today we are being led by people with spines of jelly who are presenting a huge victory to the terrorists and 'security' industry lobbyists. In the process they are destroying our country.
This is being done at your expense. You are paying for it with both your taxes and your freedoms.
And you are paying for it at both ends of the equation.
For your taxes also fund the 'doomed to failure' occupation of foreign lands which (if the head of MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller, speaking just before her retirement, is to be believed) provide prime recruiting platforms for the very acts of terrorism which are now being used by government to justify the spread of Orwellian spying practices into the fabric of our society.
Big Brother Britain: Government and councils to spy on ALL our phonesLast updated at 23:31pm on 29th September 2007
Officials from the top of Government to lowly council officers will be given unprecedented powers to access details of every phone call in Britain under laws coming into force tomorrow.
The new rules compel phone companies to retain information, however private, about all landline and mobile calls, and make them available to some 795 public bodies and quangos.
The move, enacted by the personal decree of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, will give police and security services a right they have long demanded: to delve at will into the phone records of British citizens and businesses.
Scroll down for more...
But the same powers will also be handed to the tax authorities, 475 local councils, and a host of other organisations, including the Food Standards Agency, the Department of Health, the Immigration Service, the Gaming Board and the Charity Commission. The initiative, formulated in the wake of the Madrid and London terrorist attacks
of 2004 and 2005, was put forward as a vital tool in the fight against terrorism. However, civil liberties campaigners say the new powers amount to a 'free for all' for the State snooping on its citizens.
And they angrily questioned why the records were being made available to so many organisations. Similar provisions are being brought in across Europe, but under much tighter regulation. In Britain, say critics, private and sensitive information will inevitably fall into the wrong hands.
Records will detail precisely what calls are made, their time and duration, and the name and address of the registered user of the phone.
The files will even reveal where people are when they made mobile phone calls. By knowing which mast transmitted the signal, officials will be able to pinpoint the source of a call to within a few feet. This can even be used to track someone's route if, for example, they make a call from a moving car.
Files will also be kept on the sending and receipt of text messages.
By 2009 the Government plans to extend the rules to cover internet use: the websites we have visited, the people we have emailed and phone calls made over the net.
The new laws will make it a legal requirement for phone companies to keep records for at least a year, and to make them available to the authorities. Until now, companies have been reluctant to allow unfettered access to their files, citing data protection laws, although they have had a voluntary arrangement with law enforcement agencies since 2003.
Many of the organisations granted access to the records already have systems allowing them to search phone-call databases over a computer link without needing staff at the phone company to intervene.
Police requests for phone records will need the approval of a superintendent or inspector, while council officials must get permission from the authority's assistant chief officer. Thousands of staff in other agencies will be legally entitled to retrieve the records once the request is approved by a senior official.
The new measures were implemented after the Home Secretary signed a 'statutory instrument' on July 26. The process allows the Government to alter laws without a full act of Parliament.
The move was nodded through the House of Lords two days earlier without a debate.
It puts into UK law a European Directive aimed at the 'investigation, detection and prosecution of serious crime'. But the British law allows the information to be used much more widely to combat all crimes, however minor.
The huge number of organisations allowed to access this data was attacked by Liberty, the civil liberties campaign group. Other organisations allowed to see the data include the Royal Navy Regulating Branch, the Atomic Energy Authority Constabulary, the Department of Trade and Industry, NHS Trusts, ambulance and fire services, the Department of Transport and the Department for the Environment.
A spokesman for Liberty said: 'Hundreds of bodies have been given the power to look at this highly sensitive information. It is yet another example of how greater and greater access is being given to information on our movements with little debate and little public accountability.
'It is a free for all. There is a lack of oversight of how and why public bodies are using these records. There is no public record of what they are using this information for.'
Tony Bunyan, of civil liberties group Statewatch, said: 'The retention of everyone's communications data is a momentous decision, one that should not be slipped through Parliament without anyone noticing.'
Last year, the voluntary arrangement allowed 439,000 searches of phone records. But the Government brought in legislation because the industry did not routinely keep all the information it wanted.
Different authorities will have different levels of access to the systems. Police and intelligence services will be able to see more detailed information than local authorities. And officials at NHS Trusts and ambulance and fire services can obtain the records only in rare cases when, for example, they are trying to save a patient's life.
The new system will be overseen by the Interception of Communications Commissioner, who also ensures security and intelligence services' phone taps are legal.
The commissioner, Sir Paul Kennedy, reports to the Prime Minister and already carries out random inspections of some agencies legally allowed to see phone records under the existing voluntary scheme. Last year inspectors visited 22 councils already making 'significant' use of their powers' to access phone records. A report said the results were 'variable', but within the law.
Privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner, which has responsibly for protecting personal information and policing the Data Protection Act had virtually no role in the new laws.
A spokeswoman said its only function was to ensure 'data security' at the phone companies, adding: 'We have no oversight role over the release of this information.'
The Home Office said there were safeguards to ensure the new law was being used properly. Every authority had a nominated senior member of staff who was legally responsible for the use the phone data was put to, 'the integrity of the process' and for 'reporting errors'.
A spokesman said: 'The most detailed level of data can be accessed only by law enforcement agencies such as the police. More basic access is available to local authority bodies such as trading standards and environmental health who can only use these powers to prevent and detect crime.'
A spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents councils across England and Wales, said: 'Councils would only use these powers in circumstances such as benefit fraud, when the taxpayer is being ripped off for many thousands of pounds.'
He added that it was 'very unlikely' the powers would be used against non-payers of council tax or for parking fines 'as the sums involved are not sufficient to justify the use of this sort of information or the costs involved in applying it'.
requests were made to monitor peoples telephone calls, e-mails and post by secret agencies and other
authorised bodies in just over a year, the spying watchdog said yesterday. In the first
report of its kind from the Interceptions of
Communications Commissioner, it was also revealed
that nearly 4,000 errors were reported in a 15-month period from 2005 to 2006. .....
He said it was time to lift a ban on tapping the phones of
MPs and peers....."
Privacy row as checks on phones and e-mails hit 439,000
London Times, 20 February 2007
Wants State To Have Power To Phone Tap MPs
|New Labour Big Brother|
|UK - 'Are We A Free Country Any More?'|
"The huge Commons majority he
[Blair] enjoyed, the craven pusillanimity of his party, the implosion of the Conservatives
and the consequent absence of opposition, other than in the Lords and, to an
extent, in the courts conspired with a genuine, though irrational, fear of terrorism and rising street crime to let the
State take greater control over the citizen
than it has enjoyed before in modern peacetime..... Maya Evans found this out when she
stood by the Cenotaph to recite the names of Britains Iraqi war dead. For this she
was arrested, arraigned and left with a criminal record. It is hard to conceive of a
police officer a generation ago taking any notice of her since she was causing no public
order problem at all. But Ms Evans had fallen foul of a clause in the Serious and
Organised Crime and Police Act which established a one kilometre zone around the Palace of
Westminster, within whose boundaries political
criticism can be voiced only on application to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.... recent research has uncovered 266 separate powers under which the police and other state agents
can enter your home, often using force to do so.... As Peter Lilley, the former minister who led the Cabinet revolt that
resulted in the abandonment of the last ID scheme, observed: 'There is no policy that has
been hawked, unsold, around Whitehall for longer than identity cards. It was always
brought to us as a solution looking for problems.' September
11 and the threat from international terrorism was the problem it had most been looking
for.... There are people who remember
carrying the old wartime ID cards, scrapped in 1952, and cannot see what all the fuss is
about. It is about the database, not the card. This is not about protecting our identities but
about placing them at the disposal of the
state and sundry other organisations that
will have access to them. .... this extension of state control
through the unfettered and unthinking deployment of modern
surveillance technology and databases for
which the Blair years (and those of his successor, unless he does something dramatic to
change course) will most be remembered. Our children, and theirs, will be perplexed as to
why their forebears came so easily, and with so little public debate, to allow the State to manipulate their lives."
Philip Johnston, home affairs editor and assistant editor of The Daily Telegraph
The Charles Douglas-Home Essay, 2007 - 'Are we a free country any more?'
London Times, 20 July 2007
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