UK government denies internet/phone surveillance proposal a return to ‘bad old days’ of Labour rule
LONDON, April 3, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Pundits and party members alike are blasting UK government plans to institute total surveillance of all internet and telephone use in “real time,” in the name of fighting terrorism.
The Sunday Times reported this week, that under legislation to be announced in next month’s Queen’s Speech, internet companies will be instructed to install hardware allowing government security agencies to see “on demand” any phone call, text message and email sent, and any website viewed by users.
Home Secretary Theresa May defended the proposal, saying it does not mean the creation of a “big government database.”
“Currently online communication by criminals can’t always be tracked,” May said. “That’s why the Government is proposing to help the police stay one step ahead of the criminals.
“No one is going to be looking through ordinary people’s emails or Facebook posts. Only suspected terrorists, paedophiles or serious criminals will be investigated.”
A previous attempt to create such legislation was abandoned by the former Labour government after a massive public outcry. Despite this, and warnings by political commentators that it will be a vote killer in the upcoming election, David Cameron’s coalition government is defending the decision. Both Cameron’s Conservative Party and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats opposed the Labour government’s plans at the time.
In 2009 Cameron made a speech at Imperial College, London denouncing Labour for running a “surveillance state” and “pulling more and more people into the clutches of state data capture.”
At that time, the future prime minister said, “The action we take to rein in Labour’s control state and confront Labour’s surveillance state will help rebalance power in one direction by enhancing personal freedom and limiting the state’s power over us.”
But this week, Cameron defended the new plans, decrying the “misinformation” in the media. He denied that the proposal is a means to allow government to read people’s emails.
“Let’s be absolutely clear, this is not what the last government proposed and we opposed…This is not about extending the reach of the state into people’s data; it’s about trying to keep up with modern technology.
“But we should remember that this sort of data, used at the moment, through the proper processes, is absolutely vital in stopping serious crime and some of the most serious terrorist incidents that could kill people in our country, so it’s essential we get this right.
“Yes to keeping up with modern technology. No to a snoopers’ charter.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the BBC, “I’m absolutely clear… we will not return to the bad old days under the Labour Party.
“This will be an open, consultative and properly scrutinised process.” Clegg said the “highest possible safeguards” will be in place to ensure the privacy of citizens, but refused to say what, exactly, those would be.
Current legal powers may need to be updated, Clegg said, to “keep pace with the use of new technology.”
Under the current system, police can demand the release of records of phone calls made from any cell phone, including details of who has made a call, where and to whom it was made and the time the call was made. Clegg said that the law does not cover the use of new technologies that power services like Skype.
“We have to confront as a Government it is now possible to communicate with each other using different routes and we do need to update the means and powers that already exist on the statute books to reflect that change in technology,” Clegg said.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said the government had botched the announcement on this sensitive issue.
“It is unclear what they are proposing,” Miliband said. “It is unclear what it means for people. It is always going to lead to fears about general browsing of people’s emails unless they are clear about their proposals, clear about what they would mean, clear about how they are changing the law.”
Gerald Warner, a former senior policy advisor to the Conservative Party, told LifeSiteNews.com that the proposals are typical of a Conservative Party that has abandoned its small-c conservative principles and its base support.
Warner called it “the most Orwellian intrusion into citizens’ lives that could be imagined.”
“How, after this, can David Cameron’s government ever again condemn the Chinese authorities for media and internet snooping?”
“The hypocrisy is breathtaking,” Warner added. “Even by the weasel standards of politicians this reversal of policy is beneath contempt.”
Warner called the current government, and the Conservative Party leadership in general, a “clique of millionaires,” accusing them of contempt of “British tradition, culture and now liberties.”