Monday, 23 March 2009

Interception Modernisation Programme

I just sent this letter to my eminently useful MP re the Interception Modernisation Programme:

"I am gravely concerned by the proposed expansion of governmental
surveillance to include not only records of telephone calls made,
emails sent and websites visited but to engage in mass surveillance of
social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo and MySpace and record
each and every 'Twitter', 'poke' and instant message. 

Vernon Coaker
has stated that it is 'vital' for the government to have access to and
provision for the capturing and storing of said information in the
indefatigable fight against terrorism. The futility of said fight aside
- there will always be those who seek to disrupt societal mechanisms
and thus create terror; terrorism will persist as long as humanity does
- there are three main points which cause me particular disquietude: 


1) Firstly, the government's track record on protecting individual and
collective information is abysmal. Whether they themselves are
responsible for safeguarding said information or have extended that
privilege to a private company, there have been extraordinary breaches
in security, including but not limited to that of the armed forces,
child benefit recipients and the security services. Creating a database
to encompass the information sought by Coaker et al will require
extraordinary ingenuity; no such project has ever been attempted
before. Whilst such a database will be undoubtedly lucrative for its
architects and thus for the Treasury through direct taxation, the
taxpayer will suffer a further financial onus due to the fact that they
will be required to pay for said database, that which denies their
liberty and cannot make the commitment to safeguard their information
adequately;


2) The government's proposal of anti-terror legislation known at
present as "Contest 2" which seeks to render certain views not as
extreme but as extremist creates a dangerous precedent for profiling
and 'fishing' expeditions despite assurances to the contrary. Worded
ambiguously and subject to endless interpretation, it contains elements
of sheer delusion which, if brought into law, make life potentially
more invidious not only for British-born and immigrant Muslims, but for
the rest of the population. I refer in particular to two clauses: that
it is forbidden to argue that Islam condemns homosexuality (which it
does, unequivocally and without reservation) and that they fail to
condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The
former would prohibit academic endeavour in that mentioning Islamic
aversion to homosexuality would be a crime, which is prohibitive to
free thought and, through omission, teaching certain aspects of Islam; the latter is
particularly tendentious, because it suggests that Muslims will be
monitored - if not compelled - to condemn *actively* said killings.
Throw away statements, particularly those made via the medium of
Instant Messaging, could be used to prosecute an individual in a court
of law, create greater divisions within society (ghettoization) and
even precipitate a hitherto unmeditated violent response. Email
communications, particularly amongst individuals campaigning for social
change and justice re the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already
been monitored under RIPA, the government has acknowledged; were such a
communique to highlight the fact that statistically speaking many more
Iraqis than Allies have died, would it expose the writer to the full
wrath of an ambivalently-worded law? The two proposed bills in tandem
are potentially lethal;

3) Part III Article 14.2 of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (1966) states that 'Everyone charged with a criminal
offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proven
guilty according to the law'. However, the Interception Modernisation
Programme makes the presumption that there is no innocence, and thus no
need even for charge; that an incontrovertible evil dwells deep within
the hearts of all men, that their being is founded not upon right
reason and will-to-good but upon the will-to-harm, to create chaos. In
a virtual world, as in a real one, a ceaseless search for wickedness
will be as fruitless as the search for the tails and horns of would-be
Hitlers. The truly wicked are as likely as not characterised by their
outward benignity, often their righteousness, heavy with the odour of
sanctity. There have been many attempts to qualify evil - and, under
this government, to quantify it; the outcome is one of resounding
failure. And in the aftermath of hundreds of badly designed, badly
phrased laws designed to curtail 'anti-social' behaviour, the State has
gradually engulfed society so that they have become one and the same
entity. The State dictates what people may think, feel, eat; say, do,
believe. Each day, another 'evil' is brought on to the statute books.
That which is deemed 'wrong', 'politically incorrect' is swelling
whilst the ability to catch the perpetrators of all these petty 'evils'
is shrinking. Whilst there may be true evil in this world - the
paedophile, the terrorist, those who would seek to break another's life
out of curiosity or for their own amusement - there is also the
infallible human will to good. It must not suppressed beneath the
weight of a tyrannical minority. We do not live in East Germany - yet.
The message 'nothing to hide, nothing to fear' has become obsolete; it
would be better if it were replaced by 'coruptissima republica plurimae
leges'.
"

I've also set up a Facebook group; please join and pass on the word.

6 comments:

  1. Excellent letter Mara. I'd love to hear the reply please.

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  2. Have you set up a Facebook group? Where do I join?

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  3. I'll certainly let you know the outcome (and thank you for the compliment); the FB group is NO to the Interception Modernisation Programme...

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  4. Excellent work, Mara and shows others what can be done. Never forget "The walls came tumbling down"!

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  5. I was going to write that we need a written constitution that protects our liberty while limiting the power of the state. But that didn't help the Yanks any did it?

    The technology is there and will be used - so stop using technology I suppose. If millions quit twittering, cancelled their facebook accounts, stopped using their cell phones, turned off their computers - even for a day - this would send a strong message to these pricks.

    So lets start a campaign for a no technology day.

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  6. They feel that, with the help of a compliant media, they've got us by the short and curlies and if we lie back and think of England their grip will get tighter and tighter until the few liberties we have are taken over.

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Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat -Ralph Ellison