Right-wing press support snoopers’ bill even without judges’ oversight

Papers are suddenly relaxed about the 'big state'

Theresa May 1


The attitude of many conservatives towards the role of the state is a curious one. While they rail against the ‘nanny state’ of welfare and human rights, they are strangely relaxed about the threat of a police state of covert surveillance. They’re all for a big state so long as the big state isn’t being nice to people.

Coverage of today’s proposals for a resurrected ‘snooper’s charter’, or Investigatory Powers Bill (IPB), are a case in point.

We learn from the liberal Guardian that home secretary Theresa ‘Maggie’ May will push for access to a list of all the websites you and I visit, stored by internet companies for 12 months and handed over to the government on production of a warrant. This despite the move being denounced by the European Court of Justice and the UK high court as a plain violation of our rights and privacy.

It gets worse. This passage from the Graun jumped out:

“The draft investigatory powers bill will also enshrine in statute GCHQ’s licence to hack into computers worldwide, including powers to sweep up content of a computer or smartphone, listen to phonecalls, track locations or even switch on the microphones or cameras on mobile phones. The powers, known as ‘computer network exploitation’, even allow them to record conversations or snap pictures of anyone nearby the device.”

As a friend points out, the term ‘Orwellian’ is overused to the point of cliche, but state surveillance of this kind, with our own mobile telescreens being used to spy on us, really does warrant the invocation.

It’s a surprise then to find our bullish newspapers, which like nothing better than to trounce ‘big state’ encroachment, not only failing to oppose these moves, but finding voice to enthusiastically support them.

Here’s the Sun:

“Only a fool would not want to give our security services the powers they need to protect us. And Theresa May needs to be able to do her job properly. We must not tie their hands.”

The paper’s editorial ‘Let May Decide’ continues: ‘Giving judges the power to review snooping applications might seem like a good idea. But in the real world it would have made sense to let the home secretary – who’s answerable to parliament – decide.’

There follow some vague caveats, but the piece (which reads like a hasty last minute re-write) sticks to the view that judicial oversight is an obstacle to Big Mother Theresa keeping us safe.

The Sun‘s Murdoch stablemate paper, the Times, is little better, running spy fever stories and editorials and gaining (ooh!) ‘exclusive access’ to GCHQ’s headquarters. (To their credit, they also ran a piece by Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, to argue against the bill.)

The usually punchy Daily Mail has had nothing to say on the matter, running today with a story about how the bill will curb the petty tyranny of local councils!

On and on it goes. The Telegraph’s only recent piece fretted about the added bureaucracy of judicial oversight:

“Why risk a judge deciding the whole procedure is in need of judicial review? […] who would be held accountable if a warrant was not signed and people died as a result?”

Valid concerns perhaps, but ones that would rather err on the side of arbitrary surveillance.

So much then for the all the ‘big state’ rhetoric in the press. When government agents really tread on the public’s lawn, right-wing newspapers hold their coats.


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Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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20 Responses to “Right-wing press support snoopers’ bill even without judges’ oversight”

  1. Selohesra

    I can’t believe there is real concern about security services having this info – rather its the risk of it leaking out & being miss-used. Many husbands may be embarrassed when their wives find out about their keen interest in busty milfs and the wives maybe disappointed although perhaps not entirely surprised. Still I think that is preferable than being blown to pieces by psychotic savages pursuing their twisted agenda

  2. Mann T.

    Snoopers’ bill is fully compatible with the small state. Why are you wittering on in that way? The big versus small state argument has no relevance here.

  3. Sid

    It it means that more terrorists are caught and jailed then I’m for it.

  4. Cole

    Ever heard of Big Brother? Of course the Tories are only supportive of the small state when it involves economics. Otherwise they have little interest in freedom, and have a long history of authoritarianism.

  5. Mann T.

    Blah. Blah. Blah. The small state will be authoritarian and fascist. Why you think it needs to be ‘big state’ beats me. Probably some sentimental attachment to Orwellian visions based in the era of the mass industrial working class. That is all gone. But you may not have noticed being too busy thinking you are so smart.

  6. ethanedwards2002

    If you think this power won’t be massively abused by those that can, then your insane. Remember RIPA? Only going to be used for those oh so convenient terrorists? Righty ho. So How come it’s routinely being used for such terrorist atrocities such as allowing your dog to poo in the wrong place? Or to prove you live in a school catchment area?

    All power corrupts and the more power the state gets the more corrupt it becomes. Do not feed the beast. Refuse to allow this travesty of a bill.

    I’m no lefty anti government protester, I’m a respectable middle aged bloke more tory than Cameron and even I recognise this new bill is just wrong.

  7. ethanedwards2002

    Your being naive. It won’t catch one terrorist. It will be used to spy on the likes of you. Poor fool.

  8. ethanedwards2002

    Orwell was not writing an instruction manual you know.

  9. ethanedwards2002

    If we give up freedom for a little temporary security then the terrorists have already won. We conquered ourselves for them

  10. perdix

    If you are a terrorist be afraid. If not, keep calm and carry on.

  11. Mike

    Anybody can link their computer to a vpn making storage of data by an ISP to “track terrorists activities… blah blah….” utterly meaningless – May is too stupid to know this. The snooper’s charter was originally a project of the Labour government. The Tory hypocrites opposed it then. Over to their Lordships with it – the only part of government at all interested in our civil liberties.

  12. Mike

    Amen. And down even more with May’s vile censorship plans with “Extremist Disruption Orders.”

  13. Esmee Phillips

    99% of the time, the biggest threat to lives and property faced by the citizenry is from its own government. ‘Democratically elected’ ones merely give the snoopers and bullies an extra imprimatur.

  14. Esmee Phillips

    If this country’s government was more serious about controlling its borders, and less determined to spare employers the need to pay living wages to indigenous British workers or to meddle overseas, what little danger ‘terrorists’ pose would evaporate.

    The invasion of Britain by hostiles has been fostered by the elite- because it gives them a cover story for their determination to manipulate and exploit the rest of us. You are their useful idiot.


    You are wrong we just kill the terrorists their apologists and fellow travellers just like the allies did WW11.

  16. Lovejoy

    What a surprise – the Murdoch press thinks peoples’ phone records are fair game.
    Why is the government interested in knowing what the non-criminal has on their internet records? (After all criminals already use silk road, tor, darknet, etc) Is it a vital aid to national security to find out how much time people spend on yelp?

  17. Lovejoy

    Terrorists do not discuss their activities or plans on the open web – that is what the dark net is for. Bin Laden didn’t even use internet.

  18. Lovejoy

    I do find it alarming how many people think the government is a benign force (or even a benevolent one).

  19. Lovejoy

    If you’re a terrorist – don’t worry – as you’re already using the darknet.

  20. Lovejoy

    I do believe it’s compulsory reading in the Bullingdon club 😉

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