Extension of State snooping cannot be allowed to happen on the Lib Dems’ watch

An extnesion of State snooping and surveillance powers simply cannot be allowed to happen on the Lib Dems’ watch, says the Social Liberal Forum’s Prateek Buch.

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Prateek Buch is on the Executive Team of the Social Liberal Forum

Proposed changes to how the government accesses information about private online communication have sparked widespread concern, and once again the country looks to the Liberal Democrats to see if they can prevent the worst Tory tendencies from becoming law.

The party, from grassroots activists across the party’s political spectrum to Parliamentarians, is united in its opposition to unworkable and illiberal extensions of State surveillance.

Big-brother-is-watching-you
Despite today’s assurances that concerns over the proposals ‘can be met’, the government nonetheless appears resolute in its defence of giving real-time access to communications data, without a warrant, to GCHQ.

Something has to give.

Pressure from Julian Huppert MP and his co-signatories to this letter has led to important early concessions: the home secretary will have to provide evidence to the home affairs select committee as to why the changes are necessary, and Nick Clegg affirmed the imminent Queen’s Speech will contain ‘draft clauses’ which will be subject to proper Parliamentary scrutiny before being considered as law, which is of course as it should be.

There have also been reassurances that no new centralised database of the content of emails and social media messages would be created as the previous Labour government would have done – a simple promise to stand by the coalition agreement (pdf).

Anything short of this procedural propriety would be unacceptable.

 


See also:

How the 9/11 response changed Britain 11 Sep 2011


 

But concerns remain that giving ground on procedure alone should not be seen as the same thing as making the proposals themselves acceptable to those who wish to see civil liberties safeguarded, not eroded.

There are a host of technical difficulties relating to whether meta-data about online communications can ever be collected without revealing a lot about the content of such messages, about security of even meta-data when held by private companies (or anyone for that matter), and about the cost of such measures.

But beyond the technical aspects there are significant matters of political principle at stake that the Lib Dem leadership and the coalition as a whole must pay heed to.

Firstly there is the matter of how the Lib Dems should act when presented with measures outwith (or in this case, expressly in violation of) the coalition agreement.

The leadership’s initial support for the extension of surveillance powers may have waned but it indicated that despite not being obliged to support measures that aren’t covered by the coalition agreement, they are reluctant at best to exercise that discretion.

Learning the lessons of the disastrous way in which the health and social care bill (now Act) was handled is paramount, and first amongst these lessons should have been, ‘if the Tories want to do something that goes against our values, rather than seeking to delay, amend, or reassure us of its propriety, strangle it a birth’.

Secondly there’s a matter of liberal principle that the coalition needs to accept. These proposals apparently stem from the desire to stamp out criminal and terrorist activity. But in seeking to safeguard our safety, liberals believe that the balance between civil liberties and State surveillance should be extended in favour of the former, that the very values and way of life we seek to protect should not be jeopardised in capitulating to an authoritarian security lobby.

Should the power to monitor, without oversight and scrutiny, how we communicate with each other be extended and not put back in its box as it should be, the government will set a dangerously illiberal precedent – and that simply can’t be allowed to happen on the Lib Dems’ watch.

 


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24 Responses to “Extension of State snooping cannot be allowed to happen on the Lib Dems’ watch”

  1. john peter ingamells

    #UK : Extension of State snooping cannot be allowed to happen on the Lib Dems’ watch http://t.co/VdJrWYxD

  2. Prateek Buch

    FYI @GuardianTech RT @leftfootfwd: Extension of State snooping cannot be allowed on Lib Dems’ watch: http://t.co/3XQzGXiX @SocLibForum

  3. Kat Dadswell

    RT @leftfootfwd Extension of State snooping cannot be allowed to happen on Lib Dems’ watch: http://t.co/3XQzGXiX @SocLibForum’s @PrateekBuch

  4. Rikbut

    Extension of State snooping cannot be allowed to happen on the Lib Dems’ wa: http://t.co/hHuNt85j by @SocLibForum’s @PrateekBuch

  5. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – Extension of State snooping cannot be allowed to happen on the Lib Dems’… http://t.co/ooQld47j

  6. Anonymous

    Look at the extent of snooping under Labour.

    However, the state has most to fear. The citizen is going to snoop on them, and since they are bound by the law, they are the ones who will have the problems.

    E.g. Film the police up to no good. It’s illegal, but so what. Plastered all over youtube and elsewhere, the police have the problem prosecuting someone in order to hide their crimes.

    Each time they do this, its a nail in the coffin of trust

    Ditto with tax advice. Get it on tape from HMRC, and the tax man has to resort to changing the law, retrospectively in lots of cases. ie. Making up the law on the fly. Each time they do this and screw people over, its another nail in the coffin.

    Look at Vince Cable. Plotting on tape to abuse the Human Rights Act about a fair trial when it comes to Murdoch. ie. We still have a Human Rights Abuser in power. Another nail. One rule for the plebs, one for the Lords and Masters, just like expenses.

  7. Simon P. Hughes

    Extension of State snooping cannot be allowed to happen on the Lib Dems’ watch – http://t.co/5iG1mQua by @prateekbuch of the @soclibforum

  8. Foxy52

    Extension of State snooping cannot be allowed to happen on the Lib Dems’ wa: http://t.co/hHuNt85j by @SocLibForum’s @PrateekBuch

  9. Anonymous

    Neither could higher tuition fees for Universities.

    You’re not believable.

  10. Anonymous

    Correct, and that’s why a LEFT wing party is needed, not centralist (Labour) or right wing (Tory/LibDem)

  11. Anonymous

    So what did Labour do in power? Just the same sort of things as the Lib Dems and the Tories.

    RIPA? Yep

    Giving council officers the right to intercept messages and invade privacy without the hassle of going to a magistrate? Yep, they tried that.

    Conclusion, its government that is the problem since all the parties are doing the same.

  12. Anonymous

    So because non-left wing parties do things, this means that “government” is the problem. I see.

    In other words, apples and pears are the same thing.

  13. Joe Jordan

    "State snooping cannot be allowed on Lib Dems’ watch" http://t.co/SqkbDd51 another excellent post from @prateekbuch #telldaveeverything

  14. Political Parry

    "State snooping cannot be allowed on Lib Dems’ watch" http://t.co/SqkbDd51 another excellent post from @prateekbuch #telldaveeverything

  15. Political Planet

    Extension of State snooping cannot be allowed to happen on the Lib Dems’ watch: An extnesion of State snooping a… http://t.co/xq5aoSPZ

  16. BevR

    Extension of State snooping cannot be allowed to happen on the Lib Dems’ watch http://t.co/EQLpeHOb #democracybroken #corruption #spartacus

  17. cameronsfollys

    Extension of State snooping cannot be allowed to happen on the #LibDems’ watch http://t.co/pImLjwj5 #NetSnooping #Privacy #WebWatch

  18. Prateek Buch

    In case u missed these y'day: on #snooping @leftfootfwd http://t.co/For74PxP and @NewStatesman on choice in pub servs http://t.co/PAziuqYD

  19. Daniel Pitt

    Extension of State snooping cannot be allowed to happen on #LibDems watch http://t.co/KiWQ6J3U #Tories #snoopgate #civilrights #democracy

  20. Ed's Talking Balls

    I don’t want a left wing approach to privacy and civil liberties, thanks. North Korea and Communist Russia serve as two pretty reminders why I’m uncomfortable with that idea.

    Naively, I actually believed the explicit manifesto promises of two parties not to curtail our liberties further than New Labour already had. Silly me. There really is no hiding from this one: another lie to the electorate.

  21. Anonymous

    And I’m uncomfortable with the Nazi’s approach, for that matter. Done trading overblown idiocies?

    I’m a mutualist – an anarchist – for flip sake, not a centralist Labourite. The government is in all kinds of things which it has no business in, dictating morals.

    Both the Tories and Labour have had strong paternalistic leanings, and the LibDems have shown how worthless they are.

    Perhaps you’d like to join me in calling for voting reform (PR) to smash their grip on Westminster. Then we can really see whose views have more popular support.

  22. Ed's Talking Balls

    I’m not convinced by PR. For all its faults, I think that FPTP leads to more stable government and less horse trading (and yes, this coalition has raised doubts in my mind, to be fair). And PR can hand disproportionate influence to fringe voices who are best ignored, in my view.

    I had honestly hoped that this incarnation of the Conservatives had more respect for personal freedoms, whatever the faults of its predecessors. I guess that goes to show that even the most cynical can be naive.

    Glad to hear you’re happier with a free market than communism. Incidentally, the only point I was making is that I don’t trust the “left”, per se, with civil liberties. It seems now that no-one can be trusted on this issue.

  23. Anonymous

    Certainly there’s a concern about fringe voices, but there are ways to manage that within PR – usually with a vote threshhold, for me something close to Germany’s system would be ideal afaik.

    (Especially since it has large regions…)

    As it stands, there are a LOT of views excluded from Parliament who really should be there – many of which I find repulsive, but it’d also include people who held my views.

    And mutualism is all about free-market anti-capitalism 🙂 (It’s also explicitly gradualist, not revolutionary)

  24. Ashdown turns up heat on Clegg to abandon State snooping plans | Left Foot Forward

    […] See also: • Extension of State snooping cannot be allowed to happen on the Lib Dems’ watch 4 Apr […]

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