Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Good blog post, Aaro.

Fair do's to the lad, good spot albeit that it's not exactly breaking news (and that link is the fifth result from a search for cctv 300 times a day uk). Did the chasing down of this factoid really rate an entire Times col? It's certainly less central to the case of No2ID than various other dodgy claims were to other pressure groups.

It's just a bit of handwaving and "ooh, silly conspiracy nutters", of the sort that we have Watched in the past. Fact is, there's a lot of surveillance in this country. Someone who had access to all the information that is generated about you, could quite easily make your life a misery. At present, the powers granted under the most recent terrorism act have been used to freeze Icelandic bank accounts, to spy on parents who might be lying about school catchment area and to check up on the correct use of dustbins. Powers that can be used for these sorts of purposes can clearly be used for any purpose at all. So the current state of the debate has nothing to do with scary old MI6 (ooh!). It's simply to do with the question of; do you trust every single low-ranking local government officer in this country not to abuse these powers? If you do, frankly you're an idiot. When the powers of surveillance are restricted to proper intelligence agencies, using them in pursuit of actual objectives, and with good-quality auditing to make sure they're only used for specific purpose, then we can have a big old debate about the balance of civil liberties. Until then, what trade-off?

15 Comments:

Blogger John B said...

"At present, the powers granted under the most recent terrorism act have been used to freeze Icelandic bank accounts, to spy on parents who might be lying about school catchment area and to check up on the correct use of dustbins"

But it was never *suggested* that any of those powers would be restricted to use by spooks against terrorist.

Especially the banking one - that just said "if the government thinks a foreign organisation of any kind is threatening the UK's economic stability, then it can freeze its assets". The use on Iceland was entirely legit, failure to use it would've been irresponsible, and the suggestion otherwise is Tory and tabloid crap.

3/03/2009 06:22:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

Another shitehouse of a review for Nick, btw (albeit that the reviewer suggests that he should be given more space, which I regard as controversial).

Have you checked out his website? It's rather more Pooterish than I remember him being during the heyday of "What's Left?", and obviously with fewer favourable book reviews to link to. He thinks that "Waiting for the Etonians" has entered our language as a phrase, bless.

3/03/2009 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger Bruschettaboy said...

No, John, the powers were there in the Act, but it was passed as an anti-Terrorism act, not a general purpose expansion of powers act. It wasn't sold as a way to do an end run around the process of getting a court injunction for cases like Iceland, or as a way to enforce school catchment areas. The House of Commons failed to do its duty in ensuring proper scrutiny of this piece of legislation and it ought to be rolled back at first opportunity.

3/03/2009 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

Presumably the idea was that the destabilising would be deliberate, the hostile act of a hostile power, not that "some mistakes another country's banks made would inadvertently affect the UK economy". This is surely exactly the sort of thing that happens with anti-terrorism powers - definitions and purposes which ought to be tight end up being loose and convenient.

3/03/2009 06:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

"The purpose of this Act is to build on legislation in a number of areas to ensure that the Government, in the light of the new situation arising from the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, have the necessary powers to counter the threat to the UK."

That's from the Explanatory Notes to ATCSA 2001. But it does also say that

"The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Act. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Act. So where a section or part of a section does not seem to require any explanation, none is given."

which a hostile reader might well interpret as saying, "buyer beware".

3/03/2009 07:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you look at the debates in parliament that led up to the various terrorism Acts, you will see words like anthrax, ricin, plot, national emergency. Many of us questioned these pieces of legislation because we felt that they could be misused and because the threats were beng hyped. We weren;t wrong, were we?

Moussaka Man

3/03/2009 10:39:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

O/T - In his latest Little Atoms interview, Nick discusses Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and notes that "supposedly liberal writers like Timothy Garten Ash turn on her". A very fresh, cogent observation that.

3/03/2009 11:03:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

If you look at the debates in parliament that led up to the various terrorism Acts, you will see words like anthrax, ricin, plot, national emergency. Many of us questioned these pieces of legislation because we felt that they could be misused and because the threats were beng hyped. We weren;t wrong, were we?

The 'ricin plot' was particularly scandalous. The claim that ricin had been found was allowed to stand for two years despite the fact that Porton Down confirmed that there was no ricin present two days after Bourgass's place was raided. The incorrect claim that ricin had been found was then employted by Powell & Blair in making the case for war.

Has any piece of 'anti-terrorism' ever been repealed or has it all stayed on the books?

3/03/2009 11:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I'm not holding my breath for a repeal by a Conservative Government of the repressive legislation of the last seven years because

- the Conservatives voted for a lot of it
- the Conservatives joined in the hysteria about plots and national emergencies that led to this kind of legislation
- the Conservatives seem quite happy to join in the general anti-authoritarian chatter but are carefully avoiding specific commitments.

Moussaka Man

3/04/2009 09:33:00 AM  
Anonymous andrew adams said...

But it was never *suggested* that any of those powers would be restricted to use by spooks against terrorist.

Hmm, isn't calling it the Terrorism Act selling it as a set of meaures to be used against terrorism? And while the Icelandic banks might technically fall under the category you mentioned I don't think they are the kind of organisations they had in mind.

3/04/2009 10:03:00 AM  
Anonymous Martin Wisse said...

That's how we can see that New Labour, Harriet Harman notwithstanding, isn't too serious about reigning in the bonuses of banking fuckups, as nobody has yet used the anti-terrorism laws to go after Freddie Goodwin's pension.

3/04/2009 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Martin - ATCSA won't do it; he'd need to be non-resident in the UK. (Lord Ashcroft they might be able to get, but not Lord Goodwin.) I don't think any of the other counter-terrorist Acts are baggy enough.

3/04/2009 03:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Has any piece of 'anti-terrorism' ever been repealed or has it all stayed on the books?"

ROIA was, largely owing to a lack of Ireland in which to restore order in.

Chris Willliams

3/07/2009 12:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

But what they've tended to do is trim off the most obviously unworkable bits (e.g. flags and emblems) and roll the rest forward into the new modern legislation which is urgently needed to face the new modern threat; so EPA (NI) begat PTA, which begat TACT, which is still begetting all over the place.

3/07/2009 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, the fact that (despite recently supervising a PhD thesis on this topic) I couldn't think of an example of genuine repeal after 1921 probably tells us all that we need to know about this subject.

CW

3/09/2009 09:22:00 AM  

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