UK “legitimises” illegal mass surveillance by passing new law
The “Investigatory Powers Act,” has been passed into law in the UK, legalising a number of illegal mass surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013. It also introduces new powers to require ISPs to retain browsing data on all customers for 12 months, while giving police new powers to hack into computers and phones and to collect communications data in bulk.
“Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, responded…saying: “…it is one of the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy. The IP Act will have an impact that goes beyond the UK’s shores. It is likely that other countries, including authoritarian regimes with poor human rights records, will use this law to justify their own intrusive surveillance powers.”
“Much of the Act gives stronger legal footing to the UK’s various bulk powers, including “bulk interception,” which is, in general terms, the collection of internet and phone communications en masse. In June 2013, using documents provided by Edward Snowden, The Guardian revealed that the GCHQ taps fibre-optic undersea cables in order to intercept emails, internet histories, calls, and a wealth of other data.”
Snooper Charter allows the State to tell lies in court.
“Charter gives virtually unrestricted powers not only to State spy organisations but also to the police and a host of other government agencies. The operation of the oversight and accountability mechanisms…are all kept firmly out of sight — and, so its authors hope, out of mind — of the public. It is up to the State to volunteer the truth to its victims if the State thinks it has abused its secret powers. “Marking your own homework” is a phrase which does not fully capture this…
Section 56(1)(b) creates a legally guaranteed ability — nay, duty — to lie about even the potential for State hacking to take place, and to tell juries a wholly fictitious story about the true origins of hacked material used against defendants in order to secure criminal convictions. This is incredibly dangerous. Even if you know that the story being told in court is false, you and your legal representatives are now banned from being able to question those falsehoods and cast doubt upon the prosecution story. Potentially, you could be legally bound to go along with lies told in court about your communications — lies told by people whose sole task is to weave a story that will get you sent to prison or fined thousands of pounds.
Moreover, as section 56(4) makes clear, this applies retroactively, ensuring that it is very difficult for criminal offences committed by GCHQ employees and contractors over the years, using powers that were only made legal a fortnight ago, to be brought to light in a meaningful way. It might even be against the law for a solicitor or barrister to mention in court this Reg story by veteran investigative journalist Duncan Campbell about GCHQ’s snooping station in Oman (covered by the section 56(1)(b) wording “interception-related conduct has occurred”) – or large volumes of material published on Wikileaks.
The existence of section 56(4) makes a mockery of the “general privacy protections” in Part 1 of the IPA, which includes various criminal offences. Part 1 was introduced as a sop to privacy advocates horrified at the full extent of the act’s legalisation of intrusive, disruptive and dangerous hacking powers for the State, including powers to force the co-operation of telcos and similar organisations. There is no point in having punishments for lawbreakers if it is illegal to talk about their law-breaking behaviour.
Like the rest of the Snoopers’ Charter, section 56 has become law. Apart from Reg readers and a handful of Twitter slacktivists, nobody cares. The general public neither knows nor cares what abuses and perversions of the law take place in its name. Theresa May and the British government have utterly defeated advocates of privacy and security, completely ignoring those who correctly identify the zero-sum game between freedom and security in favour of those who feel the need to destroy liberty in order to “save” it.
The UK is now a measurably less free country in terms of technological security, permitted speech and ability to resist abuses of power and position by agents of the State, be those shadowy spys, police inspectors and above (ie, shift leaders in your local cop shop) and even food hygiene inspectors – no, really.”