It usually gives me great and smug pleasure to be able to say, “I told you so”; and this blog has done that on a few occasions. This time it gives me no pleasure – and I’ll come to that later.
David Miranda was detained at Heathrow airport for 9 hours, and his computer equipment confiscated by the Metropolitan Police. There was huge concern voiced by civil liberties groups; and a judicial review was launched.
At the time I said that all the police had to do was justify the suspicion that Miranda was a terrorist as defined in the Terrorism Act; which would be easy. I was taken to task on Twitter by bmaz:
What I said was this:
…and assuming that his laptop contained Snowden documents (which would be reasonable suspicion),
- the stated purpose of the leaks is to influence government
- the stated purpose could be described as both ‘political’ and ‘ideological’
- the effect, according to government, could result in increased terrorist attacks against the UK (that is, “a serious risk to the health or safety of the public”) and is also designed “to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system” (that is, GCHQ’s Tempora surveillance system).
I think it is quite clear that under the Terrorism Act, David Miranda is a terrorist.
Yesterday, Saturday, the Guardian quoted from the police documents referred to in the judicial review. The final Port Circular Notice – the document used by the police to justify Miranda’s detention – includes the following paragraph:
We assess that Miranda is knowingly carrying material, the release of which would endanger people’s lives. Additionally the disclosure or threat of disclosure is designed to influence a government, and is made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause. This therefore falls within the definition of terrorism and as such we request that the subject is examined under schedule 7.
Well, I told you so. But this time it gives me no pleasure to say so, because it confirms my final statement in that post:
“This is a police state in action; and the Terrorism Act is one of its tools.”
It’s the throwaway last comment in yesterday’s Le Monde report on NSA spying that worries me most: “In Europe, only Germany and the United Kingdom are beyond France in terms of number of interceptions. But for the British, this was done with the consent of their government…”
Did you know that? That the British government specifically allows the NSA to spy on British citizens? How bloody dare they!
But when you think about it, it’s fairly obvious. Britain is now a full-blooded police state, controlled by MI5, GCHQ and now including the National Crime Agency. How much do you know about Tempora and other GCHQ surveillance programs? I’m willing to bet that it’s very little, just a few passing comments in the Guardian and other serious newspapers.
The whole thing has been effectively stifled by the government and its agencies. Government officers entered the Guardian’s premises and forced and oversaw the physical destruction of the hard drives containing Snowden’s documents. In Washington, British agents called on the editor of the New York Times and asked her not to publish Snowden’s documents. Luckily she was protected by the US constitution, and declined. But back in the UK, the government’s lap dog known as the Daily Mail published an opinion calling the Guardian irresponsible and accusing it of putting lives in danger.
And all the time the British government ceaselessly works to undermine the European Union’s proposed data protection law, claiming that it will stifle growth and burden business. Palpable nonsense. Cameron and his cohorts simply fear that it could put a stop to its secret surveillance programs.
Right now a group of civil liberties organizations is taking the government to the European Court over GCHQ’s illegal activities. Britain’s response? To threaten to abolish the Human Rights Act and remove itself from the European Court’s jurisdiction.
Frankly, it all beggars belief. But you’d better believe it, because this is Britain today.
I subscribe to a number of paper.li dailies. I use them to aggregate news stories for me that I probably wouldn’t find on the BBC – Anonymous, civil liberties, censorship etcetera.
So I was a little perturbed when I couldn’t access them yesterday. I got the emails with the links alright, but the links didn’t work. Rather than my selected Daily, I got this:
My first thought, naturally, was that some sinister, subtle censorship was underway – perhaps one of the dailies included a proxy for The Pirate Bay and BT felt it necessary to ‘block’ it. Far-fetched, maybe – but the society we now have makes such thoughts inevitable. It turned out not to be censorship, but (or so I understand) ‘DNS issues’ at paper.li.
But I’m still concerned. Look at the page that BT/Yahoo sent me to. Did I mean ‘gap.co.uk’? Now by what stretch of the imagination does mis-typing ‘paper.li’ end up with ‘gap.co.uk’?
Gap Inc, says Gap, “is a leading global specialty retailer offering clothing, accessories, and personal care products for men, women, children, and babies under the Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, and Athleta brands.” Yeah, well, I guess that can easily be confused with an off-the-wall news aggregator.
Then there’s the ‘related searches’. Now, how can there be a related search when I haven’t made a search?
The simple fact is that these are all paid-for adverts. I don’t actually mind that. But what I seriously object to is BT/Yahoo trying to pretend that they’re providing me with a service when they’re simply accepting money from advertisers. It’s this low-level petty deceit that I find both disturbing and frankly pathetic.