Britain slowly emerges as new totalitarian state

3rd August 2015 / Editors Picks, United Kingdom
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truePublica

Totalitarian – adjective
1of or relating to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life.
2. exercising control over the freedom, will, or thought of others; authoritarian; autocratic.

 

The UK has too many CCTV cameras and the public is ignorant of the true extent of snooping which, are useless when it comes to combating crime –  the government’s own Surveillance Camera Commissioner said.

In a biting critique, he said Europeans are shocked the British public readily accepts the number of cameras we have. Porter, a former senior counter-terrorism police officer in Manchester, said the UK “must not sleepwalk into a surveillance state.”

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Too late, Britain has been a surveillance state for years. This government mouthpiece is merely making distracting comments to hide the truth about Britain moving from surveillance state to a totalitarian one.

If ever confirmation was needed that government, politicians, lawmakers and the police need to be kept in check, here we have a powerful and persuasive set of examples. It is not alarmist to say this but by definition, the UK is slowly becoming a totalitarian state if state terror laws are being used for low-level misdemeanours such as dog fouling.

The BBC is using laws designed to catch terrorists and organised crime networks to track down people who dodge the licence fee. The publicly-funded corporation uses the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), designed by the last Labour government to fight terrorism, to catch those who evade paying the licence fee.

Although the BBC has admitted using the hugely controversial RIPA, it has refused to say in what way, when and how often. This legislation was designed to fight terrorism and organised crime, it was not intended for people who don’t pay their TV licence.

The Metropolitan Police Service has also come under fire for using the same powers to access the phone logs of journalists on two newspapers to trace their sources. In addition, the Met ordered Vodafone to hand details and data over as part of its investigation into the Plebgate scandal focused on former Tory whip Andrew Mitchell’s altercation with police at Downing Street. Normally police would have to apply to a judge in court under different legislation that is compliant with European laws protecting journalists rights to keep their sources confidential. But under RIPA an investigating officer just needs approval from a senior officer.

Media lawyers and press freedom groups have been alarmed by the use of Ripa as it happens in secret and journalists have no way of knowing if their sources are being compromised. A free press is fundamental to all of our other freedoms. And to have a free press, reporters need to be able to protect the identity of their sources. The government knows that if protection of identity is no longer available, whistleblowers will not come forward in the first place.

In addition, Big Brother Watch discovered 372 councils had been authorised (by gov’t) to use the terror laws 9,607 times in just 3 years – the equivalent of around nine spying missions a day.

Local authorities in Great Britain have conducted RIPA surveillance operations in 8,575 cases in just a few years. All these actions were designed to catch terrorists and dangerous criminals.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne is the worst local authority in the country for RIPA investigations, having spied on their residents 231 times in two years. Authorities have used illegal covert surveillance for reasons including spying on their own employees, people breaking the smoking ban and even dog fouling!

Seven public authorities, including the BBC, refused under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose why or how often they had used the powers. The BBC refuse FoI requests in a staggering 48% of cases. The most common use of the legislation is to demand phone companies hand over an individual’s communications data.

What is most striking about these events are that publicly funded bodies such as the BBC, the Police and local authorities are refusing to answer perfectly reasonable Freedom of Information Act requests whilst exercising powers they shouldn’t have in the first place but were given by government bodies that voters do not approve of.

Separately, a legal filing by the British government made public recently showed that its intelligence agencies maintain the right to hack into the computers, phones and other devices of anyone it chooses. The filing was published by Privacy International, one of several advocacy groups that have challenged government surveillance in court.

After the attack against the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January, David Cameron demanded technology companies to help government monitor encrypted communications and warned that those who refused to do so could be banned from doing business in Britain. Hardly the actions of a business friendly government but definitely one with an irrational paranoia.

Holidaymakers passing through British airports and sea ports are now being warned they will be “inconvenienced” if they have outstanding fines. The UK Government’s E-Borders initiative and the Immigration Act 2014 allows a greater sharing of information between the police and ‘third parties’, facilitating more in-depth checks.

The E-Borders initiative was designed to monitor and snare extremists and criminals. It allows passenger information to be checked against watch lists and security databases, alerting officials to people of interest. However, its remit has been extended to flag up people who have not paid fines owed to government departments – all without further public debate.

Andrew Allison, of the Freedom Association pressure group, said: “To prevent people from leaving the UK in this way is a misuse of legislation that is supposed to target dangerous criminals. This should stop now”. It hasn’t and won’t.

No-where in Europe, not even in the United States does government have such broad, sweeping surveillance and arrest capabilities. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal is the first in its 15-year history to have gone against the Government Communications Headquarters, MI5, the domestic intelligence service, and MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service. It deemed these activities to be unlawful.

Emergency mass surveillance laws rushed through Parliament last year have also been ruled unlawful by the High Court, but that will not stop the government from carrying on because if it wasn’t for Edward Snowden we would not be aware of it all in the first place. By omission, successive governments, their departments and the police have lied to Britain’s citizens and trampled with impunity over the principles of democracy, freedom and civil liberties.

With a few computer key strokes, Britain’s government and it’s army of agencies has solved the problem that has bedeviled world powers since at least the time of Caesar Augustus: how to control people, by ferreting out crucial, often scurrilous, information to make them more malleable and fearful.

Totalitarian regimes cannot maintain stability without an enemy and we have one – the war on terrorism, more an ideology of fear and repression than keeping us out of harms way.

Article by TruePublica

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