Mission Creep – Government Uses Anti-Terror Laws To Spy On Benefit Claimants
By TruePublica Editor: We have consistently warned over the last few years that government, no matter what brand or tribe, will use technology and legislation to do as it pleases without the authority of the general public it is supposed to serve. If ever you needed more proof that government, no matter how much it messages to support civil liberty and civil society, here is a classic example of system abuse – mission creep at it worst.
We have reported on the consistent abuse by government agencies of laws such as the Terrorism Act 2000 as a prime example. That Act was the first of a number of general Terrorism Acts passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It superseded and repealed the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989 and its role was more than anything to enhance a surveillance architecture never seen before in the Western world. The result today is that as described by the UN, Britain is now an endemic surveillance state. We are slowly moving towards an environment that resembles an electronic concentration camp.
From Welfare Weekly comes the news that – “Scotland’s new social security agency is seeking permission to use special “anti-terror” powers to spy on benefit claimants suspected of fraud, in a controversial move many will see as a betrayal of the SNP’s Government’s promise to build a compassionate and non-judgmental benefits system.”
In England and Wales, we saw this happen a few years ago. These powers are typically reserved for protecting the public against terrorism and serious crime, but the Scotland Sunday Post reports they are increasingly being used to combat anything from fly-tipping to prosecuting dog owners whose pets soil in public places.
At TruePublica, we reported that government agencies were using these laws to hunt down non-payment of local authority fines and even under-age sunbed use. The BBC was caught using these same terror laws to track licence fee dodgers and the list expanded of these government abuses all the way to the surveillance of parents trying to get their children into specific schools – hardly a crime associated with hardened murderers with ambitions to force foreign policy changes.
Covert government surveillance powers are typically used in authoritative regimes and have become the norm in Britain. No other country in the Western world has gone as far as this before – including that of East German Stasi.
These laws, so we were told, were designed specifically to track down terrorists. Then it was widened out to include organised serious crime gangs, then serious crime, now just legal infringements. The trajectory of this is heading straight towards modifying social behaviours.
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“The use of covert surveillance legislation to target people on welfare is disproportionate and extremely intrusive”, said Griff Ferris from the civil liberty campaign group.
Social Security Scotland is now seeking permission from MSP’s to use the anti-terror laws against possible benefit cheats, but said any decision to prosecute would be made by the Crown Office.
But Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton warned that any use of the “investigative powers” must be “proportionate and warranted”.
“Authorities shouldn’t be resorting to covert surveillance unless absolute necessary, and they certainly shouldn’t be involved in mass snooping”, she added.
A Scottish Government spokesperson told the Sunday Post: “Our current consultation sets out how we propose to use our powers while ensuring people are treated with fairness, dignity and respect during any investigation.”
How can the use of laws specifically designed to trace and track terrorists whose intent is to indiscriminately murder innocent civilians be fair and respectful when knowingly using those laws and tools to hunt down someone who is not? The use of these laws for non-terror low-level crimes is a crime itself. This is how civil liberty is dismantled – by mission creep.