Remember Terry Gilliam’s film ‘Brazil’? I’m thinking particularly about that scene at the beginning of the movie where an innocent man (mistaken for a guilty man), is hooded and arrested for a criminal offence which is never made known. His wife is too traumatised to be bothered finding out where he’s been taken, and so his neighbour finds herself taking up the hobby of first, trying to find out where they’ve taken him and then trying to figure out why they’ve taken him. In the end it all turns out to be a dreadful mistake, the secret police have taken (and killed) the wrong man.
Which is why I admire Edward Snowden and think that what he did was a truly brave thing. To decide to become a whistle blower in the face of the paranoid determination of the U.S government and the NSA to surveillance anything that moved (and had an internet account or an email address) was courageous. For we have all observed how truly forgiving the American Government really is, we’ve seen it with the request for the extradition of Gary McKinnon which was turned down by Teresa May. We’ve experienced it with the assassination of Osama Bin Laden within the borders of Pakistan (and no it hadn’t been annexed by America at the time). We’ve seen it at work, for years, with the ghost ships held off the coast of Diego Garcia, the Salt Pit in Afghanistan (remember Slim Shady?) and the detainees who are still enduring an enforced residency at Guantanamo Bay.
On the day Snowden did as he did, he became a citizen of no country, grateful to receive temporary asylum in the USSR (how ironic) and constantly on the alert for any attempt by the American government to forcibly return him to his country of origin.”In future we are going to be reliant on whistle blowers because they are a very useful means of seeing to it that intelligence services [behave]” said Mr Geiger, former head of the German Secret Service at a meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. And so we turn our attention to British Parliament and Teresa May’s devious attempt to sidestep parliamentary scrutiny of the D.R.I.P Bill (Data Retention & Investigatory Powers Bill).
“Drip is far more than an administrative necessity; it is a serious expansion of the British surveillance state. We urge the British Government not to fast track this legislation and instead apply full and proper parliamentary scrutiny to ensure Parliamentarians are not mislead as to what powers this Bill truly contains.”. So say a group of fifteen technology experts in an open letter to Parliament, but what does the government say?
A Home Office spokesperson told the Guardian: “We are not changing or extending any powers to access data or execute intercept warrants.
“Under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act these powers already apply to any company providing communications services in the UK, even if they are based overseas. The new Bill simply spells this out and puts it beyond doubt.”
Lest we forget why it has suddenly become so necessary to rush this piece of legislation through, in April of this year the European Court of Justice struck down the European Data Protection Directive. It did so on the following grounds, that it was a wide ranging and serious interference with the fundamental rights of respect for private life and to the protection of personal data. In short, the legislation that the British government would have used to ‘mass trawl’ our emails, telephone calls and internet accounts has been rendered unfit for use which is why they’re trying to sneak through D.R.I.P.
Remember that little criminal organisation we knew little about until Snowden blew the whistle on PRISM? Yes, I’m talking about the NSA, an organisation that ‘intentionally subverted the private protections of E.U States and American citizens against mass surveillance’ (Assange) and is still doing it. Imagine that. The U.S government confirmed in three separate determinations within a six month period, that what they (the NSA) were doing with regards to mass trawling surveillance, had no basis in American law, that it was unconstitutional. The president of the United States of America was forced to spend forty four minutes (Julian Assange timed it), explaining the proposals he would be putting to congress to safeguard the privacy of the American people. A president that has been forced to eat humble pie on behalf of a security agency which like some hard bitten criminal keeps sneaking back to its old ways. If I was Teresa May I’d take the hint and push D.R.I.P through parliament the democratically legitimate way.
‘The laws of parliament are necessarily subordinate to the physical laws of the universe itself’
– Edward Snowden