Weakness in UK’s New Spying Charter


Christopher Lee

1 March 2016 Westminster

The British government is to demand that all citizens in the British Isles will have their telephone calls and internet use stored for examination by the Intelligence agencies.

Every number dialled and received will be logged and details of every web site visited will be filed and made available to police and Intelligence agencies for twelve months.

When this legislation goes through Parliament, as looks likely, it will be the most comprehensive snooping charter of any democracy in the world.

The reason for such draconian legislation is the Intelligence departments’ belief that terrorists and criminals are hiding in a maze of encrypted emails. British Intelligence agencies especially the electronic spy centre GCHQ (Government Communications Head Quarters) want access to encoded data in those messages.

The only security solution put forward is an Act of Parliament allowing the agencies to have access to everything that could be considered against national interests.  Sounds easy but it is not.

Moreover, in new legislation the heat, theoretically, is turned down on internet providers. They would be asked to give private information on encoded data where it is practicable for them to do so.

The term “where practicable” tells us that even the providers cannot get to the source of all email writers.  It is similar to end user certificates in arms sales or company accounts hiding in tax affairs.  Emails are encrypted into another email into a third fourth or how many.  The source is then hidden by numbers and redirections through more providers until no access is identified. Even if a provider were to be willing to hand over data, it is unlikely that the source would be known.

Only half of data requests are completed. Even then, Intelligence services cannot handle the quantities of encryption and certainly not unencrypted data created ever hour.

So what is the problem?  Why the urgency?  There is already legislation that allows with safeguards and restrictions legislation Intelligence agencies access to some communications.  But that legislation is about to run out.  Hence the need to renew plus additional powers as the technology outclasses codicils within existing laws.

The original draft legislation proposed during 2015 was flawed inasmuch that it was not specific enough to reassure critics that public would be protected from random snooping by the agencies.  Question is, will it do the job of catching villains and terrorists before or after their trade is carried out?

We should also consider a moment that cannot be assumed under any legislative power: this law (or set of laws) may come with the best intentions of government to protect society.  But the snooping jargon is more than slick journalism.  Such powers for the Intelligence and police departments must bring about a dawning of uneasiness in British society.

Rightly or wrongly, inevitable or not the powers to spy are about to be massively increased.

Thus British society and the way it is supposedly quietly governed is undergoing radical change. The very drafting of the Bill says that citizens are now stripped of their trusting relationship with government. Police state is not the right term for the direction Britain is heading but the Investigatory Powers Bill will change the sort of place in which most British thought they lived.

The far our next step joked about in Whitehall? To protect the citizens, homes will be fitted with anti-burglary CCTV.  Protection? No. The purpose is to check upon the comings and goings of the people. Stupid blue sky thinking? So sixteen years ago was the Investigatory Powers Bill.



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