Theresa May: in favour of increased internet surveillance in Britain.
Theresa May has resurrected plans for a “snooper’s charter” in order to counteract, she says, terrorist threats from British jihadists in Syria.
She stated again that she wants to “equip the state with greater surveillance powers—including the ability to access citizens’ email and social media accounts.”
May claims that it is vital for security authorities to have enough power to counteract terrorist in a world with ever-increasing internet capabilities. She claims that having this power is a matter of “life and death, a matter of national security.”
She related how many Britons have travelled to Syria to fight the Assad regime, and how this could represent a threat when they return to the UK.
It was of course British Foreign Secretary William Hague who encouraged the uprising against President Assad and paved the way for Islamist terrorists to become entrenched in Syria in the first place. The UK gave the anti-Christian rebels £32.5m. Only as a result of prayer and by the grace of God did the UK not send warplanes against Syrian government forces and make matters even worse.
May also claimed that at least 20 cases, 13 of which involved a threat to a child’s life, were dropped by the National Crime Agency in the past six months for lack of communication data.
Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Defence and Security Lecture, May said that “the real problem is not that we have built an over-mighty state but that the state is finding it harder to fulfil its most basic duty, which is to protect the public.”
She believes that internet technology has given criminals more ways to commit crimes, and that the Government needs to be able to match these criminals in technological advances, which includes accessing information that can help stop them. She even referred to the internet as a “breeding ground for criminals.”
Emma Carr, acting director of privacy campaigner group Big Brother Watch, asserted that May differs from the majority opinion on this issue.
“Yet again the Home Secretary is clashing with the broad political consensus that no new powers should be introduced until a full independent review into the currently available surveillance legislation and oversight mechanisms has taken place,” she said in a statement.
“We know from surveillance transparency reports published by private companies that they largely comply with law enforcement requests for communications data.
“Therefore, if the Home Secretary is stating that communications data was unavailable in specific cases, then that would suggest that a warrant was either not submitted to, or was rejected by, the companies in question. The question therefore should be why is this the case?” Carr added.
May introduced the “snooper’s charter” proposal last year to increase surveillance of people’s internet and phone communications, but it was blocked by Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister. He believed her plans would be opening up doors for all sorts of mass surveillance by the government.
If passed, the proposed legislation would require internet firms to keep records of all email and social media interactions for up to a year, in case these records need to be accessed in an issue of national security.
Based on recent reports, May appears to want this legislation passed before the next general election.
May also denied a “surveillance state” programme as alleged by Edward Snowden, and she affirmed that Britain did not rely on the US to illegally obtain internet records.
“There is no programme of mass surveillance and there is no surveillance state,” May asserted.
However, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has already been accused by privacy campaigners of spying on citizens by hacking unlawfully into personal information.
Privacy International alleges that GCHQ was illegally spying on people and has broken the European Convention of Human Rights by doing so. This document ensures citizens a right to privacy and freedom of speech.
Privacy International claims that, based on information from whistleblower Edward Snowden, that the GCHQ and the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) used a monitoring programmed called Tempora, which “taps into the network of fibre-optic cables which carry the world’s phone calls and online traffic.”
The deputy director of Privacy International, Eric King, said this was the “modern equivalent of the government entering someone’s house and reading their diary, correspondence and journals.”
May denied these allegations as well, calling them “nonsense” and affirming that everything the Government is doing in surveillance is perfectly legal.
The Government received more criticism when Charles Farr, Britain’s most senior security official, said in a statement in mid-June that the Government is allowed to access citizens’ personal messages on social media sites because they are regarded as “external communications.” These include searches on Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, in addition to emails from non-British citizens.
This is the first time that the Government openly stated that they intercept, without a warrant, what citizens believed were private messages.
Farr said that today the biggest threat to national security in the UK and beyond is from “militant Islamist terrorists,” and it is therefore necessary to find these suspects before it becomes too difficult to trace them. If the government was only allowed to monitor individual people or locations, this would not provide an adequate degree of protection which the people expect.
In addition, ministers have proposed this week to enact emergency laws that would require phone companies to keep records of people’s phone calls, texts, and internet history. Labour and Liberal Democrats are supporting this move but also warned that they will not allow this new law to reinstate a more extensive “snooper’s charter.”
Many allegations have been recently made against the Government regarding surveillance, followed by profuse denial from Theresa May. Are online terrorists really a threat to our national safety and is this the only way we can counteract terrorist threats? It is hard to say. But one thing remains certain: as much of a danger as terrorism may be, an even greater danger arises when a populace is willing to surrender substantial liberties for the promise of security. As we pointed out earlier this year, the normalization of the modern surveillance state arises from the universal human temptation to surrender freedom for the often illusory promise of increased security. That is why, when Government officials begin talking about “matters of life and death,” one must be cautious about the motivation behind it.
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