In case anyone needed any proof of the degree to which mainstream political parties are all the exact same product under differently coloured labels, the new incredibly invasive law to be announced by the coalition government in the United Kingdom should provide proof, again, of what has been obvious for decades.
The government will be able to monitor the calls, emails, texts and website visits of everyone in the UK under new legislation set to be announced soon.
Internet firms will be required to give intelligence agency GCHQ access to communications on demand, in real time.
Of course, the excuse is the familiar one:
The Home Office says the move is key to tackling crime and terrorism . . .
This even more ambitious than proposals made by the previous Labour government, which
attempted to introduce a central, government-run database of everyone’s phone calls and emails . . .
The coalition government, composed of Conservatives (allegedly right of Labour) and Liberal Democrats (blatantly left of Labour), desire access not just to emails and telephone calls, but to texts and website visits, which would then be recorded for (if we are to believe them) two years.
Needless to say that the tired, silly argument of ‘nothing to fear, nothing to hide’ underlies this decision. Needless to say also that the tired, silly argument of ‘people already post their whole lives on Facebook’, has been aired, in an effort to counterfeit perspective. And needless to say, finally, that no attention is being paid to the intended definition of 'crime' and 'terrorism'—vague terms with an uncanny elasticity in political history.
We can expect the usual noisy battle between privacy rights groups and the government, and we can also expect a continuation of government efforts in this direction, irrespective of the outcome this time around. Last time round, the Labour government had to abandon their proposed database, but here it is again, bigger and better than before. Eventually, the goal posts will be moved in the government’s direction, either through a straight win or through a compromise.
The irony is that the only reason the government can deploy the security argument is that they belong to a regime that created the conditions that put us at increased risk from terrorism in the first place. Therefore, it is a rather convenient process of self-legitimation and self-perpetuation, because the tacit assumption is, as always, that we need the government to 'protect' us, and, consequently, that we need the government to tax us more in order to be able adequately to provide that 'protection'.
I am sceptical of the privacy advocates’ ability to stop the tide, because a terrorist incident (real or manufactured) sooner or latter provides compelling evidence in favour of greater surveillance, and in the face of such evidence privacy advocates can be dismissed as anæmic liberals at a time that demands ‘muscular’ liberals.
I would like to propose something different: that anyone holding elected public office and who supports the surveillance laws reported above be required to live a completely transparent communications life, and that all his written, electronic, and telephonic communication, as well as all his internet usage, be recorded and placed in an open public record, in real time, for the examination of all citizens. Even better: why not also have the finances of every elected public official fed into the public record too, so that the citizenry may monitor the officials' probity in all pecuniary matters? Should not democratic politicians be fully transparent and accountable to the citizenry, and be, in fact, eager to adopt the latest technical means to perfect the functioning of a democracy? Should not citizens in a democracy have the right to protect themselves against government corruption and the abuse of public funds?