Today’s chief attacker is Charles Clarke, expected to berate the European Parliament for being “reactionary and dangerous” – this the day after Clarke ticked off independent members of the British judiciary for their wishy-washy regard for “human rights” and legal precedent. (Clarke’s reason for saying we can trust these notorious torturers who we’ve got deportation agreements with in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights? “It cannot be right that government-to-government agreements are not respected” – because, hey, we can trust the word of a country which regularly tortures its citizens, can’t we? Just like we could trust that nice chap with the tache who gave that lovely Mr Chamberlain a wonderfully reassuring government-to-government agreement… And – erm – the fact that we’re breaking several government-to-government agreements by ignoring umpteen international human rights treaties is entirely irrelevant here, isn’t it?)
Anyway, the excuse for this current blitz (bar that bomb business, and the need for the Blair government to be seen to be leading the way in the run-up to parliament’s return in a month) is this .pdf document, the briefly titled “Draft Framework Decision on the retention of data processed and stored in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or data on public communications networks for the purpose of prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of crime and criminal offences including terrorism” – originally drawn up by France, Ireland, Sweden and the UK in April last year, it has finally started to it’s scheduled movement through the labyrinthine procedural corridors of EU power.
That document, however, is far too wishy-washy for the Blair government’s present purposes, mentioning all kinds of nonsense like “hi tech crime” (rather than the preferred “EEEEVIL TERRORISTS WITH SHIFTY EYES LURKING IN THE SHADOWS AND UNDER THE BED”) and keeping the idea of “data retention” relatively specific, aimed at “child pornography and racist and xenophobic material; the source of attacks against information systems; and to identify those involved in using electronic communications networks for the purpose of organised crime and terrorism.”
Nonetheless, even if the use of this data is carefully restricted there was already enough to be worried about: it would become mandatory for providers to store all public communications networks’ traffic data for between six months and four years, starting with telephone connection and – fairly worryingly – location data. In the next step the ISPs would be forced to build up infrastructure to store and manage internet data – a remote storage of your internet usage history, emails, IRC chats etc. etc. (There’s a handy campaign site – Data Retention is no Solution, which has loads more info.)
The current thrust of the Blairite blitz, however, seems to have taken on more sinister undertones. The focus, while nominally also still on web-based fraud and the kind of hi-tech computer crime which always crops up in the movies (glamorous, good-looking hackers breaking electronically into banks and making off with billions etc.), it’s the shifty-eyed terrorists which now get the most emphasis. Because, look guys – we’ve just been attacked, you know?
Of course, the bonus of this legislation is that vast quantities of ready-stored data on everyone in the country (and indeed the EU) – including their daily movements via mobile phone tracking, purchases, associates, conversations and every other aspect of their lives (especially combined with credit/debit/store card records to which the government will no doubt also give themselves access) – will make the government’s job far easier when they finally come to introduce ID cards, by whatever method. Thanks to this piece of legislation (which, let’s hope, shouldn’t get past MEPs), the state would be well on the way to giving itself the right to know pretty much every single thing about you and your life. The state could even end up knowing more about you than your immediate family.
But hey – if you complain about your right to privacy (like old Tony and his recent “secret” holiday destination) you’ll just be letting the terrorists win, OK?
Meanwhile, Blair’s used his jaunt out to the far east to get China on board for a UN Security Council resolution (Back-up for when that Independent link dies here). China – always well-known and praised for it’s commitment to freedom and human rights – apparently will be Backing Blair. Over to Tony:
“We have to take proper security measures and one of the things that I was discussing with Premier Wen is how we co-operate on counter terrorism. At the UN next week, we will be talking about counter terrorism measures.
“I don’t think we can do this just by security measures. We also have to take on their ideas”
After all, if any regime has experience on clamping down on thoughtcrime, it’s China. We’ll get some communist expertise on board, build up a vast database on every single British and EU citizen which the government and its agencies can access whenever they want, we’ll identify suspicious emails, phone calls and websites and lock up those responsible without trial (or send them to overseas “processing centres” in friendly states less squeamish about a bit of pain-induced confession), we’ll track the movements of every single person with a mobile phone in the country, we’ll deport anyone we don’t like.
And then some non-European terrorist not in any of the databases, not owning a mobile and with no internet presence will quietly chug ashore by small boat in a remote cove, unobserved by radar or CCTV. He’ll slowly make his way to London, press a button and wipe out the entire city in one fell swoop.
Nice one, Tony.
(More on Blair’s plans to get his dodgy databases imposed on us from abroad here)