I am a natural-born citizen of the United Kingdom, I have paid every penny of tax that I , I have never broken a law, and I have done my utmost to uphold my nation’s reputation of a country which values dissenting opinions, beliefs and believes in the freedoms and rights of every one of its citizens. However, I no longer live in a free country which fights to uphold my rights and freedoms. Nor do I no longer live in a country which believes I have not broken a law or that I have nothing to hide. Neither do I any longer wish to be a citizen of this country which does not value dissenting opinions or beliefs?
No, I have not changed the country I live in. I still live in the same country I have lived in for nearly 22 years. Instead, it is my country that has changed. It has not changed with a bang, but instead with a whimper! There was no great act of terror, no act of war, and no great debate. Instead, it was the act of an unelected government.
On Thursday, the Investigatory Powers Act was passed, and it now awaiting Royal Assent. The Act gives the UK intelligence services and police the most aggressive surveillance powers in the Western World, and for that matter in the majority of the Eastern World, basically in the whole World. The Investigatory Powers Act is the sort of law that senior NSA officials, who came under huge levels of attack after the Snowden revelations in 2013, could only dream of.
In fact, Mr Edward Snowden himself tweeted …
The UK has just legalized the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes farther than many autocracies. https://t.co/yvmv8CoHrj
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) November 17, 2016
The Investigatory Powers Act, or more commonly known as the ‘Snoopers Charter’, has been called “terrifying“, “dangerous“, and the”most extreme survailance law ever passed in a democracy“. The executive director of the Open Rights Group, Jim Killock, has said that “the UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy.” He went on to say that “The state has unprecedented powers to monitor and analyse UK citizens’ communications regardless of whether we are suspected of any criminal activity.”
But why all the uproar about this law? Well, civil liberties groups have argued that the ‘Snoopers Charter’ will let the government “document everything we do online“. This is no exaggeration!
Under the new law internet providers will be forced to record, for a year in real-time, every internet customer’s top-level web history. Access to this information must then provided to numerous governmental departments. Companies are also forced to decrypt all data on demand. However, not written into the Act is how the government will force foreign firms into decrypting data. All companies must disclose all and any new security features their products have before they can launch said product. Incredibly alarmingly, the new law gives British intelligence agencies the power, and right, to hack into the personal and business computers and devices of any citizen. This law does not limit such hacking to people’s under suspicion of breaking any law. When I say any citizen, I mean any citizen. Although journalists and medical staff are supposedly marginally better protected from the new laws. However, given that in October the only court that hears complaints against MI6, MI5 and GCHQ, ruled that these agencies had unlawfully been collecting massive amounts of confidential personal data for 17 years through the powers the ‘Snoopers Charter’ now lays out and gives them, whether the laws protecting certain professions will be respected is highly unlikely.
For a piece of legislation which has drawn so much intense criticism and caused such an uproar, you would have hoped that there was a large debate with a responsible opposition, holding the government to account, who held their responsibility to hold the government to account with the utmost importance. However, even the most disengaged members of the electorate will have noticed, or rather not noticed, anything of the sort. Instead, every opposition party is shamefully guilty of betraying the British public, and abandoning their democratic and constitutional duty. Killock said that the Labour party spent its time, as the opposition party, “simply failing to hold the government to account“.
In fact, the ‘man of the people’ and the ‘soldier on the front line of social justice’ Jeremy Corbyn abstained from the vote. However, Corbyn was not alone in his silence, not a single party leader in the UK used their power or voice to fight, oppose, or even attempt to inform the public about the bill. There was nothing from Tim Farron, Leader of the Lib Dems, nothing from Farage and UKIP, nor Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP, and nothing from the Green Party.
The only voices of opposition came from the United Nations, all major UK and global privacy and rights groups, and the tech companies of Silicon Valley. However, not enough people used their voices to tell the British government and Theresa May, that herself and her government were abusing their own human rights. Nobody used their voice to tell Mrs May that article 12 of the universal declaration of human rights says …
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
In summary, the best way to describe these new surveillance laws is that Theresa May and her Conservative government have made the NSA look like a snivelling year 3 child telling the teachers rumours that other kids were passing notes in class. Meanwhile, the representatives for over 50% of the country said nothing and did nothing, as they watched another human right, guaranteed to every human being by the United Nations, be wiped off the map by the unelected government of Theresa May.