GCHQ, Human Rights and The Gagging Law

I recently read a long article which had appeared in The Guardian, by John Lancaster*, who originally thought that secrets and surveillance were a good thing for the state and that Edward Snowden was dangerous. He went to New York and read the, Edward Snowden revealed files that were on the discs that The Guardian were forced to destroy. Having read the details of what was happening at GCHQ he changed his mind.

He discovered that GCHQ is the most intrusive, insidious and comprehensive surveillance organisation ever, in spying on individual personal information. It even amounts to seeing into our thoughts. That's anyone - you and me. He writes “What this adds up to is a new thing in human history: with a couple of clicks of a mouse, an agent of the state can target your home phone, or your mobile, or your email, or your passport number, or any of your credit card numbers, or your address, or any of your log-ins to a web service”.

GCHQ are even more intrusive than the U.S.'s NSA because our laws and restrictions are much broader in what they allow the secret services to do: it is said the UK have a "more permissive legal environment" so the U.S. use us to search into anything they want. This circumvents their restrictions and those who monitor what they are doing.

GCHQ are supposedly restricted by the Human Rights Act, and specifically Section 8: "Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." However Section 8 can be breached "In the interests of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.". The Operatives are supposed to justify their intrusion into personal data but this is easy because they can choose the justification from a drop-down menu and just click on it!

All this in the name of War on Terror. Setting aside as to who these terrorists are or whether the state spreads more terror, let's put the dangers into some perspective. 53 people have been killed by terrorists in the UK. Every one of those deaths is tragic. So is every one of the 26,805 deaths to have occurred on Britain's roads in the same 12 years: that is 505 to 1. How does what GCHQ do fit into the claim of "justified, necessary and proportionate" ?

This is frightening. It is Orwellian. Big brother really is in your home and watching you.

But worse is to come. The Conservatives say that they are going to repeal the Human Rights Act. Well, they might not get in again but they want to replace it with a Bill of Rights. That is a list of what they will permit you to do. Not those rights that the USA Declaration of Independence said were inalienable: those rights that belong to us just because we are human or just because we are alive.

On a more jocular note, I was often in 60's and 70's asked if I agreed with the permissive society. I always replied emphatically NO! No-one gives me permission. I claim my own freedom.

Originally started to restrict undue influence and lack of transparency of big business and large moneyed lobbying, the Tories have attached these restrictions in Section 2. In section three it is another attack on ordinary people getting together to defend their rights in their place of work.

Now on top of this they are rushing a bill through parliament to severely restrict NGO's and charities from campaigning on anything considered political (and who decides what is political – I think everything is.) for a whole year before an election: it is being called the 'Gagging Law' (aka Lobbying Bill). Most charities and NGO's will feel that they cannot make any campaign without someone reporting them, thus threatening to force them into bankruptcy and business negligence.


Originally started to restrict undue influence and lack of transparency of big business and large moneyed lobbying, the Tories have attached these restrictions in Section 2. In section three it is another attack on ordinary people getting together to defend their rights in their place of work.

Section 1 is badly worded and in no real sense makes 'back door' lobbying transparent or restricts 'Big Business' having undue influence. NGO's such as CND and Charities are at the 'front door', are transparent and they do not need to be restricted: even those NGO's we don't agree with should be allowed to make their point. (Article 19: "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.").

I think that this bill needs to be dropped and possibly another one written that truly deals with transparency and with undue or covert lobbying from powerful and moneyed sources.

Further again, and since I wrote the above, there is yet another attack on our freedoms - The Anti Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. This bill will give the power to local authorities to decide, not only on what is anti-social, but ban any gathering that someone, anyone, might be upset by. Any gathering by a religious group or other cause will upset someone so that means every demonstration or protest outside the Council or wherever can be banned.

We already have law in place which bans by any gathering over 5 if it might possible be violent or incite violence or create violence against it, or more that 12 for any reason, - basically if someone or the most senior policeman there, objects. It is required that 3 weeks notice to obtain permission for any gathering or protest. This law has not really been used but is there ready at the whim of the Government to be used to turn us into a police state. Now it seems the local council will be able ban any gathering on a whim.

There is no need for this law but it is yet another nail in the coffin of our way of life and freedoms. It puts in place yet more of the tools of the authoritarian state. In its allowing Local Councils the power to ban any gathering I think it should be opposed.

All these matters above are, I think, extremely dangerous and demand our consideration.

Life, love, peace and freedom

Peter M Le Mare.

*John Lancaster's Article is at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/03/edward-snowden-files-john-l...

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I have always been of the

I have always been of the opinion that anybody who wanted to look at my mobile or internet use was welcome as they would be most bored. However, I too have now changed my mind, not really because I think GCHQ is watching me but because of the infringement of human rights which it appears has been going on for some while now. Its difficult to imagine the ways in which surveillance might effect one personally but in an environment in which I radically disagree with a lot of the government's policies, and say so on social media sites, then maybe me or somebody like me, might be deemed suitable for surveillance. The cases of infiltration and gross infringement of human rights by undercover agents in activists groups adds to one's fear of 'state control'. The panic and paranoia that the latest revelations must have caused amongst these types of groups makes me very sad. It begins to be quite hard to describe Britain as a democracy but how long will it take for people to be able to really accept what's happening? I am still unsure how concerned we should be but I DO know that we must watch our politicians with even more of an eagle eye than ever before and make a noise when our human rights are being abused. My greatest hope is that we will all take to the streets and use our democratic rights a lot more from now on.

Thanks Pam. You have made

Thanks Pam. You have made much of the point I was trying make. I to am not really worried about tapping/hacking of my phone or emails, etc. I only do open and personally honest things. I survived most of the 60's and ever since with my phone tapped and my letters opened, even to being followed day night by special branch during my college vacations '63-'66: I have nothing to hide. However it is what the Special Services will try to construe from the information. In '75 the Mail accused me of being a "...well known international terrorist leader..." and yet I have professed pacifism all my life. From very little evidence, all sorts of nefarious things can be seemingly divined, particularly by people who have no concept of your culture or personal philosophy. I would defend all my political or sexual proclivities. Even if I have made mistakes they don't make each of us defined by those mistakes or thus give us a tendency to make them again. This is the danger of this intrusion into our personal lives that any action can be misconstrued as anyone who has had more than a brief brush with the police can verify. The above accusation of being a terrorist was merely because I had named a group in Birmingham the Red and Black group for a short time (for those who don't know the political colours of red is for Socialism and black is for Freedom) and I was accused of being connected to the Baader Mienhof urban guerilla group in Germany! When you combine this surveillance with the other items that I wrote about, I feel that there is a concerted attack on out freedoms and rights which are putting into place the tools for a virtually fascist society and at a time when an excuse of a crisis comes along. If you are innocent you still have everything to fear: maybe more so because, for instance, once when I was being 'fitted up' by the police how do you prove your not someone who doesn't exist in first place and has been made a perfect fit. Life, love, peace and freedom. Pete Le M.
Peter M Le Mare
Tue 19 Nov