"Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is the highest political end."(Lord Acton)
Around five or six months ago I decided to keep a file dedicated news articles about the increasing number of ways the British state is spying on us. I was partly motivated after finding out that home secretary Jacqui Smith had quietly passed a law in July 2007 giving 795 public companies and government agencies the right to spy on all British mobile phone calls and messages. No discussion. No debate. You are no longer at liberty to make private phone calls.
Then I kept reading other stories in the press about new government spying programmes, so many so that it was becoming hard to remember them all. Hence I started keeping the file.
A few weeks ago I noticed how large this file had grown. Forty-five articles in around six months. And this list is not exhaustive.
The majority of the articles I've linked below are from mainstream British news organisations and were published in the last six months. Relatively few were published earlier than this. I should also mention that the majority of articles are exclusively about Britain. I've got another file with article's about the eradication of civil liberties in the US, Europe and elsewhere. For the moment, that's another story.
In the 'war on terror' state power is winning, liberty is losing.
It's nevertheless worth noting the numerous parallels between Britain and the US in regard to not just surveillance measures and the eradication of liberty but also the politics of 'terror'. Both here and in the US the state is using 'terror', by which I mean deliberate fear-mongering, to scare the populous into accepting the erosion of their liberties.
This is far from an original state of affairs. Hitler did exactly the same in the 1930's and for the same reason: to increase the power of the state and to diminish the power and liberty of the people. It is what you would expect in an actual or creeping dictatorship: the creation or exajuration of a common enemy, a mutual national threat (in our case we know that Al Qaeda was a creation of the CIA and we know that the threat posed to us by Al Qaeda has been relentlessly exajurated by government and media alike). The state then claims only it can protect you from this enemy, from this national threat. The cost of state protection is liberty.
The global 'war on terror' is in many ways perceivably indistinguishable from a global war on liberty.
The threat to liberty in this country does not begin and end with the state. Powers are increasingly being centralised beyond national democratic boundaries. Work is underway to create databases and surveillance networks that are Anglo-American and European in nature, not just national. It is also noticable that surveillance measures and policies introduced in the UK are simultaneously turning up in the US and elsewhere around Europe.
[To this end consider the following stories which are detailed in the list below. 1) The US now has the authority to spy on British citizens who are on British soil. 2) The FBI is striving to gain access to British biometric information in its efforts to establish a global database of everyone. 3) The US - a country on the verge of martial law - has told Britain that it can "kidnap" British citizens if they are wanted for crimes within the US. That is, a US Supreme Court ruling now gives the US authorities legal jurisdiction in this country. And we are not talking about extradition here. We are talking about "kidnap".]
Government spying programmes in the UK have reached epidemic proportions. Trends in the US and Europe are following the same trajectory. Everything is increasing. The spying with cameras and listenning devices; the recording of phone calls, emails and internet activity (programmes are actually underway to censor the internet); the introduction of iris and fingerprint recognition technology; increasing DNA and biometric databases; ID Cards; the use of RFID chips in prisoners; mobile phone tracking technology; face recognition technology; smell recognition technology...
"All those who would sacrifice a little liberty for a little security will lose both and deserve neither." (B Franklin)
The articles below should be read as a warning. We are getting ever closer to the point where pretty much everything we do will be monitored in a state surveillance grid from which it will be impossible to escape. This has to stop. The government needs to understand that we are not going to tollerate being spied on and monitored. The laws allowing government to do so must be repealed. The surveillance apperatus, dismantled. There can be no exceptions.
It's a simple choice between liberty or slavery. You choose.
- Smith targets internet extremism: "The internet can't be a no-go area for government."
- Big Brother tapping our phones and emails 1,000 times a day In the last nine months of 2006, various authorities and agencies made "253,500 requests for phone taps, the interception of emails or post."
- CCTV camera microphones to be axed: A somewhat absurd report by the Telegraph stating that camera microphones are to be "outlawed" because they are "highly intrusive". Yet later in the report they say camera microphones will be allowed in "extremely special circumstances," so they're not being 'axed' at all.
- Children should be put on DNA database: This is the view of Britian's most senior forensics expert, Gary Pugh. Behaviour should be analysed to assess if children are "potential offenders". If found guilty - of potential future crimes - their DNA is taken.
- Facebook can ruin your life. So can MySpace, Bebo...: Information you post on scoical sites can be used against you.
- 'Free CCTV film access for security services': They can spy on us at will.
- Insects become fly-on-the-wall spies, with tiny cameras, radio controls and microphones: Moths, beetles, rats, pigeons and sharks have been installed with electronic brain implants so they can be controlled remotely. They can also carry cameras and microphones. No, really.
- Government to begin rolling out ID cards 'by stealth' within a year: 'Workers in sensitive jobs will be required to apply for the compulsory cards in 2009, despite the Home Office postponing the overall scheme until 2012...Some 100,000 British airport staff and others working in sensitive locations are expected to be affected by the move.'
- Government wants personal details of every traveller: 'Phone numbers and credit card data to be collected under expanded EU plan.' Interestingly, the UK is 'the only country of 27 EU member states that wants the system used for "more general public policy purposes" besides fighting terrorism and organised crime.'
- How mobile phones let spies see our every move: 'Government's secret Celldar project will allow surveillance of anyone, at any time, and anywhere there is a phone signal'.
- Met police officers to be 'microchipped' by top brass in Big Brother style tracking: All cops will chipped and tracked.
- MI5 seeks power to trawl records in new terror hunt: 'Millions of commuters could have their private movements around cities secretly monitored under new counter-terrorism powers being sought by the security services.'
- Prisoners 'to be chipped like dogs': Prisoners who once wore trackable bracelets are now to have Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips surgically inserted under their skin. RFID chipping may also be used to track prisoners in jail.
- UK council accused of Big Brother tactics over use of fingerprint technology in schools: A school in Wales is introducing a system whereby children will pay for their lunches with fingerprints rather than money.