Tuesday, October 22, 2013

MP & Minister "debate" aka accuse Guardian of breach of national security

The terms and conditions for embedding video of exchanges in the UK Parliament state that sites that "Lower the dignity of either House or that of individual members" are excluded from posting the recordings. You can judge for yourself whether this site or the particular MP and minister are the ones lowering the dignity of the House or its members in this "debate" on whether Guardian damaged national security.

Just for the record and so no one is in any doubt about my perspective - I believe it was an utter disgrace:

The Guardian bashing starts at 16:30:11. There follows 30 minutes of prepared speeches by Julian Smith MP and security minister James Brokenshire with all efforts to "debate" blocked by the session chairman. This is despite several MPs desperately trying to intervene. David Winnick makes a number of heckling interventions accusing Mr Smith in particular of McCarthyism and of making a "disgraceful speech". Mr Smith responds that Mr Winnick is "a rude man". As soon as Mr Brokenshire finishes his speech the chairman closes the session.

Mr Brokenshire allowed David Davis to make a single intervention to ask if it was so clear that the Guardian has broken the law and endangered national security why has there been no prosecutions? The minister dodged the question saying it was a matter for the police and CPS and continued with his pre-prepared speech.

That a parliamentary debate about one of the most fundamental issues in an information age should be orchestrated in such a manner is contemptible and inexcusable. That most people still won't care is, as John Naughton put it in the Observer this week, is really scary.

Update: the Guardian's own reserved report on Messrs Smith & Brokenshire's performance is now available.
I also recommend Evgeny Morozov's MIT Technology Review essay on how the erosion and neglect of privacy is putting democracy at risk. Extract:
"we can now be pinged whenever we are about to do something stupid, unhealthy, or unsound. We wouldn’t necessarily need to know why the action would be wrong: the system’s algorithms do the moral calculus on their own. Citizens take on the role of information machines that feed the techno-bureaucratic complex with our data. And why wouldn’t we, if we are promised slimmer waistlines, cleaner air, or longer (and safer) lives in return?
This logic of preĆ«mption is not different from that of the NSA in its fight against terror: let’s prevent problems rather than deal with their consequences. Even if we tie the hands of the NSA—by some combination of better oversight, stricter rules on data access, or stronger and friendlier encryption technologies—the data hunger of other state institutions would remain. They will justify it. On issues like obesity or climate change—where the policy makers are quick to add that we are facing a ticking-bomb scenario—they will say a little deficit of democracy can go a long way."

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