Friday, March 14, 2014

MP note on Don't Spy on US

My MP, Nicola Blackwood, tells me she has written to William Hague to draw his attention to the Don't Spy on Us campaign.
"Dear Mr Corrigan,

Many thanks for your email about the ‘Don’t Spy on Us’ campaign. I apologise for the delay in my response.

I certainly appreciate that is an issue you feel strongly about, and I have taken the time to read your submission to the Intelligence and Security Committee’s inquiry. I understand your position that there is no balance to be struck between the individual right to privacy and the collective right to security, as privacy and security are not opposites. As discussed in our previous correspondence, I do firmly believe that our intelligence agencies do vital work in tackling terrorism and international crime.

The various levels of checks and balances that exist to hold our security services to account cannot be overstated, and as previously discussed these include oversight mechanisms by  Secretaries of State, the Interception of Communications Commissioner and the Intelligence Services Commissioner, and through Parliament via the Intelligence and Security Committee. One further level of accountability here that I have not discussed with you previously and I feel is worth noting here, is the strict operation of GCHQ within the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). The Office of Surveillance Commissioners analyse GCHQ’s activity in detail, and also some of the codes of practices that the agencies have in place to ensure their adherence to RIPA.

I know that you have previously been unsatisfied with the response you have received from the Minister on this issue, but I have written to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Rt Hon William Hague MP, to discuss this specific campaign and to ask for a response to the concerns you have raised below. I shall of course pass any response I receive on to you in the usual way.

I will certainly keep your views on this subject in mind when considering the issue again in the future, and of course I intend to follow any further developments on this carefully. I also look forward to further announcements on the progress of the Committee’s inquiry into privacy and security, I understand the next stage will be the provision of oral evidence.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me on this.

Kind regards
 I've replied.

Thanks for getting back to me and for taking the time to read my response to the ISC.

As before, I don’t dispute that our intelligence agencies do vital work in tackling terrorism and international crime. However, they will do that work more effectively under a targeted data preservation regime rather than a suspicionless mass surveillance regime. Rather ironically this is one area where government ministers’ mantra of getting more from less actually applies.

We do differ in our relative positions on the checks and balances on the security services. If these had been effective as you have come to believe we would not have evolved the mass surveillance measures now operated by the security and intelligence services. As for RIPA, it’s widely accepted now on all sides to be out of date. You can drive a coach and horses through the loopholes in the RIPA regulations and the intelligence services basically do.

Finally for now, thanks for taking the time to write to William Hague about the Don’t Spy on Us campaign.


On the week of the World Wide Web's 25th anniversary, we've learned  How the NSA Plans to Infect “Millions” of Computers with Malware. A couple of weeks ago it was revealed that GCHQ have been collecting millions of Yahoo webcam images via their OpticNerve system.

The mass surveillance stories flowing from the Snowden revelations keep coming. These are fundamentally, as Cory Doctorow put it so eloquently in his Guardian article earlier this week, matters of public health and societal wellbeing because so much of what we do these days involves the internet. 

The Don't Spy on Us campaign believe -
"Our campaigning is having an impact. The main political parties are edging towards reform of surveillance laws. We can't take anything for granted though. We have to keep pressing for change."
I would add that we need to keep pressing for public understanding and engagement. Concern about mass surveillance is still very much a minority sport in the UK.

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