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Tory Surveillance Plans Threaten Future Repression

Big Society is Watching You!

Kady Tait

After the budget, the petrol chaos and the pasty tax, the Tories’ latest attack comes in the form of wide-ranging powers to snoop on our online communications.


A new proposal expected to be outlined in the Queen’s speech in May would allow the secret services to have ‘on demand’ access to online traffic in real time.


Officials say that the government want to bring social networking sites such as twitter and facebook into line with existing legislation which covers surveillance of phone calls – but Liberal Democrats and civil servants fear the the planned powers would be much more extensive.


The government claim it will only be used to solve ‘crime’ and not to carry out surveillance on the general population. However many security analysts have argued that the technology would allow access far beyond the current limits of user, time and location details.


Civil rights activists fear that the extensive powers would be abused by the security services and police.


No internet businesses were willing to mount a public criticism of the coalition’s controversial plans on Monday, but many privately raised fears over the power of authorities to see who is contacting whom online in real time.


It isn’t just the public that are stirring up an opposition to these new plans, but Senior Liberal Democrat MPs are also threatening to rebel against these plans.


They question whether the new legislation means the government’s interception agency, GCHQ, could access the content of communications without a warrant. It still remains unclear whether a warrant will be necessary.


The Lib Dems say the plans are a complete contradiction to their core beliefs and could put extreme pressure on the coalition as they will refuse to back down. Clegg defended the plans saying “[civil liberties] is something I acutally really care about” … unlike the NHS then?


Like all measures to boost the powers of police and secretive, unaccountable services, the proposals are given the ‘tough on crime’ gloss. But the increasing shift towards the militarisation of Britain’s domestic security should worry all of us.


Plans to securitize the internet come just months after the FBI launched a wave of international arrests to shut down websites breaching US copyright laws. The Stop Online Piracy Act which motivated these arrests was rejected by Congress after an innovative ‘blackout’ protest by internet giants like Google and Wikipedia.


They also come in the context of spiralling spending by the government on security for the London Olympics. The total cost, which has ballooned from the estimated £2.4 billion to over £12 billion, has been grossly inflated by the entry of the domestic and international security industries.


These companies specialise in arming government and private security services with the latest military-grade technology – fresh from the testing-grounds of Afghanistan and Colombia. With 10,000 private security guards, 13,500 soldiers and 500 FBI agents, the Olympics will be as much about demonstrating the power of the state’s security infrastructure as it is about the sports.


Once paid for, it’s hard to imagine these contracts will simply disappear after the events. In reality, the government is using taxpayers cash to fund a massive increase in the militarisation of the surveillance state, under the cover of the ‘permanent terrorist threat’ – provoked by the wars in the Middle East.


Measures to control the internet will shift the balance of power firmly in favour of the state and its security apparatus.


With the Tories prepared to mobilise the army to break strikes, the use of courts to hand down punitive sentences and the use of a violent, unaccountable police force, it’s becoming clearer than ever that we need to think seriously about taking steps to defend ourselves.


From students to trade unionists, those fighting the cuts have felt the weight of police and government repression. By means legal and illegal, the coalition is determined to bulldoze all opposition.


We cannot stand by and allow the millionaires in Parliament to make us pay for a security machine designed purely to keep them safe.


Resisting and reversing the entrenchment of the Big Brother state means mobilising against them, but also creating the democratic forms of organisation necessary to protect our campaigns, unions and communities from attack.

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