Tag Archives: civil liberties

LibLink: Lord Ken MacDonald: How the DRIP Bill will help us convict criminals

A telephoneThe Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill cleared its Commons stages last night after a long debate which saw Julian Huppert speak at every stage and in great detail. He was pretty much doing the job of a Minister and very clearly and rationally put the case for the Bill, at all times stating his own personal commitment to civil liberties.

Lord Ken MacDonald, who has been pretty sound on things like secret courts, the statelessness provisions in the Immigration Bill and the cuts to Legal Aid, has written an article …

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Opinion: Just remember we’re all human

antony Gormley statue by kungfugenWhen young adults, who may even at the time have been members of prestigious universities and their more infamous clubs, became intoxicated and indulged in aggressive or loud and disturbing speech, violent actions or were simply careless and destructive, did we automatically assume that when they matured they would behave that way for the rest of their lives? We did not. Indeed some may still be thought fit to take part in the running of our country.

When young adults or older youths indulge in isolated incidents of unwise pyromania, do we say that they will be pyromaniacs for life? We do not, and in general they are not.

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Opinion: DRIP under the microscope – should Liberal Democrats support this Bill?

Samsung Galaxy Note 3Unusually for me, I’m starting writing this piece without knowing what conclusion I’ll come to by the end of it. Normally it’s straight forward enough to marshal evidence, decide on view and then write it up (unless the curse of writers’ block strikes of course).

But the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) takes the usual perils of journalism turning most stories into a simple good versus bad dynamic, throws in the paucity of expert mainstream coverage of many technical issues and adds a dash of juggling different uncertainties.

Certainly if …

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Lord Brian Paddick writes: The difficult balancing act between privacy and security

Data storm byt Dave HerholzAs a Liberal former police officer I am acutely aware of the difficult balancing act the government has to perform between keeping us safe and keeping our personal data safe. At the same time I see both the anxiety that those concerned with civil liberties have over the new legislation and the Government’s need to act to prevent a valuable crime detection tool slipping from our grasp.

So why the need and why the rush?

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LibLink: Norman Baker: Security and freedom in the internet age

Samsung Galaxy Note 3Norman Baker wrote an article for the party website which I thought you might find useful because it deals with some of the points raised in the questions to my mammoth post yesterday.  I must warn you, though, that there are some examples of apostrophe abuse in it, so steel yourselves.

Many, if not most, people are concerned about the rush to get this legislation through in just two days. Norman gives his explanation of why he thinks it’s necessary:

No government introduces fast track legislation lightly, but the challenge

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Baroness Sarah Ludford writes…How not to use Brussels for policy laundering

Racks line photo by Tristan SchmurrThe new Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) Bill responds to the European Court of Justice annulment of the 2006 EU Data Retention Directive.

The government asserts that the DRIP Bill only confirms existing law as it is broadly the same content as the 2009 regulations implementing the EU Directive. But as that Directive has been swept away, DRIP provides a new legal basis, and this will in fact be the first time that legislation to regulate retention of phone, email and internet records has been generated …

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Opinion: State security measures can protect liberty not just threaten it

Benjamin Franklin, Old Town Hall, Boston (493550)It is an unwritten law of Lib Dem debates on security issues that before long someone will quote Benjamin Franklin that ‘Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.’

I have always been intrigued by the origins of this comment, primarily because taken on its own and literally, it is hyperbolic nonsense. Almost any form of government involves some tension between liberty and security. The state provides defence and police forces, but to do so levies taxes and circumscribes individuals’ freedom to use force to defend themselves.

There seems to be very little on the web about what Franklin actually meant. But an academic paper by Benjamin Wittes of Brookings Institute unsurprisingly reveals that Franklin’s aphorism was intended in a very different sense from that in which it is now so often quoted.

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Opinion: We should be ashamed of these emergency surveillance powers

Fingers typing at keyboardIn April the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK’s regime of mass data retention was incompatible with the treaty on fundamental rights, particularly with article 8 that stipulates the right to private and family life, right to protection of personal data and the right to freedom of expression. This was a major victory for many Liberals, civil liberties advocates and privacy campaigners who have fought against the widespread blanket retention of innocent and law-abiding citizen’s data.

The ruling set out 10 principles that new legislation should adhere …

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats should take a stand on state surveillance powers

ServerThe Coalition Government has announced it is rushing through emergency legislation underpinning the state’s right to keep personal data held by internet and phone companies. This is in reaction to the ruling by the European Court of Justice that at an EU directive on privacy retention had over-reached its powers and amounted to an invasion of privacy.

If the European Court of Justice says existing state surveillance powers are unlawful then we should not re-introduce them with no questions asked. Let’s have the debate as to whether the state should have these powers …

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UPDATED: (Not) The Snoopers’ Charter: Where we are, how we got here, what we should look for and what should happen next

The Houses Of ParliamentI’m feeling slightly nervous this morning. As I was going to bed last night, news came through that apparently a deal had been struck to introduce emergency legislation on communications data. The Guardian has the details.

The government will announce that it is rushing through emergency legislation underpinning the state’s right to keep personal data held by internet and phone companies.

Labour is expected to accept the bill on the basis that it will simply restore what the government believed to be the law before the European Court of Justice ruled in April that an EU directive on privacy retention had over-reached its powers and amounted to an invasion of privacy.

But, as part of the deal, the opposition has won agreement that ministers will launch a review of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act passed in 2000. The act is seen as the source of excessive surveillance by the security services.

Hang on, what was that last sentence again? “The opposition has won agreement that Ministers will launch a review of RIPA.” Let’s just remind ourselves who was in Government when RIPA was passed? Ah yes, that authoritarian, illiberal Labour government that thought it was ok to lock people up for 90 days without charge.  Our MPs have been going on about reviewing RIPA since it was passed. It’s really important that Labour don’t get to claim that ground.

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Call Clegg 26 June: Tories can talk all they like about snoopers’ charter, it won’t happen as long as I’m in government

call clegg Clegg started in robust mood this morning, vowing that Theresa May will not get her way on increased surveillance powers while he’s in Government. He’s done well to stand firm against this for more than two years now. It’s certainly true that he had to be persuaded into this robust stance initially, but it’s to his credit that he listened to the points made to his office by a group of angry bloggers in April 2012 and has held firm ever since.

There seemed to be a clear theme throughout the half hour of Liberal Democrats standing up for people in the face of abuse of power by both state and private companies. Abuse of zero hours contracts is to end thanks to Liberal Democrats and the exorbitant interest rates charged by payday lenders is to be capped, among a whole raft of regulations brought in by Liberal Democrat minister Jo Swinson.

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LibLink: Robin Meltzer: Water cannon must not be allowed on the streets of London

License details  Released under the GNU Free Documentation License. (Original text : de:GNU-FDL)View moreNick Clegg made clear his opposition to the use of water cannon in London the other day on Call Clegg. He said:

Personally I think it rubs up against the long tradition of policing by consent on London’s streets. It creates an embattled sense of how police work and I don’t think it is in keeping with our long tradition.

Now Richmond Park’s Liberal Democrat candidate Robin Meltzer has added his voice to the

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Opinion: Don’t Spy On Us — a Lib Dem call to action

GCHQ Building at Cheltenham, GloucestershireLast weekend the Don’t Spy On Us coalition (a grouping comprising the Open Rights Group, Big Brother Watch, English PEN, Liberty, Article 19 and Privacy International) held a day of action seeking to lay practical groundwork for a stronger international movement to protect digital civil liberties. Jenny Woods, one of our party’s most active campaigners in this area, and I attended the afternoon, which had some important take-away messages for the Lib Dems.

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The Independent View: Positively fighting back online

Circuit Bending Orchestra: Lara Grant at Diana Eng's Fairytale FWith the seemingly endless news of global and domestic extremism -  whether about the 250 girls kidnapped in Nigeria, the 500 Britons reportedly waging jihad in Syria, or the worrying allegations made against several Birmingham schools – it is rare that a report devoted to countering extremism should fill us with positivity. However, research released last week by Quilliam about the state of online extremism should encourage us all, not …

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Alison McInnes MSP writes…The Scottish Justice Secretary is wrong to say stop and search is an operational matter

Police stop and search1st April 2014 marked the 1st anniversary of Police Scotland, a single national police force that replaced our 8 regional forces.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats were the only group in the Scottish Parliament to oppose the national force from the outset.

One of the key strengths of Scotland’s policing up until then had been its local foundations.  Funded by local councils, managed by local officers and officials, accountable to locally elected representatives, responsive to local needs.

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Stop and search nonchalance from Justice Secretary shows why Scotland needs the Liberal Democrats

Police BrutalityIn January, I wrote about the worryingly high police stop and search figures in Scotland, which is proportionately much higher than in England includes over 500 children under 10 years old.

Now it transpires that these figures may not be accurate. And may be made up. According to the Edinburgh Evening News:

Official figures show a huge number of incidents where stop-and-search powers have been used since the creation of a single police force. Critics claim officers are under pressure because the number of stop-searches has been made a “key

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Julian Huppert MP writes…Nick Clegg has put Liberal Democrats far ahead of other parties on security and privacy

This morning was a good day for Liberal Democrats. I and many others went to RUSI, the Royal United Services Institute to hear Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of our party, deliver a speech on security and privacy in the internet age.

He sent out a clear and strong message: the legal framework for the UK’s intelligence agencies and intelligence oversight structure is in desperate need of an overhaul, and this must start with an independent review, which he has commissioned.

His wider ambitions are set out in a piece for the Guardian today. The Tories are blocking changes …

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Opinion: Do people not care about civil liberties?

It is inevitable that amongst the images of more than 1.8 million Yahoo! users hoovered up by GCHQ there are photos of children, and surely – given the scale of it – of children in their bedrooms. Yet where is the outcry?This latest discovery from the Snowden files is not simply the next chapter in the story of how every aspect of our online lives has been monitored over recent years. It also blows apart the standard defence used so far that only metadata – who called who when, but not the content – has been gathered up and …

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Do we need to start educating Scotland’s primary school children about their rights?

Shocking figures show that police in Scotland have stopped and searched 750,000 people in the last year. The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research report also found that 500 children under 10 were stopped and searched in 2010 alone.  This has caused concern from human rights and children’s organisations.

Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner, Tam Baillie, writing in the Herald said:

On any reading, it is clear that young people are being targeted and there will be times when their rights are being infringed.

In a the country that claims to be committed to children’s rights and wants to be the best

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Guy Verhofstadt writes… 2014 European elections and the challenge for Liberals

This year’s European elections are bound to be a tough fight. Eurosceptics such as UKIP and the French National Front are determined to turn back the clock and tear down the internal market, stoking xenophobia and putting millions of jobs at risk. In the UK context, the Conservatives appear to want to throw in the towel and leave the EU, whilst Labour are still sitting uncomfortably on the fence. Only Lib Dems are clear where they stand as the party of In.

Being the main pro-European party, across the EU, though does not mean defending the status quo. As Liberals we …

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Tim Farron MP writes: Liberal Democrats must stand up against blanket internet surveillance

I regularly get asked “who are your Liberal Heroes?” and I’ll reel off a list of people like Beveridge, Penhaligon and Paddy Ashdown and usually the person who has asked the question nods and smiles. Then I will tell them that the person I most admire is Harry Willcock. That’s typically met with a look of bemusement! I got similar looks of bewilderment when I cited Harry in 2005 in one of my first speeches in the House of Commons when I opposed Labours ID cards bill…

But Harry is at the top of my list because he was the Liberal that helped stop ID Cards in …

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LibLink: Tim Farron – Only a fool could trust in the ‘oversight’ provided by the intelligence committee

Over on Politics.co.uk party president Tim Farron has a piece on the ramifications of the story that has dominated much of the past year: the extent of the powers held by states to snoop on our communications. Tim sets out some thoughts about the oversight of these systems, which he thinks are presently inadequate.

Here’s an excerpt:

Our democratic process is built upon a system of checks and balances. Those who exercise power over the individual are held to account by others. For all the faults of the Westminster bubble (and there are many), the quiet revolution in the way select committees

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Norman Baker writes… “We’re not turning into authoritarians!”

Today the Independent published a story about the Coalition Government’s plans to reform anti-social behaviour legislation.  I know that many Lib Dems may well be concerned by the story. Indeed, if it were true I would be worried! But it is not. It is utter nonsense to suggest we are targeting skateboarders, ramblers, youngsters playing in their local park, or anyone else going about their daily lives perfectly reasonably.

In reality the new anti-social behaviour powers are designed to protect such activities. Rather, the power is designed to stop problem drinking, aggressive begging, dog fouling – any behaviour that spoils the …

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Huppert warns against “sleepwalking into a surveillance society”

huppert_caption compIt’s become a truth universally acknowledged in the Liberal Democrats that wherever there is a threat to our freedoms, Julian Huppert will be there trying to thwart it, whether that’s convenient for the party leadership or not.  Most of the time, it has to be said, it is convenient for the leadership, but it’s worth remembering that if it hadn’t been for the combination of him and some angry bloggers, we might be in a world where the Communications Data Act of 2012 had been passed.

And so it was on …

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The lessons we must learn for Nick Clegg’s next holiday

Nick Clegg’s two spells of holiday this Summer have been characterised by the Home Office in particular getting above itself in his absence. Both the party and Nick’s Special Advisers should have learned from the furore over the “Go home” poster vans. The Home Office pulled a fast one by implementing this pilot without telling the Liberal Democrats. The response from the Party was the right one – that they were “disproportionate, distasteful and ineffective” and Vince Cable saying a few days later that they were stupid and offensive. The problem was that the response came out by …

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Liblink: Nick Clegg “I share the concerns about David Miranda’s detention”

You can’t accuse Nick Clegg of hiding away. Now that he’s returned from holiday, his first direct public comment on the Miranda detention and Guardian files controversy comes in a column in that paper.

First, where the Liberal Democrats are coming from:

Liberal Democrats believe government must tread the fine line between liberty and security very carefully, and are not easily persuaded by a government minister asserting: “Just trust me.” So now that we are in government, we have been vigilant in ensuring the right decisions are made: scrutinising and challenging the assumptions of security experts, even as we give them our

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David Miranda’s detention – what do the public think?

Polling firm YouGov has surveyed the British public on their attitudes to this week’s big news story: the detention of David Miranda, partner of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who’s worked with Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence officer on whistleblowing / leaking details of the the surveillance activities of the US and British intelligence agencies.

‘Public divided’ is how YouGov’s summarised it, pretty fairly. This in itself is surprising: generally the public favours ‘national security’ over ‘individual liberty’ when push comes to shove. This suggests the police’s actions, possibly in themselves unlawful, have worried more than just the usual civil …

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Sarah Ludford MEP writes…Conference must debate Miranda detention

I was not initially planning to get particularly involved on the David Miranda Schedule 7 issue except as a concerned, nay horrified, spectator. After all, I’m an MEP not an MP nor (at present) able to be active as a peer, and I have plenty on my plate in Brussels.

But from early Monday morning, as I read the admirably vigorous response from the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation David Anderson QC – and the immediate if deeply hypocritical reaction from Yvette Cooper – I did start to wonder who from the party was going to be vocal. So I tweeted …

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Some more information on the reasoning behind Nick Clegg’s approval of the destruction of the Guardian’s information

I think it’s been quite clear, both in the comments to our earlier post giving Nick’s views on the Miranda/Guardian case that people were still unhappy and many felt, including me, that they didn’t really understand why he decided to approve the request to the Guardian to destroy the data that they held. Elsewhere in the Liberal Democrat blogosphere, people like Neil Monnery and Andrew Brown have expressed their concern about Nick’s actions.

This has not gone unnoticed by the party’s spokespeople. They’ve noticed that people have been wondering why they had a quiet word with the Guardian rather than …

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Nick Clegg’s office speaks out on Miranda detention and destruction of Guardian data

nick clegg by paul walterA spokesperson for Nick Clegg has released the following statement to the press:

We understand the concerns about recent events, particularly around issues of freedom of the press and civil liberties. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation is already looking into the circumstances around the detention of David Miranda and we will wait to see his findings.

On the specific issue of records held by the Guardian, the Deputy Prime Minister thought it was reasonable for the Cabinet Secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent

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