LibLink: Tom Brake: The Westminster Attack was an assault on democracy, let it not be an assault on freedom too

Tom Brake wrote for The House magazine about the threats to civil liberties in the wake of the Westminster attacks. He said that the appropriate response to the horror was:

What the attacker sought to do in his rampage was to instil fear and division, erode our democracy, shake confidence in our institutions and rupture our way of life. Our response must be more unity, more democracy, and steadfast humanity in the face of evil. We must always counter hate with love. We will remain open, tolerant and united.

The article was written before Amber Rudd effectively conceded that she had been talking rubbish about encryption, but he highlighted why that was a bad idea and went on to talk about how the sweeping powers the Government had given itself could be absued in the wrong hands:

The bigger issue, of course, is this will not be effective. The 2015 Paris attacks were planned on non-encrypted burner phones, and the attackers were known to the authorities. The issue was the lack of police resources to track potential criminals, not the lack of access to encrypted messages. And drowning our intelligence services in a mountain of irrelevant data is unlikely to help, as the Danes recently discovered.

The Snooper’s Charter was a startling overreach when it was voted through last year, and this would be a horrifying extension of it. Few of us would give the government a key to our house to look through our drawers without a court warrant, and we must be careful to treat our online belongings with the same respect.

Tools which are originally well intentioned can, with a simple change of government, be appropriated as tools to silence free speech, erode our privacy and curtail our freedoms. What was once about protecting us from terrorism or children from abuse, can easily become about tracking those who dissent from government opinion or blocking access to certain media outlets.

If this sounds Orwellian, it should. That is the reality of the slippery slope the government is wilfully guiding us down.

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4 Comments

  • I agree with this. The problem is that governments sometimes find snooping on their own citizens irresistible and not just for combating real threats. I think the atmosphere of secrecy and overreach is one of the reason people have lost some trust in politicians and the levers of power.

  • I agree too…….

    Everyone needs to remember that while terrorism is repeatedly quoted as the reason to justify excessive and intrusive surveillance, the Snoopers Charter potentially provides access to your private communications and data to huge swathes of national and local Government (and not necessarily with a warrant).

    It’s not just for the police and security services, and not just for “terrorism”.

  • Nonconformistradical 6th Apr '17 - 10:46am

    “And drowning our intelligence services in a mountain of irrelevant data is unlikely to help, as the Danes recently discovered.”

    What’s this about please?

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