Tag Archives: civil liberties

Julian Huppert won’t stand again in Cambridge

Sad news for Julian Huppert’s many fans. He announced on Twitter this weekend that he won’t be standing for Parliament again.

While I understand that he might want his life back after seven years of ceaseless campaigning, I am very sad to see this. Julian was on the same side as me on practically every argument the party has had. It was fantastic to have such a prominent figure in the party campaigning so strongly against replacing Trident.

Julian was such a credible voice on matters of science and technology and riled the less knowledgeable to the extent that they greeted him with derision every time he got up to speak. He played a crucial role in making sure that the party stopped the Tories introducing the Snoopers’ Charter during the coalition years.

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Lib Dems should question detention of political activist under terror laws

The Sunday Herald carries a very disturbing story about the detention by Police Scotland of a political activist, Eleanor Jones, under the same controversial law that was used to detain David Miranda four years ago.

Ms Jones was heading to Germany from Edinburgh Airport in the Summer when she was detained. She had been in the city attending her grandad’s funeral.

She made her way through security and, after walking towards her gate, was met by two plain-clothed police officers.

She recalled: “It was clear they had expected me and came there to get me – they had a copy of my flight bookings.”

Jones said she was detained for several hours – missing her flight – and was “interrogated” about the political views of her and her family.

She said she was quizzed about her opinions on the UK Government, adding: “They asked about Hamburg as well.”

Jones also said the officers asked her to hand over her iPhone and laptop: “They scanned my data to see if there was anything to prove I was a terrorist. They were going through all my information.

“Once they had scanned and copied my phone’s data they gave it back to me. My laptop was posted back to me in Germany.”

While Ms Jones was released without charge, she missed her flight and has still not been reimbursed for the cost of its replacement by Police Scotland.

I think that there are questions here for both the Scottish and UK Governments. No doubt the Scottish Government will deny all knowledge and say that it is an operational matter for the Police because that’s what they always do, but Scottish Lib Dems should press them as they are accountable and it does seem that the Police have acted without any reasonable grounds. 

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Another civil liberties victory for the Scottish Lib Dems

Over the years, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have been responsible for a number of changes in policing and civil liberties policies in Scotland. After we led the opposition, the Scottish Government had to abandon plans for a super ID database that would have made Labour’s look like a champion of civil liberties. Alison McInnes, when she was Justice Spokesperson in the last Parliament, successfully fought both routine arming of the Police and indiscriminate stop and search.

That record continues as the Lib Dems have now ensured that Police Scotland has deleted records of half a billion numberplates captured under numberplate recognition.

From Scotland on Sunday:

The climbdown comes after a Lib Dem Freedom of Information request last year revealed that 852,507,524 number plate records captured by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras across the country were held in a Police Scotland database, with data available from as far back as 2009. Data retention laws require that any such information is only kept for crimes, while all other data must be deleted. The Lib Dems had expressed concern that the retention of so much information relating to innocent individuals was infringing on people’s civil liberties. The number of records deleted was revealed by the police in response to another Freedom of Information request submitted by the Lib Dems. Information provided by the police showed 547,459,904 number plate records had been disposed of.

Scottish Lib Dem Justice Spokesperson Liam McArthur said:

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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.

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Paddick: Spying on encrypted messages would be draconian and ineffective

The Home Secretary Amber Rudd has demanded that security services be given access to users’ encrypted messages on services like WhatsApp. It’s kind of good that we have someone who actually knows what they are talking about, because they have been an Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police, to assess these plans. Brian Paddick is not impressed. He said:

These terrorists want to destroy our freedoms and undermine our democratic society.

By implementing draconian laws that limit our civil liberties, we would playing into their hands.

My understanding is there are ways security services could view the content of suspected terrorists’ encrypted messages and establish who they are communicating with.

Having the power to read everyone’s text messages is neither a proportionate nor an effective response.

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Another civil liberties victory for the Scottish Liberal Democrats

A couple of years ago, the SNP was planning to make this super ID database which made what Labour’s planned ID cards from 2008 look positively timid. They intended allowing 120 public bodies, including the Royal Botanic Gardens and Quality Meat Scotland, access to the NHS Central Register.

Alison McInnes, our then Justice spokesperson was on it straight away, as was Willie Rennie and made such a big fuss that the idea has now firmly been consigned to the dustbin.

Following parliamentary questions from Liam McArthur, our new Justice Spokesperson, the Scottish Government admitted that it had “decided it would not …

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The scariest thing you have never heard of

On 30th December 2016 the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (more commonly known as the Snoopers’ Charter) came into force; suffocating personal privacy and liberty without so much as a whimper from Labour or the SNP.

Under the guise of counter-terrorism, the government has achieved unprecedented surveillance powers over its own citizens and now has the ability to indiscriminately monitor, record, hack and spy on the communications and internet use of everyone in the country.

With the official opposition in disarray and unable (and even in many cases unwilling) to scrutinise the government’s actions and challenge the narrative that state security automatically overrides and supersedes the protection of civil liberties without a second thought, the result has been the slow but steady growth of the state’s industrial-scale espionage on its own citizens and the erosion of the liberty safe-guards put in place by the Liberal Democrats while in government.

While much ink has been spilt on the consequences of this Act – most notably in the LDV articles written by Elliott Motson, Alistair Carmichael and Tim Farron – many consequences have only been seen in isolation. Ironically, legislation designed for a modern digital age becomes the more dangerous when coupled with one of the earliest – A Bill of Attainder.

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