UK Legislators Hoping To Rush Through New 'Snooper's Charter' In The Wake Of The Charlie Hebdo Attacks

from the throwing-paper-on-empty-desks dept

The UK legislators, law enforcement agencies and intelligence services looking to expand the government’s surveillance programs got a big boost from the attack on Charlie Hebdo. This violent attempt to place extremist religious ideology ahead of free speech was twisted by many into justification for expanded government powers. Prime Minister David Cameron even went so far as to suggest that no citizen’s communications should be beyond the government’s reach.

This unexpected boost has propelled a raft of new amendments to the UK’s so-called “Snooper’s Charter,” a once-rejected bill (Communications Data Bill) that would hand over ISP subscriber data to the goverment without a warrant. The amendments try to paper over the obvious flaws in the proposed legislation, limiting the use of this data to law enforcement and intelligence services only. (The previous version allowed several other government agencies to dip their toes into the data stream.)

The privacy protections are still insufficient and the wording is still vague, but those supporting this bill are hoping the recent terrorist attack — combined with a very short time frame — will help them guide this past the opposition, as the EFF points out.

Directly after the Charlie Hebdo massacre, we cautioned the public and politicians to be “wary of any attempt to rush through new surveillance and law enforcement powers.” With depressing predictability, we’ve already seen that happen across the continent. Nowhere, however, has the attempt to bypass democratic debate been more blatant than in the United Kingdom, where a handful of unelected peers has taken the language of an old and discredited Internet surveillance proposal, and attempted to slam it, at outrageously short notice, into the wording of a near-complete counter-terrorism bill.

The result is that, unless you take action to warn Britain’s House of Lords in time for the debate on Monday, there is a good chance that Britain will pass the infamous Snooper’s Charter into law with barely any oversight.

Over the weekend, EFF supporters have taken action, and as the amended snooping bill hits the floor today, hopefully it will be met with increased resistance. But its supporters have done everything they can to prevent any examination of the proposed amendments by dropping the new wording off on Thursday and pushing for a simple “up/down” vote on Monday. This rush job indicates the amended bill won’t stand up to scrutiny — something its supporters are hoping to avoid by giving those voting a brief chance to glance at the new wording before being asked to push the bill forward.

The EFF has provided contact information for UK legislators, noting that certain methods may be more effective given the shortened time frame.

If you’re a British citizen, you need to tell the members of the House of Lords that their right to analyze and discuss this legislation is being bypassed. We’ve set up an action alert for UK Internet users, so that you can send messages to the Twitter accounts of UK peers (you would be surprised how many British Lords use Twitter). You can also write to members of the House of Lords through the free service, but given the time frame, tweeting or phone calls are much better.

Twisting an attack on free speech into a call for more surveillance is most governments’ standard MO. The UK is no exception. But this is never the right response to terrorist activity, especially when the end result will be a chilling effect on free speech — making this bill’s outcome indistinguishable from the attackers’ aims.

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Comments on “UK Legislators Hoping To Rush Through New 'Snooper's Charter' In The Wake Of The Charlie Hebdo Attacks”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Kill it

Any bill or other legislation that has anything added to it within a few days of being voted on needs to be killed off.

Pretty much the only reason to wait until the last minute like that is because the ones slipping in the ‘additions’ know that what they are trying to include would not stand up under scrutiny and proper examination, and are doing everything they can to avoid both.

As such, any bill with ‘last minute changes’ deserves to be killed off, no matter what else is in it, or how long it’s been in discussion. Though this would undoubtedly lead to good bills being shot down, the alternative, that completely terrible changes to the law are made legal due to trickery, would be much worse.

Alternatively, and perhaps better, proposed legislation could be locked down, such that new additions cannot be added after a certain point, or a time limit set, such that the addition of any new text pushes back the time until voting, so that each addition can be properly examined and considered, and not slipped in with those voting unaware of what’s been added.

Or, craziest of all, set it up so that nothing can be added to a piece of legislation being considered before it has been fully, and comprehensively, discussed and examined, with any changes made to an addition requiring the same public discussion and examination. If anything, even so much as a single word, is added or changed without that public scrutiny, then it is immediately, whether or not the legislation has been made into law yet or not, stricken from the text, and considered retroactively null and void.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Kill it

I will not claim to know how their Government voting system works, but someone somewhere got elected right? Example… peeps in the US do not elected SCOTUS benchheads, yet they are appointed and voted on by the people we put into power.

Yea, no… the people are responsible. They always are, and will never ever not be. Life sucks and it is not fair, but when YOUR government acts like a punk its your problem. I see a whole lot of people that B & H about corrupt governments and a lot of people doing nothing other about it.

The blame has always and will ever be at the feet of the people. We just elect people into office so we can have 1 throat to choke. There is a reason we like to install governments because we all know for a fact that mankind is inherently evil and we need to have another necessary evil around to try to control that evil. Funny thing about using evil to keep evil in check tho… catch 22 and all that!

When good men do nothing evil flourishes… and I am sure you can figure out by now, with human history, that good men are damn hard to come by while evil is waiting for you just around the next corner.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Kill it

Citizens have some responsibility for what the government does, but when the government and it’s various agencies(in the US, UK, and elsewhere) intentionally hides it’s actions from the public, and even from other parts of the government supposedly meant to provide oversight, then it’s hardly fair to blame the public for what happens.

First you have to know what’s being done ‘in your name’ before you can even begin to hope to change it, and the various governments are doing everything they can to keep that from happening.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Kill it

First you have to know what’s being done ‘in your name’ before you can even begin to hope to change it,

More important, you need candidates that will listen to the people, and for people to elect them, before things will change. Only voting for major party candidates will not lead to change for the better, only change for the worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Kill it

Not sure if you realized that you actually just made it clear how we can change something without knowing what is done in our name.

We DO know what is being done in our name, its not really a secret. We KNOW that governments take power, we KNOW that the governments is trampling rights, we KNOW that governments are starting wars and training the terrorists, we KNOW they are torturing people. We KNOW, we damn sure KNOW!

Any yet, we still sit here and ACT like just because they “can neither confirm or deny” what they are doing that somehow we don’t know? Really guys? I mean REALLY?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Kill it

Wow, I normally do not see that much shortsighted commentary from you.

It’s not surprising, most people on this mud-ball just do not get it, and they most likely never will. Human kind has a serious limit to thinking beyond what they see in front of their face.

I am sure everyone recognizes that a single individual in a throng of people has no hope of making a change, they will be washed out, but does that all of a sudden make them innocent when they flow with the tide? Yet, they have the opportunity to try to make a change anyways, and they might bring others along with them as well swelling the ranks of decency and goodness.

Sometimes a single sane voice in the darkness can bring enough light to shine like a beacon. However that light can be quickly covered, and usually by those that refuse to see that light.

Am I that light? I hardly doubt it, but I will at least not sit here and try to put the blame where it does not belong and be a part of the crowd that tries to cover that light up. There are a lot of people that just cannot get past their own selfishness to give a flipping damn either. YES, we are ALL to blame, and yes, we do deserve quite a heaping portion of it, denying it is like an alcoholic denying they have a problem.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Kill it

“does that all of a sudden make them innocent when they flow with the tide”

The problem with those blanket “it’s all your fault!” accusations is that they assume that everyone is just flowing along with the tide when that’s not true. Lots of people are working hard to fix things even though it seems a pointless effort (as all attempts at political reform seem right up until they change everything.)

That’s why it’s just a plain insult and doesn’t actually further any discussion or bring light to the subject.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Kill it

O yea… the good old ‘provide and exception’ to dispel the truth gambit.

Hey, I did not get drunk on Tuesday… that proves I am not a drunk!!! I can handle it, I don’t NEED HELP!!!

Do you get it yet? O right, who am I kidding, you won’t and never will. Like Lo-Pan said to Mr Burton, “You are not brought upon this world to get it!

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Kill it

Well, this was a UK-specific case, so they weren’t voted in.

That said, where the lawmakers are voted in, you’ve got two choices. You may get some “also ran” candidates, but if you vote for one of them you’re actually casting a vote for the one of the Big Two that you want LEAST.

I just always vote against the incumbent, regardless of party.

David says:

Funny thing is

Funny thing is that France has metadata retention laws and thorough eavesdropping.

This was, again, not a problem of a lack of access to haystacks.

Warrantless eavesdropping does not work. There has been appallingly little payback regarding the official excuses for all of the systematic violations of privacy.

And just because indiscriminate wiretapping works so awfully bad for preventing terror attacks, we need more of it as soon as possible.

David says:

Re: Re: Funny thing is

Possibly not even that. If you have 100 tracks in the haystack, you don’t act on them but watch them. Because the communication alone does not clue you in to its meaning.

For interpreting the track, you need separate channels, and once your principal expertise is eavesdropping, every problem looks like a haystack.

Now assume you did get some good old information from infiltration and classical focused spy work. You then corroborate with the data from your serial eavesdroppers and find … nothing above a worrisome threshold. Which is not surprising as only stupid attackers would try communicating in manners triggering the thresholds.

Except possibly in emergency situations: stuff like blowing off a particular act in the last minute. Routing around a sudden obstacle for which there was no prepared alternative plan that can simply be communicated by keyword.

But at that point of time, the intelligence will not get to the right place in time to make a difference to the proceeding act/plan. It can make a difference regarding chances of escape, but then escape is not even necessarily a component of terrorist plans.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Funny thing is

They were, as they say, known to the authorities, so there was very good reason to keep a close eye on them. This incident, like the Boston Bombing happened despite them being known as likely dangerous. Therefore one has to presume data got lost in the haystacks, and or between agencies. The spy agencies need to be much more focused on known and suspected terrorists, rather than trawling through every-bodies data, which is guaranteed to swamp them with false positives.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Funny thing is

Perhaps somewhat less funny is the possibility that they had the information, knew the perps and what they were planning, but like Pearl Harbor, they decided that allowing the event to take place would further their own plans better than stopping the event.

This might explain somewhat how the politicians were already prepared with new surveillance legislation in order to ride the public’s emotional wave in the hopes of reduced scrutiny.

I guess I simply no longer believe in coincidence.

DocGerbil100 (profile) says:


There’s a school of thought that seems to think that those who promote and support legislation in this manner are patriots, with motives pure as the driven snow, concerned only with keeping the nation and its people safe from violent attack.

It’s absolute claptrap.

People who do things like this, who go out of their way to avoid not only public scrutiny, but the proper analysis of even our democratically-elected representatives in government, are nasty, sleazy, fraudulent little maggots who aren’t trustworthy enough to run the cheese counter at Tescos without dipping their fingers in the till, much less any position of civic responsibility.

I don’t know who did this – reporters never seem to want to specify who’s responsible – but whoever they are, I want to see them unemployed and barred from ever holding any form of public office again.

Whatever their motives, they clearly have nothing to do with patriotism or national security or the public good and everything to do with greed and profit at the expense of everyone else.

They deserve only the dole queue and I want them gone.

cypherspace (profile) says:

Re: Patriotism

There’s a school of thought that seems to think that those who promote and support legislation in this manner are patriots, with motives pure as the driven snow, concerned only with keeping the nation and its people safe from violent attack

I’ve found that the same group of people who ascribe to this school of thought also reflexively call any expansions of government policy they don’t like as being ‘nanny state’ or similar. Yet the surveillance state is the ultimate ‘nanny state’ – and an abusive one, to [jack]boot!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Patriotism

Which version of a patriot do you think we should be?

The one from old that thought slavery was okay?
The one where slavery was abolished but treating minorities like second class citizens?
Or the one where citizens have their rights removed?
Or the one where we sterilized the genetically malformed?

You seem to have no trouble getting on my case when I use a general term but yet, here you are doing it too!

The best definition of a Patriot is dependent upon the found principal or their Nation.

For the United States, a Patriot is one that espouses these 3 principles “God, Liberty, & Unity” which are supported by the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. I do not see any of those 3 anywhere in the US currently.

For Russia, it is something else, for China another, and for Japan, and UK, something different there too.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Patriotism

Hmm, I wasn’t even remotely “getting on your case”, so I suspect that you got a message other than the one I was trying to convey.

None of those “versions of patriot” stances are patriotic stances in my opinion, by the way. To be patriotic means to support and advance the principles on which our society is based. It is true that not everyone agrees on every point of what those principles actually are and therefore not everyone has the same definition of what being patriotic means.

At its core, being patriotic means to actively work to make the nation “more perfect” and to be vocal about perceived imperfections. In that sense, my comment wasn’t exactly right. Instead, my comment was expressing my own opinion about a certain facet of patriotism.

DocGerbil100 (profile) says:

Re: Patriotism

According to news reports, the amendments have now been withdrawn by the Lords responsible because the government proper has its own redrafted version to release at a later time.

As if they were reading TechDirt comments, the BBC has helpfully mentioned the names of the Lords responsible: Lords King, Blair (not the famous one), Carlile and West.

What a shower of arseholes. There’s nothing to be done about them now, as the matter is closed for the moment.

We watch and wait.

Anonymous Coward says:

The Snooper’s Charter effects US citizens too. I just finished watching CitizenFour. In the movie, Ed Snowden tells Laura Poitras that the NSA loves querying the UK’s Tempora spying database. He said GCHQ lets the NSA query the Tempora database all day long without a warrant. Presumably the NSA doesn’t need a warrant to query US citizen information stored in Tempora, because it’s operated by GCHQ and is located on foreign soil.

I believe this is known as a backdoor search. Otherwise known as a legislative loophole. I’m sure the same holds true for all the Five-Eye nations. It’s how they get around each others domestic laws.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, that’s one of the main purposes behind the whole ‘Five Eyes’ thing.

Each country spies on the others, and then freely allows the other countries to have access to what they gathered, allowing the various agencies to completely side-step and ignore the laws that prohibit them from spying on the citizens in their own country.

Ninja (profile) says:

Twisting an attack on free speech into a call for more surveillance is most governments’ standard MO. The UK is no exception.

The UK spearheads this right behind the US.

But this is never the right response to terrorist activity, especially when the end result will be a chilling effect on free speech — making this bill’s outcome indistinguishable from the attackers’ aims.

The end result is the desired one. Terrorism is just the scapegoat used to numb the citizens while their rights are extracted. Think anesthesia. The terrorists aren’t winning, they are just tools.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’ve already told my MP not to vote for this bullshit. I would be willing to do this….provided that I could access any non-financial data and the same applied to me. And by that, I mean literally anything our PM had done in his life.

But that won’t happen so I’ve notified my MP that, should he vote for this, I will do my utmost to get him out, in spite of his relatively good record on other things I support.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I do not ask forgiveness for my frustration, my anger, my point, they are a reaction to an action, where without that action there would not be the reaction……i ask forgiveness for not being capable enough in that time to not put a bad light to the good natured peacefull people of the global community, from you i ask for forgiveness, as much as your willing to give………and thankyou, from you i think you have blessed me with yours, and i feel humbled, and your point, i have nothing more to say then that i 100% agree, thankyou my friend

My fire is still their, but i want to do right by earth, peace is what we need, no tmindless violence, from ANY extreme, and right now, i fear the extremes of our respective governments so much more then the folks were being told to hate

Anonymous Coward says:

Cameron and co haven’t got the slightest interest in preventing or stopping terrorism for the simple reason he cant! it was the same with the internet blocking, using the excuse of preventing children from being groomed and used by pedophile gangs! he wasn’t and still isn’t interested in them! his whole aim is to be able to know what every ordinary person is doing, not just in the UK but in as many other countries as possible! he knows full well that no one in a terrorist organisation is going to use conventional and easy ways of communicating, but he can use the reasons to be able to stop ordinary people from marching, demonstrating rioting over laws brought in that do nothing except remove freedom of speech, freedom in general and privacy! he’s got the hump because people everywhere know what a two-faced lying asshole he is, worse than just the politician side of things! when the Labour was in control of the last government, the Tories rejected a call for everyone to have photo ID, now he and his ilk and doing what is 20 times worse! i sincerely hope he lives to regret what he’s doing because he has actually initiated terrorism in the UK under the name of GOVERNMENT’ how the hell he can look anyone in the eye and say the UK is still the pinnacle of freedom, condemn countries like China and Iran after these moves is not just taking the piss, it’s disgraceful behaviour from a person to whom was entrusted the well being of a FREE UK and all who live there!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

To keep, then solidify control…….give themselves the illegal authority to
better control any who threaten their rule, when all they had to do was be honest, open, good, understanding, listeners and enlightened in what freedom actually is, a person of conviction, unafraid to stand up and shout to the rooftops of those misusing their positions, not trigger violent, peacefull, kind, an over abundance of empathy for ALL life and not just some………..i guess those things are too difficult for our countries representatives, so i gues the tyrant road, the easier road it seems, it is

Western tyrants

Anonymous Coward says:

Add this to the license plate scanner, and you dont have to worry that at the very least, if your a driver, they have to ask you, to acertain your identity before they violate your privacy

Hell, if they have a working, and are given the “authority” to keep improving their facial recognition programs, they dont even have at least come up to you, to acertain your identity, analyze the face, then show evry illegally obtained information on the NON suspect, information they deem “legal” to obtain today, and very importantly, TOMORROW……… firgive my math skills, but does that mean that list of what their “legally” allowed to “obtain”, im sorry, does that mean that list is gonna get …smaller?…… its gonna get ever increasing BIGGER………do they seem to be the type to restrain themselves VOLUNTARILY………how big is that list gonna get

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

In the meantime the infrastructure gets built, people who use it get accustomed to this thing and get lax, and we have to hope that one of the things they dont plan for is a contingincy plan on being ordered to shut down/ or us shutting them down, moving the surveilance and keep secretly surveiling the populace, taking the most precautions at this time not to tip anyone off…….either their found out, or they get so much practice, they know how to use this unbalance of power to their menacing advantage, and no one the wiser for longer then that 50 years

Hopefully that wont happen, for the sake of those that come after

Anonymous Coward says:

Who keeps saying citizens are responsible for who they vote into office? What a bunch of nonsense! I voted for Candidate Obama. He promised hope, change, transparency, and claimed to be a constitutional scholar.

I ended up getting President Obama. Little hope, no noticeable change, far less transparency, and the constitution put on a skewer and held of a fire pit while yelling, “The terrorist made me do it!”

How is that my fault? I could I know I was being lied to? Am I supposed to be a mind reader? What are we supposed to do when political candidates tell us one thing on the campaign trail, then turn around and do the exact opposite of what they said, once elected to office?

Please answer that question.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

How is that my fault? I(=how) could I know I was being lied to? Am I supposed to be a mind reader?

Actually, I have one sure fire method of always being able to tell when a politician is lying.

It works every time, without fail.

Watch their mouths.

If their lips are moving and there is noise coming out, they are lying, guaranteed.

Have you never heard the old wives truthsay?:

Dead politicians tell no lies.

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