Snooper's Charter May Not 'Increase' Surveillance… But Tries To Legalize Over A Decade Of Secret, Illegal Mass Surveillance

from the oh,-look-at-that dept

Earlier this week, we wrote about the UK’s release of its new Snooper’s Charter bill, where we noted that the government spin on it was fairly dizzying. I noted at the time that while the government kept insisting that it wasn’t adding a requirement to backdoor encryption, that was misleading because the text of the bill indicated the government believed such a mandate already existed. And that’s only the least of it. The bill and the discussion around it simply confirmed that the UK government engaged in mass surveillance for many, many years, and until now only a “tiny handful” of government ministers even knew about it.

That’s kind of astounding.

And, amazingly, the government is using this fact to argue that the new bill is a good thing because it actually “limits and restricts” activity that it secretly engaged in for years and years. Everyone feared the “new” powers in the bill. And the astounding thing is that the government is now twisting this to quietly reveal that it secretly and illegally spied on people for years.

The government finally admitted on Wednesday that the mass surveillance of British citizens began in 2001 after 9/11 and was stepped up in 2005, using powers under national security directions largely hidden in the 1984 Telecommunications Act.

It is not known if government law officers sanctioned the use of the act in this way, but it appears the intelligence and security committee responsible for parliamentary oversight was not informed, adding to the impression of a so-called deep state operating outside the scrutiny of parliament.

It seems like it took a day or two for people to realize all of this, as everyone was so focused on the “new” powers they expected to be in the bill. It took everyone by surprise to find out that the bill was more about trying to “legitimize” illegal mass surveillance that had been going on without any oversight for over a decade.

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Comments on “Snooper's Charter May Not 'Increase' Surveillance… But Tries To Legalize Over A Decade Of Secret, Illegal Mass Surveillance”

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10 Comments
Mat (profile) says:

Well...

Technically, they are debating the legality of the past actions in the UK (there is some room to believe a former very broadly worded disaster is involved).

On the flip side, finding out they were doing all this cloak and dagger spying is quite a wake up call, no? It is rather telling they went to such lengths to obscure their actions because they knew there would be backlash, legal loopholes or not.

Also, as a curiosity, if all encryption for communications by telecoms (including ISPs I assume) done by businesses located in the UK have to be decryptable on warrant, what does this do to things like, say, Amazon.uk or any banking website using SSL?

Zero says:

“It is not known if government law officers sanctioned the use of the act in this way, but it appears the intelligence and security committee responsible for parliamentary oversight was not informed, adding to the impression of a so-called deep state operating outside the scrutiny of parliament.”

Sounds like another example of an exercise in plausible deniability

Anonymous Coward says:

“… until now only a “tiny handful” of government ministers even knew about it.

That’s kind of astounding.”

How so? Do you really think it’s any different in the US or any other ‘representative government’? I’m quite sure it’s considered normal and common-sense that all cabinet-level ministers aren’t aware of everything intelligence or defence-related. Minimise the attack surface, minimise communications paths, easier to find leakers etc etc. Does the junior minister for apple pies have or require clearance for intelligence matters?

NRAisFreedom (profile) says:

RE: Snooper's Charter May Not 'Increase' Surveillance...

Yup folks, the US (I’m sure you’re heard) has been spying on its citizens with mass surveillance for quite some time and most thinking citizens are NOT happy. They have violated our US Constitution, our rights of protection and continue to do so. The US gov’t continues to lie to its citizens on a daily basis…only a matter of time when a purging may need to take place, as in, revolution.

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