by Glyn Moody

Filed Under:
gchq, nick clegg, nsa, privacy, spying, surveillance, uk

Finally: Senior UK Politicians Start To Call For Review Of GCHQ's Spying Activities

from the about-time dept

One of the most disappointing aspects of the NSA and GCHQ revelations is the almost total lack of outrage in the UK. The government there has simply stuck to its line that everything was done in accordance with the law, and has refused to consider a formal review of British spying in light of what we have learned. This has led Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and head of the junior coalition party, to announce his own inquiry:

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, has commissioned a review into the new intrusive capabilities of British intelligence agencies and the legal framework in which they operate, after failing to persuade David Cameron that the coalition government should act now to tighten the accountability of Britain's spies.
The review, to be chaired by [the intelligence and military thinktank the Royal United Services Institute]'s director general, Michael Clarke, is in part modelled on the work commissioned in January by Obama from John Podesta, Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, into big data and privacy. Clegg says the aim of the review, due to report after the general election, will be to bring the issue into the mainstream of public debate, noting the "quality of the debate in the US provides an unflattering contrast to the muted debate on this side of the Atlantic".
The same week, the UK's main opposition party, Labour, finally broke its silence on the Snowden leaks and the running of the UK's spy agencies, with a major speech from its spokesperson on the subject. As The Guardian reported:
The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, is preparing to argue that the current arrangements are unsustainable for the government, and that it is damaging to trust in the agencies if ministers continue to hide their heads in the sand.

In a speech that represents Labour's most serious intervention since the controversy about the scale of state surveillance broke last summer, she will say: "The oversight and legal frameworks are now out of date. In particular that means we need major reforms to oversight and a thorough review of the legal framework to keep up with changing technology."
One reason for Labour's reticence here is because of its past record. Under Tony Blair, it was Labour that gave police sweeping anti-terrorism powers that severely damaged civil liberties in the UK. And it was Labour that tried to bring in identity cards, and the Conservatives and Lib Dems who threw them out when they came into power in 2010. That makes Labour's sudden embrace of enhanced oversight to protect freedom and privacy somewhat unconvincing.

But at least the party feels it has to make the right noises on the issue, rather than ducking it completely. Coupled with Clegg's unofficial inquiry into how the UK's spies should operate, these are welcome signs that UK politicians are finally starting to ask some serious questions about the massive scale of surveillance revealed by Snowden's leaks, and the harm it causes. It's not much, but it's a start; now we just need David Cameron and the UK government to do the same.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2014 @ 1:19am

    fortunately Nick clegg wont be in government next year as he is a massive tool.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2014 @ 2:48am

    The media are as much to blame as the Government for the lack of outrage.

    Recent Snowden leak, Spying on Yahoo webcam users... Now surely that affects millions of people in the UK who now have naked/incriminating/defamatory pictures stored of them.
    Lead story of the day (few days for technology section) ?

    BBC news didn't have that story on TV, that I saw. On the BBC News website the article text link(without picture) was tucked away at the bottom of a page in the technology section. No links on the main page to it either.

    All the leaks have been downplayed and/or hidden from view by the "self censoring" media.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    the truth, 5 Mar 2014 @ 3:04am

    falling down.....

    The bigger they are, the harder they fall! To big to fail! Hahahahahahabahaha! That's a funny one that!

    Nick cleg and Yvette are 2 of the biggest puppets(tools) going up there with Cameron. Using bill Clinton's ex side kick as well from USA. We got a huge bag of tools here!

    This is just wish wash to shut people up just as there attack on Cryptos. If you want know what happened to my God, look no further than the alpherbet agencies of the world! They probably own about 20-30% of the btc easy now and have huge influence on the market right now. They know they can crash it but that would be that. There doing it slowly so they don't get caught. These are professional con artists, not idiots! Remember that even though they look stupider than someone with downs!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2014 @ 4:34am


    Clegg may be a tool but it leaves us in the awkward position of having no one good to vote for...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Guardian, 5 Mar 2014 @ 5:03am

    ya know WHY?

    cause of phrases like "the kiddy pron pedophile gchq spying sacks a shit"

    its damaging the whole yanky doodle wanky that allows the propoganda about russia to work...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    fuck the NSA, AND EU, 5 Mar 2014 @ 5:05am


    see that word OVERSIGHT

    thats panzy words for ok keep doing it just have some wanker politician whose corupt look at it...

    go go go , look at web cam kiddy pron ya sick fucks

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    I'm_Having_None_Of_It, 5 Mar 2014 @ 5:57am

    Re: Re:

    Other parties are available, and there are always independents. The mistake people keep making is to vote for parties they've heard of by name, e.g. UKIP or Respect, without bothering to check what they stand for (don't get me started...!).

    It's time British people started taking more of an interest in politics instead of moaning about the same old shower they keep voting into office every bloody time.

    /End rant.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    I'm_Having_None_Of_It, 5 Mar 2014 @ 6:00am


    Don't get me started on that, either. The BBC has always been pro-establishment. Remember that thing where Professor Brian Cox was effectively promoting GMO while dismissing its detractors as Luddites? He completely forgot about patents on the food chain, the seed police, and the super-weeds, for some reason, and failed to even mention them because... it's science, and science is wonderful!

    /End rant.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2014 @ 6:05am

    Re: Re:

    You have bought in to the idea that you have to vote for a political party, rather than a person who will represent your interests. Until people start to vote for alternative politicians to those of the major parties, things will not get better. Voting for alternatives has two effects, it convinces more people that it is worthwhile doing, and if enough people do so it will scare the existing politicians into paying more attention to the electorate.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    private frazer, 5 Mar 2014 @ 6:16am

    Cleggs 'the review, due to report after the general election'

    so, not soon enough to know how to vote. At least if we vote for scottish independence and win there is a chance we will have a constitution(!), that may be able to block some spying. Even Theresa May has said that she won't share GCHQ data with an independent Scotland (i think that was supposed to put us off independence, though perhaps she just wants rid of us liberal leaning scum).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Andrew Norton (profile), 5 Mar 2014 @ 8:34am

    Re: Re:

    Have you tried your local Pirate Party?

    Disclosure I am a Governor of said party

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Mar 2014 @ 8:51am

    Re: Cleggs 'the review, due to report after the general election'

    If Scotland becomes an independent country, GCHQ can increase its spying on Scottish Citizens, with no Scottish oversight. If you do not think this will not be used to shape Scottish politics to English preferences you are deluded.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Jon Jones (profile), 5 Mar 2014 @ 9:53am

    "due to report after the general election" Says it all really.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2014 @ 5:52am

    Re: Re:

    I think Brian Cox was only interested in the technicalities of the GMO science. Not the politics. "science under attack" is his primary concern. He is a scientist after all. And science is undeniably under attack by special interests.

    I pardon Brian Cox. He is 100% devoted to the science. Agree that the politics were ignored and shouldn't have been considering that it is a huge part of not wanting GMO's, but that is a different issue to the technicalities of the science of GMO.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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