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.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 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.
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 WriteToThem.com, 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.