Who watches the watchers? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
Tory MP David Davis was on the radio this week making sense about the issue of surveillance and in particular the powers of the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary to approve the bugging of communications. He said that the number of applications from the security agencies run at between 5 and 6 a day. He thought it would be impossible to process each application fairly given time constraints and workload. Yet it now appears that each Minister will fight to retain their right to sign the papers. Why should we trust them?
He also said that whenever questions are asked in Parliament to Ministers about a security matter the reply is always ‘we do not comment on security matters!’ So much for Parliamentary accountability.
Try this insight from the Guardian Comment pages written by someone who describes themselves as a former security official.
“As someone who has been involved in the past, with both sides of security surveillance operations, I can hopefully understand to some extent the legitimate need for limited surveillance, which will always be required, but which must come with very strict requirements and responsibilities; this I can agree with. Unfortunately the present situation appears to be that just because it can be done, it must be done, hence the mass gathering of mostly useless information that does nothing to improve security either at a government or a personal level.
If this is the case why are governments so keen on mass surveillance of their populations, if it does not in any meaningful way increase security; which is the stated aim always given when new surveillance powers are proposed? Well the simple answer is that governments have always wanted to “control” their populations, by this I mean that they want to be the primary source of providing information, whether it is via the media of TV, newspapers or on-line. This used to be fairly difficult to do, especially in times of peace; when there are no overt restrictions in place, to manage (or control) information and it used to take some effort to feed stories to the media, in such a way that the primary source (i.e. the government) could be easily concealed.
Today, in our Smart phone generation it is very simple to both feed stories and to also manage the required outcome. This can be done for example by firstly creating a story and then using multiple pre-created Facebook or Twitter accounts (which are later deleted) to support the story and then stand back and watch the reaction, as genuine Facebook or Twitter accounts make comments, which very quickly gets the story noticed and commented on by the likes of the media. The original creator of the story (such as the government) can when questioned, either deny all knowledge, or more likely point to the public reaction to the story and use this for their own means.
One simple example is to create fear in the general population of terrorism and use that fear to put in place new regulations and laws that promise to protect the public from acts of terrorism, but instead have the real objective of further controlling or managing the population.
This is what is happening at the present time, where barely a day goes by without some story of an impending or immediate terror attack and how the authorities have prevented this happening. We hear about numbers of people being arrested for suspected involvement in terrorism, but what we don’t hear about is the number that are later released without charge. Terrorism, by its very nature, will never affect more than minuscule numbers of the general population, crossing the road is certainly more dangerous; but the overall impression given is that we are all under constant threat of mass terror acts.
It used to be the government’s accepted approach to threats or even acts of terrorism, that the population should just go about its normal business, otherwise the terrorists have won. Now the opposite approach seems to be the norm, with the government seemingly quite happy to frighten the entire population into believing that they could be the victims of terrorism.” Iain Exile Scot
We seem to have Ministers in charge who are unable to see beyond the next tabloid headline. They fail to recognise the bigger picture. The government claims that in order to preserve our long held freedoms we must sacrifice our long held freedoms.
Anyone remember the Americans flattening Vietnamese villages to ‘pacify them’?