In one of the worst kept secrets of all time it has been revealed that the UK government can use the Regulation for Investigatory Powers Act (2000) to intercept warrantless mass data on social media. A 48 page report by Charles Farr, director general of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, produced what the Guardian has called ‘the first detailed justification’ of the UK’s mass surveillance policy.
It is obvious to anyone paying attention over the last year that this has been taking place. Not in the sense that we had literal evidence of the activities, more so that the UK government has sunk so low that the only surprise would have been if they weren’t using these techniques. Exploiting ‘external communications’ without a warrant should shock you, but it probably won’t. It’s not even a case of ‘accepting Big Brother’ as the famous story goes, it’s even worse. The UK and Northern Ireland have been so laissez-faire about the entire situation Big Brother won’t even have to convince us to give our acceptance. We are used to it now. That, my friends, is a depressing thought. Roll over and play dead, hope the government doesn’t poke your limp corpse.
It’s been a rather warm week so far which means I have neglected every other distraction in favour of sitting outside, drinking tins of lager and reading, like any good prole would.
I have been flying through ‘The Trial of Henry Kissinger‘ by Christopher Hitchens. It’s a suitably fantastic read that puts Kissinger directly in the spotlight, prods him with degrading fact after monstrous claim until he has been crushed into mere particles. The book outlines his involvement in government assassinations, plots, corruption and a reach which eventually ascended to the ear of the President, in this case, renowned despot, Sir Richard Nixon.
The following paragraph caught my eye. It proves that, even in 1970-something, the only outcome of easy access to government surveillance is corruption and obscenity.
“Henry was no fool, of course. He telephoned Hoover a few hours later to remind him that the investigation be handled discreetly “so no stories will get out”. Hoover must have smiled, but said all right. And by five o’clock he was back on the telephone to Henry with the report that the Times reporter “may have gotten some of his information from the Southeast Asian desk of the Department of Defense’s Public Affairs Office.” More specifically, Hoover suggested the source could be a man named Mort Halperin (a Kissinger staffer) and another man who worked in the Systems Analysis Agency….According to Hoover’s memo, Kissinger hoped “I would follow it up as far as we can take it and they will destroy whoever did this if we can find him, no matter where he is.
The last line of that memo gives an accurate reflection of Henry’s rage, as I remember it.
Nevertheless, Nixon was one hundred percent behind the wiretaps. And so the program started, inspired by Henry’s rage but ordered by Nixon, who soon broadened it even further to include newsmen. Eventually, seventeen people were wiretapped by the FBI including seven on Kissinger’s staff and three on the White House staff”
This paragraph perfectly sums up the escalation we face, have faced and will continue to face if we don’t object to mass government surveillance. In my mind at least, the news that the UK government has access to warrantless social media monitoring is only the latest in a long line of personal insults. They say ‘you have nothing to fear’ if you are not a terrorist. That is fair enough, however, if it starts with the terrorists, moves to the potential of terrorism, moves to the newsroom, moves to the public, where does it end?