We're not out of the woods yet

I feel very happy to have gotten involved in the fight against the extension of RIPA.  Not so much because we won but because it is the first time that I cut through my inherent apathy and fight it tomorrow mentality and took direct political action when it mattered.

In fact, as those who've been reading about it recently will know, we haven't won at all.

RIPA was not being extended as a means to extend the authority of a whole group of people (such as local councils and the FSA), but to regulate and legitimize the processes by which they are already getting this information. As a home minister let slip on the Radio, many officials are already getting this kind of information via informal channels - the extension to RIPA really was the governments attempt to regulate it.

Of course the fact that the government is attempting to legitimize this is just another sign of their inherently anti-democratic leanings.  I wouldn't feel so agrieved if this legislation was going hand in hand with an effective Freedom of Information bill.  This government seems to have very similar tendencies to the secretive and power grabbing administration of the Shrub.

We should be looking closely at the powers we have already granted the police and secret services.  We should be reigning in access to information by officials, not licensing it.  I could stomach the requirement for police and the security services to do domestic snooping if and only if they were regulated by (and forced to justify their actions to) an oversight committee made up of judges, MP's, privacy advocates and lay people.

The secret services are supposedly there to protect us - or at least British interests.  I for one would sleep much happier knowing that there were people capable of checking on that, and in whom I had at least a small amount of faith.

I think the recent leaks by the Stephens enquiry about collusion between the security services and paramilitaries in the killing of Irish catholics should tell us everything we need to know about allowing unchecked and unsupervised powers to be granted to anyone in authority.



19/06/2002 19:24 by Matt Mower | Permalink | comments:
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