Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has accused critics of plans for a database of mobile and web records as “giving a licence to terrorists to kill”.
In exchanges on BBC One’s Question Time he also said he was prepared to go “quite a long way” in undermining civil liberties to stop people being killed.
“If they are going to use the internet to communicate with each other and we don’t have the power to deal with that, then you are giving a licence to terrorists to kill people.”
He added: “The biggest civil liberty of all is not to be killed by a terrorist.”…
Geoff Loon is Secretary of Waits for Overcrowded Trains.
Jacqui Frankly Smith, Secretary of What-a-State for the Home Surveillance Department:
Mr Speaker, allow me to make absolutely clear to the House that those who do not agree with the extension of detention without charge by N days take the security of Britain lightly indeed. They may wish to duck the hard questions and tough questions but, actually, Britain still needs to be protected, and Britain still needs to be prepared to deal with the worst, and it has actually been more than a week since our last piece of counter-terrorism legislation.
I have prepared a new Bill to enable the police and prosecutors to do their work – should the worst happen, and should a terrorist plot overtake us and threaten our current investigatory capabilities. The Counter-Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) and Measures Unrelated to Terrorism Bill now stands ready to be introduced if and when the need arises. It would enable the Director of Public Prosecutions to apply to the courts to detain and question a terrorist suspect for up to N days. Individuals could be detained only when that was authorised by a judge specially appointed by the Home Secretary, and hearings would be in secret with no opportunity for the suspect to challenge his detention.
There may be no need for N days now, indeed there is no need for 28 days at present but, in order for the police and prosecutors to be able to do their job, there may one day come circumstances where someone may need to be investigated for longer than N days before they can be charged, and anyone against this is, actually, giving the terrorists a licence to kill.
We cannot tell you what these circumstances are but, frankly, the police would like more time. Also, there are choke-points and bottle-necks, but not where you would like, particularly in terms of gathering intelligence and evidence over multiple jurisdictions, which cannot be improved by simply increasing resources, and, actually, opponents would feel pretty terrible if a suspect was released on the 28th day and went on to blow up a bus on the 29th, because actually the police would just give up on the case and stop watching him otherwise.
Among the fallacious arguments of the Opposition parties who, frankly, are prepared to ignore the terrorist threat for fear of taking a tough but necessary decision, is that the longest period of detention without charge in any comparable democracy is 12 days, in Australia, actually. But let me point out instead the case of France, with its investigating magistrates, which enable them, actully, in serious cases of terrorism, effectively to hold people for longer than 28 days before they reach the equivalent of a charge, and other countries where people can actually be held for any length of time before being boiled alive. Allow me to point out, Mr Speaker, that it is very difficult for terrorists to commit an atrocity after having been driven mad, particularly if they have been boiled alive. [hear here.]
Opponents, who believe it is enough to simply cross your fingers and hope for the best, also raise concerns about the human rights and mental health of suspects held for over 14 days in Paddington Green police station – indeed, no-one in their right mind would volunteer to stay there [laughter]. Police may well have had to compensate suspects who suffered permanent trauma; detainees may halt their studies, lose their jobs and even attempt suicide but, actually, what about the human rights of victims and the potential victims of some future atrocity, particularly those who are dead and therefore no longer enjoy their human rights? And, actually, there is evidence that the longer a suspect is held, the more likely he is to confess to a crime. Surely that, on its own, is sufficient justification for N days?
I commend my statement to the House.
The mylifemyid community has now finished. Many thanks for your contribution.
And all the questions and responses have been made inaccessible!
Don’t bother looking via the WayBack machine because,
We’re sorry, access to http://mylifemyid.org has been blocked by the site owner via robots.txt.
Andrew Watson has saved a couple of reasonable responses to Virtual Survey’s request for feedback. One of them mentioned the heavy handed lack of transparency in the moderation of the comments – I wonder what he thinks of the transparency now that all the comments have effectively been moderated away!
This sort of thing always reminds me of what happened to the responses organised by STAND to the ID cards consultation in 2002-2003, when the ~5000 responses for and against ID cards were consolidated into one against (the BBC, the Guardian).
(also see the Register.)
We can quibble about whether or not we think a history of ‘international terrorism’ should at least mention the IRA – Jacqui doesn’t, I do – but that’s not particularly important.
This is interesting:
We are looking much more closely at the financing not just of terror but of radicalisation itself. And as I promised earlier this year, we have engaged closely with companies that supply filtering and parental control software to ensure that these products provide a high level of protection against material that promotes or encourages terrorism or violent extremism.
What criteria are applied? We should carefully scrutinise government restrictions on speech. Has this been debated in Parliament or has the Home Office simply gone off and ‘suggested’ (in the sense of, if you don’t regulate it we will) what sort of speech should be restricted?
This is strange:
And experts, people who actually do this work,
- unlike armchair critics (indeed, why bother employing a Home Secretary? Why not just let the experts do what they want?) -
have explained clearly to me that this process [gathering interlligence and evidence over multiple jurisdictions] inevitably takes time.
It would be odd if it was instantaneous, wouldn’t it? Oh, cheap shot, sure.
We should be clear that all this not ‘Government policy’ which is somehow optional.
Well of course decisions are optional! Beware, she is trying to frame the debate – to get us arguing about it on her terms. There is more than one option and indeed combination of options. More than what she is ‘offering’.
Our ability to intercept communications and obtain communications data is vital to fighting terrorism and combating serious crime, including child sex abuse, murder and drugs trafficking. Communications Data – that is, data about calls, such as the location and identity of the caller, not the content of the calls themselves – is used as important evidence in 95% of serious crime cases and in almost all Security Service operations since 2004.
But the communications revolution has been rapid in this country and the way in which we intercept communications and collect communications data needs to change too. If it does not we will lose this vital capability that we currently have and that we all take for granted. [For example, in the Soham murders and 21/7 convictions.]
All this is a reflection of the technological and behavioural changes that the growth of the internet brings. Once again, that is not a Government policy which is somehow optional. It is a reality to which Government needs to respond.
That’s part of the problem, right there: setting up a database with the intention of recording the details of our calls is optional, just as doing something else is an option, and doing nothing is an option. Again, there are lots of options.
It is interesting that there is no mention of the European Directive that has helped put us into this position nor the (controversial) process that led up to it. And no, I’m not blaming ‘Europe’, I’m blaming the Council of Ministers (under the UK Presidency), including Charles Clarke MP (Labour), then Home Secretary (now an insurgent).
The changes we need to make may require legislation. The safeguards we will want to put in place certainly will. And we may need legislation to test what a solution will look like.
But before proceeding to legislation, I am clear that we need to consult widely with the public and all interested parties to set out the emerging problem, the important capability gaps that we need to address and to look at the possible solutions. We also need to agree what safeguards will be needed, in addition to the many we have in place already, to provide a solid legal framework which protects civil liberties.
This consultation will begin in the New Year and I want this to be combined with a well-informed debate characterised by openness, rather than mere opinion, by reason and reasonableness. In this, as in the other work we do, my aim is to achieve a consensus and I hope that others will approach the serious issues posed for our national security capabilities in the same spirit.
So let me set the terms for that open and reasoned debate now,
Er no Jacqui, you don’t do that if you want a “well-informed debate characterised by openness, … by reason and reasonableness”.
and be clear on what we are not going to do.
There are no plans for an enormous database which will contain the content of your emails, the texts that you send or the chats you have on the phone or online.
Well, not yet - but probably only because it’s beyond our capabilities at this time. I think it will be difficult enough to store just the identities and dates and times etc, let alone the content. Indeed, so difficult that smaller ISPs might not have to bother! (hmm, wonder what the terrorists will use?)
Nor are we going to give local authorities the power to trawl through such a database in the interest of investigating lower level criminality under the spurious cover of counter terrorist legislation.
Precedent suggests otherwise! Assertions and promises are worthless – we must wait and see what is in the Bill.
Local authorities do not have the power to listen to your calls now and they never will in future.
But will they be able to see the other details of our calls? Who we communicated with, at what time, and for how long? Or will they be able to ask third parties to investigate our calls on their behalf?
You would rightly object to proposals of this kind and I would not consider them. What we will be proposing will be options which follow the key principles which govern all our work in this area – the principles of proportionality and necessity.
Terrorism has changed, is changing, and will continue to change. We have no option other than to respond
That’s not true at all – doing nothing is an option, and it is important – well, vital – to note that the manner of the response is optional.
if we are to remain constant and true in our defence of British liberties and British security.
We rely not only on our police and law enforcement but on all parts of Government, on our communities, on international partners and on industry. We rely on the law and we need to be sure that the law evolves as the threat changes in a way consistent with our rights and freedoms. We rely on technology to provide us with solutions.
I like the Home Office spokesman who complained that the Government can’t identify people when they call themselves “Mickey Mouse” and chat with each other in an online game or somesuch – I cannot see how Jacqui’s database is going to cope with the amount of games and other online means of communicating, but then I’m not one of these experts “who actually do this work”, so what do I know?
A leaked memo written by sources close to the so-called interception modernisation programme said that officials in the Home Office viewed a giant database as “impractical, disproportionate, politically unattractive and possibly unlawful from a human rights perspective”.