The events that occurred in Woolwich have sparked more than just one debate. The new debate is involving the additional powers that Home Secretary May wants to hand to the intelligence branch. It involves a data bill that was vetoed by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. He stated that it was too much of an invasion of privacy.
Is he correct?
Initially I would side with that part. Yet, you cannot have it both ways. There is a plain and simple need to keep England’s citizens safe from radicalised attacks. The issue of Home grown terrorism had been an issue going back to Sir Jonathan Evans reign of MI-5. He was more than just a little concerned with outside influences on the British way of life. This now falls firmly on the shoulders of both Andrew Parker, who is well aware of the issues as well as the needed response and Sir Iain Robert Lobban of GCHQ. As this is Signal intelligence and as such it falls in his lap as the data would be needed for MI-5, MI-6 and some parts of local law enforcements.
I would think that part of this bill will start with Lord Carlile. His involvement in this goes back to the Terrorism Act of 2000. Current issues are ‘tainted’ by two reports and as such they both are important. First there is the National council of Civil Liberties that drafted a response to the definition of terrorism, which seems to have been the work of Gareth Crossman and Jago Russel. You should take a look at it (source: http://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/pdfs/policy06/response-to-carlile-review-of-terrorism-definition.pdf). It is an interesting work, and important to read is how they see this all. Part of the weakness is the approach on page 3 where they state: “It is vital that the definition of ‘terrorism’ is drawn as tightly as possible“. It is a decent stance to have, yet in the light of fear against home grown/lone wolf terrorism it is actually counterproductive. Terrorism is a shifty acre of quicksand and the strict approach is not only going to fail, it will get the people involved stopping this drowned. Not a good thing me thinks!
I feel uncertain to the point 6 they make on page 5. Yes, they do state that it is outside of the scope of the document, and as such they only raise the comments made that Terrorism should be dealt with under Criminal law. Here is where I might be the dissenting voice. The law should cover all, I do believe in that, however, what part of law? We are dealing with a group that does not seem to be categorised as such. These people are not transgressing in a way where we approach a normal person, or even the average person. Whilst we approach these transgressors in one way or another, even when if possible their defence starts going into the Mental Health act we will see a case where the court is drawn into years of litigation and dealing with a case that as such should be seen as a non-combatant involved in hostile military actions against civilians with no allegiance to any nation and as such it becomes a mess where each case locks down the justice system more and more. Consider the American situation (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance act). This comes from a special report by their Justice department stated in June 2005.
“This allowed the use of FISA information in a criminal case provided that the ‘primary purpose’ of the FISA surveillance or search was to collect foreign intelligence information rather than to conduct a criminal investigation or prosecution. The seminal court decision applying this standard to information collected in intelligence cases was issued in 1980. See United States v. Truong Dinh Hung, 629 F.2d 908 (4th Cir. 1980). In this case, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the government did not have to obtain a criminal warrant when ‘the object of the search or the surveillance is a foreign power, its agents or collaborators,’ and ‘the surveillance is conducted primarily for foreign intelligence purposes.’ Id. at 915. However, the court ruled that the government’s primary purpose in conducting an intelligence investigation could be called into question when prosecutors had begun to assemble a prosecution and had led or taken on a central role in the investigation.”
This shows that the narrowness of the scope would be the obstacle we should be trying to prevent. The issue is NOT our privacy at that point; it is all about them having access to go after the right people. This requires them to blanket us with collection of data. Even though the data is all collected, it will turn out that 99.9% might never be accessed. Having it is however essential for their success of stopping terrorist attacks. So when the Sky News UK reporter Stephen Douglas mentioned “are they playing politics with fear” then he is in my humble opinion incorrect. This data bill has been needed for a long time. It can even be safely speculated that MI-5 could have intervened with the Kenyan involved in the Woolwich murder at an earlier stage as more flags would have been raised. Their interview with him would have led to other questions, confirmations of danger. That seems to not have happened at this stage.
So from the civil liberty document we move to document cm7058 from June 2007 which holds “The Government Reply to the Report by Lord Carlile of Berriew Q.C. Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation The Definition of Terrorism“. (Source: http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm70/7058/7058.pdf). My issue is with point 5 on page 5. Idiosyncratic terrorism imitators should generally be dealt with under non-terrorism criminal law. This is the point that shows the need of the data bill. Especially when we consider Lone wolf or Home grown terrorists there will be the issue whether the person was a mental health wannabe, or a more intelligent individual being allowed a second go at harming groups of people, after civil rights protected him the first time.
So even if we want to give strength to both Nick Clegg and the National council of Civil Liberties. They are there speaking out to protect your rights. Yet, in that process, they are giving strength and freedom to terrorist attacks like the one in Woolwich (not intentionally). This issue is like a seesaw. These two viewpoints are utterly opposing and as we give power to one, we remove it from the other. The interesting part is that the information we surrender will not harm us unless we support terrorism. Should that not convince you then please remember that you have already given away your privacy to most market research and financial institution data centres. They only want your money, or in a product driven way bank you. The intelligence community wants to keep you safe. In my mind, there is no debate. The data bill is likely to come and should be there, if only to prevent a second Woolwich.