What was said at the ORG meeting on the surveillance state?

The openrights group meeting at #lab13 was held, and has been reported at their web site in an article called ‘Tom Watson MP: “The surveillance state is running amok and Parliament has absolutely failed.”‘ They have caught the opening speakers, Paul Johnson from the Guardian, Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch, Javier Ruiz (ORG) and Tom Watson MP on video which I recommend you watch, although I have precised the contributions below.

It was chaired by Wendy Grossman. Paul Johnson of the Guardian tells the story of the breaking of the story about the surveillance state, and one of the points he makes is that the UK’s prior restraint laws, known as “D” notices have been used to stop, at least, the BBC from picking up the Guardian’s story. It’s chilling how little the securocrats have been disturbed compared with the USA, Germany and Brazil. The European Union is considering revoking the US’s data protection safe harbour provisions. Paul’s speech ended with a story about the US 1st amendment protections and how the civil servants they had been speaking to said, it wouldn’t work here, we rely on gentleman’s agreements.

Again everyone is missing the politics that the 1st & 4th amendment rights only apply to citizens. The US and their five eyes maintain the right to spy on foreigners.

Possibly the star performer was Nick Pickles and he was congratulated by Tom Watson who (almost) wished him well in his attempts to get elected to Parliament, as a Tory. He started by taking up from Paul’s comments on the culture of trust, arguing that the intelligence agencies were trusted to the extent that any criticism is seen as treachery. The centrepiece of his argument is that the laws were written at a time 10% the population were on the internet, they’re not fit for today’s internet and secondly that the search warrants are signed by politicians, in secret, without appeal or review. He also raised the issue about how to argue that dictators shouldn’t have this power, while our government avails itself of it.

In introducing Javier Ruiz, Wendy Grossman talked about the 2nd amendment. This took me down a rathole; since the US government has and does consider encryption technology to be a munition, does the 2nd amendment guarantee the right to use encryption?

Javier Ruiz of the ORG spoke, stating that GCHQ holds all the content voice and data leaving the UK for three days, and the meta data for 30 days; many of us thought that it was beyond a government to monitor the internet. Obviously we were wrong. He made the point that the NSA is performing industrial espionage and raised the link between intelligence and drone strikes. It’s not just a knock at the door that people need fear. Javier finished with a look at Bullrun, the NSA’s attempts to control encryption standards and corrupt their implementations. See my article “Backdoors” on this blog. Javier called for broad campaign and asked that Labour organise to be part of it.

The platform speeches were rounded up by Tom Watson, who started by congratulating Nick Pickles on his speech. As the quote at the top makes clear,

the surveillance state is running amok and parliament has absolutely failed.

for more, watch the video.

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