On an informed citizenry

On an informed citizenry

I was invited to attend Tom Watson’s speech building on much of his campaigning work and presented in the New Statesman as reclaiming civil liberty for the Left, although sub titled by him as “David Cameron is governing from the shadows”. In this article I review the speech; I try to report on it and to comment by adding some personal views and insights, in some cases new ideas provoked by Tom’s speech. It was quite a long speech and it takes a diverse route to get to its polemical heart which is that Democracy is the choice by an informed citizenry of a government, subject to the rule of law and that the Freedom of Information Act is one of the pillars of this contract and should not be diminished or repealed.

Tom Watson for Deputy

Tom Watson for Deputy

I shall be voting for Tom Watson for Deputy and ask you to do so too. He is a long term campaigner on the side of the good. He has shown he stands up for what he thinks is right and has Government experience having served in the last labour Governments in Defence and the Cabinet Office. In 2010, he took the citizens position and opposed the Digital Economy Act, and during the last Parliament he opposed the Governments repeated attempts to introduce and legalise mass surveillance, most recently 15 months ago when he led the opposition to DRIP, an opposition he took to court and won, with the unique result that the courts have put a judicial sunset clause on the Act. He has also taken the government to court to have their information sharing with the USA declared illegal because of the military use the American make of it. He led the majority on the Culture Media and Sports select committee on phone hacking and media plurality

#dontspyonus at #lab14

#dontspyonus at #lab14

Off to the International Anthony Burgess Museum for the Don’t Spy on Us fringe meeting on Privacy. The speakers were Ewan Macaskill of the Guardian, Carley Nyst of Privacy International, Claude Moraes MEP, Jim Killock of the ORG and chaired by Mike Harris of #dontspyonus. The first speaker was Ewan Macaskill who started by saying he’s glad they i.e. the spooks are there, but like me in fact, supposed that they were targeting maybe 5-15% of the population which would be say 400,000 people. What is shocking is the ambition, to spy on everyone who uses the internet. The fact they’re aiming at everyone, including lawyers and doctors is worrying to say the least.

Oh Shit! You mean spying on everyone is illegal?

Oh Shit! You mean spying on everyone is illegal?

Better change that then! In April, the Court of Justice of the EU, ruled that its 2004 Data Retention Directive mandating Information System Services Providers to store all their records for 12 months was declared incompatible with the EU’s Fundamental Charter of [Citizen’s] Rights. It and all the national laws implementing the Directive need to be reviewed to see if they remain legal. Last week, the Government announced that it planned to introduce new laws to plug the gap. This is to be called the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill/Act. (DRIP) which they plan to pass in less than ½ a week using emergency provisions and the agreement of the Labour front bench.

Surveillance: Lawyer says No

Surveillance: Lawyer says No

Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones, chaired by Tom Watson MP as received QC’s advice on the legality of British Intelligence’s mass surveillance, reported here in the Guardian and the lawyer says the programmes are probably illegal and that any warrants signed by politicians will be in breach of UK Law,  the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the EU Acquis. Watson points at this article from his blog here. The legal justification is based on RIPA, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and Jemima Stanford QC states that it is not fit for purpose given the changes in technology in the last 10 years.

Who watches the Watchmen?

Who watches the Watchmen?

In the continuing story of the NSA and their five eyes attempts to do to the world what the GDR’s Stasi did to East Germany, someone finally asks how did we let GCHQ capture and process the internet traffic of the British people, those using the transatlantic internet cables and using the decryption technology to spy on allies and diplomats engaged in economic talks and treaties. On the 31st October, Julian Huppert MP with cross bench support from Tom Watson MP and Dominic Rabb MP managed to get time in the Westminster Hall committee room to debate Parliament’s oversight of the Intelligence agencies, specifically GCHQ, but let’s not forget our old friends, the burglars at MI5.  The debate was broadcast on Parliament TV, and transcribed in Hansard here. Both the Video and Hansard report the debate verbatim, and so if you want to hear what the MPs said, then you’ll have to use those resources. The rest of this article is a personal comment on the meeting.

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

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.

Digital Freedom, broad campaigns and the Liberal Democrats

I started to ‘follow’ Julian Huppert MP, the LibDem MP for Cambridge on Twitter. He was introduced to me by Tom Watson MP, at Orgcon 2010 as a new champion of digital freedom and free speech. I have been following him for a couple of days and while I recognise I need help, because the Labour Party is pretty poor on the subject, in the campaign for digital freedom  and to fight alienation in 21st century information economy, Julian, unlike Tommy, John Grogan and Dianne Abbot, all Labour MPs who opposed the DE Act,  seems to put his party before the cause.

A week’s a long time in politics

The Bill becomes an Act

Just over a week ago, the Digital Economy Bill got its 3rd reading, and according to “Computing” got its Royal Assent  on the 9th April. I watched the 2nd & 3rd reading debates on parliament.tv with Tweetdeck open. Others have commented on how helpful having crowd sourced commentary was, which I have to agree with and also how disappointed they were that most MPs weren’t in the chamber to hear the debate. Twitter certainly enhanced my understanding and enjoyment of the debates, which were rather spoiled at the end by the tiny vote in favour of the Lib Dem amendment and then against the 3rd reading. On the good side, I have been pleased to ‘meet’  some new twitter correspondents, however I had to turn it off at work for the rest of the week. Unlike contracted musicians with royalty based earnings, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid and I found it too distracting.