The events of the weekend have led me to the conclusion that my review of the manifestos as they relate to the internet and civil liberties were too factual and too dry. Over the weekend, three islamist terrorists attacked London with a white van and knives. It is now believed that at least one of them has been radicalised by Al-Muhajiroun a banned group and had been, yet again, notified to the security services and police. I suspect we’ll learn more over the next couple of days. This was a week after an attack in Manchester on a concert. Overnight the political parties agreed to suspend the campaign for the following day, but one of the parties broke that agreement. I look at the responses of May and Corbyn, linking to their speeches and analyse the meaning of the promise to deny the terrorists a safe space on the internet, to increase prison sentences together with the impact of the cuts to the police and intelligence service staff numbers. 

Theresa May in the guise of uniting the nation presented the culprit as the internet and the answer as the policies in the Tory Party Manifesto with its proposals to censor content, and cripple encryption, privacy and anonymity. These are attacks on freedom of speech, the right to associate & the right to a fair trial.

In this speech, she identifies the enemy as an ideology, which hates our freedoms, rights and democracy and uses the safe spaces in the internet to organise. Her answer is to restrict those very freedoms and rights! She also proposes to increase prison sentences. For suicide bombers? She also proposes to continue with the development of a stasi society, it’s just that there aren’t enough police to cope. The response is leaden, little mention of grief, little mention of the brave and human responses to the attacks in London and Manchester.

Later in the day, Jeremy Corbyn addressed the same issues.

He emphasised the civil response, which is a counter point to May’s language. Somehow Corbyn expresses a coalescence and unity, May seemingly offers the threat to join her as an ultimatum. Corbyn raises the question of police numbers, which the previous response to the Manchester attack of putting soldiers on the street merely reinforced. May has been Home Secretary and then Prime Minister since 2010. There’s no avoiding responsibility. The stories about being warned on the consequences are numerous but as we know, the Tories have had enough of experts. In terms of counter terrorism, the problem is that  community policing has ended; there’s no human intelligence gathering and no-one knows who should be taken seriously. The perpetrators communities had notified the police; despite these reports they were not on MI5’s watch list. The investment decision to rely on computerised surveillance and not on community police engaged in their communities was a choice. One taken by the current Prime Minister. A provenly foolish choice, made worse by the lack of intelligence analysts to review the surveillance material. Her only path is to “double down on black”.

The Tories propose to seek international agreement to increase the regulation of the internet and the datenkraken (the ISSPs) but not to guarantee the rights to privacy expressed in the coming EU Law, the GDPR and European Council’s Convention 108. The Tories aim is to hold the ISSPs accountable for content and turn them into free speech cops.

They plan to continue to spy on us all. They plan to continue to attack our rights to privacy by seeking to mandate backdoors into our communications technology. It is not possible to have secure communications if a master key exists. While judges need to approve data collection, they don’t need to approve individual requests which are permitted by over 25 government agencies and every local authority including parish councils. (I say more about the snooper’s charter here …, in this context, it seems a bit too friendly a name). This means that peaceful protest will be inhibited and the bulk surveillance powers are a true implementation of spying on the whole population, the harbinger (or is it the end game) of the Stasi/informer society. There can be little doubt that this will have a massive chilling effect on the very people in the front line of the ant-terrorism campaign, us!

In addition, the Tories attack on access to justice, by removing legal aid for judicial review, shortening hte time scales in which review can be brough together with their Brexit proposals which will remove the EU Charter of Rights and its Court of Justice from our Human Rights jurisprudence and they were silent on the Human Rights Act which they have previously promised to repeal, they have now repeated that promise; May in Slough has stated that she won’t allow the world’s Human Rights laws to stop her punishing suspects of anti-terrorism crimes, which includes actions other than terrorist ones.

This is a bleak and callous future. We can be better than this, the human, generous and brave actions of the victims of the terrorist attacks and their neighbours show this. Vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour on Thursday, or at least vote against Theresa May’s Tories.


Image Credit: @flickr dom fellows CC 2014 BY

We have a choice
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