Legal expert Adnan Khan says the political establishment is trying to exploit people’s grief after the Woolwich killing to enforce draconian legislation.
In 2008, the Labour government of Gordon Brown floated plans for an Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), allowing greater access to communications of the populace.
In brief, plans were made to collect data on all phone calls, emails, chat room discussions and web-browsing. Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat Home affairs spokesman at the time said: “The government’s Orwellian plans for a vast database of our private communications are deeply worrying.”
But the idea was ultimately rejected by Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary holding office at the time. Instead, she proposed that all communications providers store such data within their own back-up systems, making it available to the authorities when required.
The Conservatives’ ascent to power in 2010 curtailed a lot of these measures, theoretically. For example, they announced that they would stop the storing of email and Internet records without “good reason.” Nevertheless, the proposals of the IMP were not reversed in their entirety.
The Tories hardened their position later with proposals that represented the stark epitome of a developing police state. They would require a storing of each user’s web history, webmail access, mobile phone contacts data, online gaming records, social media usage and voice calls data.
This would be in addition to the telephone contacts and email data already required to be stored. Such information would be required for access for up to 12 months. An already depleted treasury would be expected to provide up to £1.4 bn per year for such activities to be conducted, a considerable burden.
What does all of the above have to do with the killing of Lee Rigby though?
The proposed Communications Bill was dropped following a split in the coalition government. But in the aftermath of the attack in South East London last week, former Conservative leader Michael Howard suggested that a Labour-Conservative pact could save the legislation from death and push through the controversial law.
He suggested that David Cameron had to act in the “national interest”, following the Woolwich murder. The Shadow Home Secretary, Sadiq Khan, expressed a willingness to review the proposals of such communications legislation. Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, has provided vital support for the proposals, suggesting that Labour would support any legislation deemed necessary, should David Cameron propose the same.
The outpouring of public anger, grief, fear and resentment is being manipulated by the political class once more. Sadly, this is a wholly expected phenomena. Those established within the realms of power have always sought calculated interests from moments of adversity and high emotion.
The aftermath of the September 11 attacks provides a clear example of this attitude, as do the 7/7 bombings, domestically. The draconian statutes introduced within Britain included such abhorrence as the Terrorism Act and the Extradition Act.
The current Communications Bill is an extension of such incursions into population privacy. The proposed legislation would allow for a “Big Brother” style society, a hallmark of the most repressive and morally suspect regimes in the world.
In line with this, the proposed legislation has been mockingly dubbed the “Snooper’s Charter.” A society where one does not feel secure when discussing or communicating with others, wondering who may be snooping on the conversation, is not a healthy place of existence. It is hypocritical, and ironic to the umpteenth degree, that those who vilify the despots of the world for their iron grip on their societies are, consciously or otherwise, attempting to replicate the same here in Britain.
One cannot possibly throw out superlatives in promoting the ‘virtues’ of freedom of speech, so often presented as vital to the lifeblood of a society, whilst showing such blatant disdain and disregard for it.
Moreover, there exists an assertion that, had the appropriate measures been in place to monitor the communication chain between the alleged offenders, the law enforcement authorities would have been in a better position to intercept and prevent the murder of Drummer Rigby. The notion is presented, and will be pushed with greater force, that this signifies the urgent necessity to monitor the online and telephone communications of individuals.
But the authorities were well-acquainted with the suspects and the bill would have added no value to the law enforcement agencies’ prevention of the murder. Michael Adebolajo, one of the suspects of the Woolwich murder, was very well-known to the authorities. BBC reports quoted Kenyan officials outlining that they had arrested Mr Adebolajo in 2010, on suspicion of being involved in alleged terrorist activities and for his alleged ties to Al-Shabbab in Somalia.
Mr Adebolajo continued to attend many Islamic marches and rallies, often appearing in videos and photos directly behind one prominent Muslim figure during such events. In light of the fact that this figure and his assocaited group have been banned and targeted by the media repeatedly, it seems unfathomable that the security services did not have access to or review such footage.
Finally, and most remarkably, Mr Adebolajo was arrested approximately two months ago, on suspicion of terrorism-related activities. He was released after a short review, the authorities realising that they had arrested a man without evidence of a crime, an oft-repeated phenomenon.
Therefore the draconian measures are a deliberate step towards a greater reproach into the lives of the individuals and the grief of the British people will be used as a tool to carve out political interests while distracting the public from Britain’s foreign policy that has, more than anything else, been the main cause behind anger that leads to violent reactions.
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