Tony Blair has turned Britain into a land where we are all prisoners


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Lucky
June 13, 2007, 01:42 PM
I'm leery of both 'trial balloons' and GPS now. I remember last year when they were just testing the concept of puttin GPS trackers in every car there, now it's policy.

I'm thus equally leery of GPS trackers put in cars and cellphones, and sold as features, over here.

Even George Orwell would be shocked. He described the sinister machinations of a totalitarian police state in his novel, 1984, and laid bare the danger of eroding our basic civil liberties, including the right to freedom of speech and the right to privacy.

Although he famously coined the phrase 'Big Brother is watching you', even Orwell cannot have foreseen just how prescient those words would prove to be.

Today, in Tony Blair's Britain - which I naively voted into power ten years ago - we have witnessed a breath-taking erosion of civil liberties.

The truth is we are fast becoming an Orwellian state, our every movement watched, our behaviour monitored, and our freedoms curtailed.

Between May 1997 and August 2006, New Labour created 3,023 new criminal offences - taking in everything from a law against Polish potatoes (the Polish Potatoes Order 2004) to one which made the creation of a nuclear explosion in Britain officially illegal.

Then there has been the incredible number of CCTV cameras - a total of 4.2 million, more than in the rest of Europe put together.

And, yesterday, we learnt that the Government has agreed to let the EU have automatic access to databases of DNA (containing samples of people's hair, sperm or fingernails) in order to help track down criminals, even though many thousands of those on record are totally innocent

How did all this happen? Who allowed it? To try to answer these questions, I have made a film, Talking Liberties, about the attack on our freedoms.

I uncovered a disturbing roll call of ancient basic rights which have been systematically destroyed in the self- serving climate of fear this government has perpetuated since the 9/11 attack.

First there was the Act which banned the age- old right of protest within half-a-mile of Parliament without special police authorisation.

And who can forget Walter Wolfgang, the pensioner who was dragged out of the Labour Party Conference for daring to heckle the Home Secretary? He was detained under the Terrorism Act 2000, which gives the police unprecedented stop and search powers.

In 2005 alone, this law was used to stop 35,000 people - none of whom was a terrorist.

But this is only the thin end of the wedge - our civil liberties, enshrined in British law since the Magna Carta, are being whittled away.

There has been an unprecedented shift of power away from the individual towards the state - but now this power is being used not to defeat terrorism, but to keep tabs on ordinary citizens. As well as a raft of repressive anti-terror legislation, there are the more insidious infringements of our freedom and privacy.

We will soon see the introduction of the vast National Identity Register, linking all databases such as the DNA database to which the EU will soon have access.

The tentacles of these networks will intertwine until they form a vast state surveillance mechanism, which can track every detail of your life: what books you borrowed from the library as a student, your sexual health, your DNA profile, your spending and your whereabouts at any given moment in time.

Ministers are even creating a children's database, which will record truancy, diet, and medical history.

And, of course, ID cards will be issued in 2009 - to be used every time we carry out routine tasks such as visiting the dentist. Soon, biometric data - your iris scan, fingerprints and DNA, will help to identify you further.

And, all the time, there are those CCTV cameras - 20 per cent of the global total, even though Britain only has 0.2 per cent of the world's population.

New Labour has an absolute obsession with these devices. Soon, more sophisticated cameras will be able to recognise your face and the information matched to one of the national databases.

All cars will eventually be fitted with a GPS chip, officially to simplify road tax payments but they will also allow government agencies to track every vehicle in the country.

There are, of course, more alarming implications to being constantly monitored - as Orwell understood. Soon, we will be living in an open-air prison.

Some may ask: why does all this matter? The answer is that to surrender our identity and privacy so comprehensively is to give up something we will never get back.

Although New Labour says its mania for data-gathering is all part of its plan to protect us, there's no guarantee that future governments (who will be inheriting a nationwide surveillance machine and the National Identity Register) won't use it to more malign ends.

Totalitarian regimes have, after all, always collected information on their citizens. Hitler pioneered the use of ID cards as a means of repression. The Belgians left Rwanda with a bloody legacy by implementing an ID card system which divided the population into Hutu and Tutsi.

When the 1994 genocide began, these cards proved a device for horrific ethnic cleansing, with one million people dying in 100 days. The Stasi secret police in Soviet East Germany kept millions of files in order to keep track of everyone in the country.

Of course these examples are the extremes - but basic liberties such as privacy and free speech have been hard-won over centuries and history shows that we should not allow them to be brushed aside.

This shift away from individual freedom towards state power has happened slowly, and almost without us noticing.

Like so many others, I was proud to put a cross against the box next to New Labour in 1997 as a first-time voter. But now I have become shocked at the vast swathe of new laws which had been introduced, most of them in response to terrorism.

We are told that this is all for the good - these laws, and the surveillance cameras and ID cards will stop terrorists. Is that the case? Sadly not.

The London bombers carried ID and were observed on CCTV - of course it did not stop them committing their terrible crime.

Intelligence experts say that most information leading to genuine breakthroughs come from informants, not through random tracking or surveillance of the general population.

In any case, liberty and security aren't balanced on some delicate equilibrium, as John Reid, the Home Secretary, and Tony Blair would have us believe. History has shown us that it is precisely when you undermine people's basic rights that they mobilise towards radical groups.

After all, one of the greatest recruiters for the IRA in Northern Ireland was the policy of internment, under which people were imprisoned without trial. Have we learnt nothing from our past?

Stop and search laws applied to Britain's Muslim communities will simply polarise those groups. Instead, we need them to help us protect the country from terrorism.

It's not all doom and gloom, of course - as I hope my film reflects. The sheer absurdity of the bewildering array of idiotic new laws has given us an abundance of bizarre and hilarious situations for our documentary.

But behind this dark comedy is something much more disturbing. Faced with the threat of terrorism, the Government has told us that we must lay down our freedoms for our lives.

Perhaps it has forgotten the millions of people from past generations who have laid down their lives for our freedom. I think we owe it to those people to turn this tide.

Taking Liberties is on show in cinemas across the country. Visit www.noliberties.com
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=461611&in_page_id=1770

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Titan6
June 13, 2007, 01:59 PM
Good to know that freedom is alive and well on Airstrip One.

AndyC
June 13, 2007, 02:16 PM
Just like at Las Vegas airport, I imagine.

jselvy
June 13, 2007, 02:29 PM
But its for your own good.
Just take it easy and acquiesce like Mr. Luddite say, and it won't hurt at all.


Jefferson
The preceding post was sarcasm

Jim K
June 13, 2007, 02:37 PM
We should join the liberals in opposing more of that sort of thing here - we have too much of it already. I just wish the same people who claim to be fighting for civil liberties weren't always the ones fighting on the side of our nation's enemies.

Jim

Lucky
June 13, 2007, 04:31 PM
If they see people in favour of freedom re: guns are also in favour of freedom in the things they like, they might stop fearing.

elrod
June 13, 2007, 04:41 PM
It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to substute the name of G.W. Bush for Tony Blair and see what our future holds! They are buds, after all! But I forget, G.W. only has two more years. Thank God for small miracles!:o

CZ.22
June 13, 2007, 04:49 PM
Polish Potatoes?

Marshall
June 13, 2007, 05:28 PM
We should join the liberals in opposing more of that sort of thing here - we have too much of it already. I just wish the same people who claim to be fighting for civil liberties weren't always the ones fighting on the side of our nation's enemies.

Jim

Jim, best post I have read today. +1

Titan6
June 14, 2007, 01:01 PM
It is a misperception that liberals seek freedom.

In the US most liberals these days seek entitlements and increased security. Most freedoms sought revolve around personal freedoms that will allow them to moarlize legislation in the fashoin they see fit (much like the right). True freedom seekers among modern liberals is a rarity.

Zoogster
June 14, 2007, 03:51 PM
I'm thus equally leery of GPS trackers put in cars and cellphones, and sold as features, over here.

Actualy Lucky I am sorry to give you the bad news, but it is already the law here. We have this standard called "E-911" which requires that all mobile phone providers can track and locate people at all times in case of emergency. This feature does not magicly became available when a 911 call is placed and so is always being done. This is how they have caught numerous criminals not even using thier phone simply by tracking the location of thier cell phone.

Some years ago it became the law. The precision of the tracking went from the size of a field, to within a couple feet pretty fast. It is now the law that anyone with a cell phone can be tracked at any time in order to be E911 compliant. So if big brother wishes to locate anyone at any time or track thier movements using a cell phone they can. In fact you could create databases to track the movements of all cell phone carrying people via software if it was desired. In addition look up "roving bug" which is a technique which allows people to use the microphone in a cell phone to listen to all nearby conversation even when the phone is not in use and even turned off (as long as it has battery power.) It first came to public attention when mentioned in court by the FBI. Prior to that they had tried to keep it hidden from the public as that helps keep it an effective technique.

In fact with things like http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2006/04/70619 (classified room installed in AT&T to monitor the flow of all traffic) http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/307/mark-klein.html such actions would not be out of the ordinary.

One of the interesting things about the Patriot Act is that federal law enforcement can now be secret police. It is illegal to mention to people if they pursue information. It is interfering with investigations of national security to expose requests of information or the installation of equipment to spy on people by the federal government. It is pretty scary stuff. However this is why you do not see the big companies like AT&T or Verizon talking about such things and when approached issue comments like "we will not comment on issues of national security" because thier teams of lawyers have advised them of the law. One of the most important checks and balances in out system was ousted. Now only the occasional employee or small company not strictly adhering to the law slips up and exposes widespread wiretaping like in: http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/12/17/bush.nsa/

The installation of Narus STA 6400s and other such devices at the largest of our communication headquarters makes "wiretaping" almost an obsolete practice. Watching everything at all times in an attempt to find things rather than finding things and then pursuing them individualy is the new direction our government is taking.

You may think "well luckily I do not use that company and use ____.
Well that is were you are mistaken, you see most smaller providers actualy piggy back on the networks of larger providers sharing a lot of the same networks. So by simply targeting the largest the federal government can monitor the majority of people whether they use that particular provider or not.

I only wish this was all some 'guy with a tinfoil hat' dream.

But long story short, anyone that wishes to can already track you at any time through your cell phone. And in the near future if not already they will be doing it even if they do not have a specific interest in you. After all logging the location of every citizen would leave wonderful records that could later be used if needed for criminal investigations. So it would make us all safer in the end :rolleyes:

Do a search on videos in the UK. You will find endless real time traffic cams you can watch over the net from anywhere in the world (a terrorists dream I am sure) and articles with cameras that follow criminals being pursued throughtout a city. You think that is thier only use? They have cameras linked to very sensative microphones that listen to people routinely supposedly to make people safer by listening for a rise in agitation in voices or key words. http://soundandlightreflections.blogspot.com/2006/12/aggressive-speech-detection-and-cctv.html (so they obviously listen to everyone all the time, and they can actualy pinpoint or focus on a single conversation from over 100 yards away)
They have ones that talk to people: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/tees/5353538.stm
They even fine people for swearing on occasion: http://www.metro.co.uk/weird/article.html?in_article_id=17006&in_page_id=2
In fact the lists goes on and on.

R.H. Lee
June 14, 2007, 03:56 PM
Well, Britain doesn't really belong to the British anymore. They've let in so many hostile foreigners (mostly radical Islamists), and they're way too PC touchy feely to do anything about it.

Sucks to be them.

samtechlan
June 14, 2007, 05:41 PM
Speaking of conservative/liberal alliances, on certain issues Bob Barr, former congressman from GA and NRA Bd member has formed alliances with ACLU types on issues like privacy and unreasonable searches. As long as we keep our eyes wide open we can cooperate with liberals on other issues.

Jeff White
June 14, 2007, 06:02 PM
Zoogster said;
The precision of the tracking went from the size of a field, to within a couple feet pretty fast. It is now the law that anyone with a cell phone can be tracked at any time in order to be E911 compliant. So if big brother wishes to locate anyone at any time or track their movements using a cell phone they can.

A good theory, but it doesn't work out that way in real life. I've had 911 centers miss a cell phone location by more then a mile, once I was sent to the tower that picked up the cell signal, not the location of the cell phone that made the 911 hangup.

An ONSTAR call made in behalf of a stranded motorist missed his location by 4 miles on the interstate. He was that far from the mile marker ONSTAR's operator gave the dispatcher.

It's not quite as bad as you think and given the cost of making the technology that good, I hardly think you'll see sufficient funds diverted from entitlement programs to make it a reality in our lifetime. There are still large parts of rural America that have almost no cell phone coverage.

Jeff

Zoogster
June 14, 2007, 06:07 PM
A good theory, but it doesn't work out that way in real life. I've had 911 centers miss a cell phone location by more then a mile, once I was sent to the tower that picked up the cell signal, not the location of the cell phone that made the 911 hangup.

An ONSTAR call made in behalf of a stranded motorist missed his location by 4 miles on the interstate. He was that far from the mile marker ONSTAR's operator gave the dispatcher.

It's not quite as bad as you think and given the cost of making the technology that good, I hardly think you'll see sufficient funds diverted from entitlement programs to make it a reality in our lifetime. There are still large parts of rural America that have almost no cell phone coverage.

Jeff

A lot of it depends on the local cell network. More rural areas have older technology and companies are slower to update services used by fewer customers. In cities it can be pinpoint accurate because there is so many cells that triangulation can be performed constantly and a phone will almost always see more than a single cell location at a time.

Regardless the law is there and they have to upgrade. The deadline has been pushed back a couple times, but a few heavy fines and people quickly become compliant or go bankrupt and sell out to a bigger provider who does become compliant. With GPS technology becoming more standard the occasional issues seen by triangulating signals as you mention will cease entirely even in rural locations with few cells. Triangulation as the name implies requires a phone to see 2 seperate cell towers to pinpoint the exact location. If only a single one can be seen then the location is less precise (if it does not have gps or other independent tracking capabilities.) As this can be the case in more rural locations, it is being fixed by only offering service to compliant phones.

http://www.fcc.gov/911/enhanced/releases.html You will see people applying for waivers as they bring thier systems into compliance. Localy many services just became entirely compliant. They even had people turn in some old phones for free replacements with compliant models, while ending service gradualy to non compliant models. Notice the date on most of the requests on the FCC page is over a year ago. Many of them end around this month. So keep in tune with "orders" section and you will see who still has parts of thier system out of date.
National compliance is quickly becoming a reality, far from the not a "...reality in our lifetime."

Jeff White
June 14, 2007, 07:16 PM
Triangulation as the name implies requires a phone to see 2 seperate cell towers to pinpoint the exact location. If only a single one can be seen then the location is less precise (if it does not have gps or other independent tracking capabilities.) As this can be the case in more rural locations, it is being fixed by only offering service to compliant phones.

Isn't ONSTAR a GPS based system? Supposedly from what our local E911 board says, we are already in compliance, but we still get those errors. The system doesn't work that well in rural areas. Having a little experience with GPS in the Army, I can tell you that there are a lot of places where those small phones aren't going to pick up enough satellites to pinpont their location. Just not enough antenna. I personally think we're wasting money on these systems because as the phones get smaller they require a stronger signal to work. I think part of the problem we're experiencing is that, the phones aren't getting enough satellites to get a good fix.

Jeff

mons meg
June 14, 2007, 08:59 PM
Don't want to be tracked? Anyone who's watched the Sopranos knows you just go get a pre paid phone off the rack and pay cash..... DUHHH. ;)

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