Thursday, 12 March 2015

Philip Hammond tells us to stop talking about Ed Snowden

Philip Hammond told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute that the debate about surveillance "cannot be allowed to run on forever."

He’s worried that we might distract spies from their spying if we talk about it too much.

The minister added that he, the prime minister and the home secretary are already "determined to draw a line under the debate" with legislation. This, he promised, will give the agencies the powers they need, and an oversight regime that appeases citizens.

Nothing like passing laws quickly to stop people complaining that their rights are being eroded.

Luckily, it turns out that our laws are totally fine and completely effective.  We just need more of them, not less.

"We are right to question the powers required by our agencies, and particularly by GCHQ, to monitor private communications in order to do their job. But we should not lose sight of the vital balancing act between the privacy we desire and the security we need," he said.

That’s the point in keeping everyone talking about it.  Shutting people up isn’t going to help us come to the right balance, especially since the Foreign Secretary has already made up his mind.

"From my position as foreign secretary, responsible for the oversight of GCHQ, I am quite clear that the ability to intercept ‘bulk communications data', to subject that metadata to electronic analysis and to seek to extract the tiny percentage of communications data that may be of any direct security interest, does not represent an enhancement of the agencies' powers," he said.

Well, no.  Because they’ve been doing it all along in secret (and illegally) anyway. That’s not what people are arguing about.  They’re arguing that these powers are far too great and are likely to become more so.  Keeping quiet about it is the last thing we should do.

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