Friday, November 4, 2011

Rip(a)e for scrapping

Ripa, the Regulatory Investigatory Powers Act, brought in by Labour ostensibly to keep an eye on terrorists, but so loosely written that local councils found it a handy tool to spy on what people were putting into its bins comes in for criticism again.
The astonishing extent of Britain’s surveillance society was revealed for the first time yesterday.
Three million snooping operations have been carried out over the past decade under controversial anti-terror laws.
They include tens of thousands of undercover missions by councils and other state bodies which are not responsible for law enforcement.
Cases include a family who were spied on to check they were not cheating on school catchment area rules and so-called ‘bin criminals’.
The campaign group Justice is demanding the hugely controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act – under which all the operations were authorised – be scrapped altogether.
Since the Act was passed, there have been:
More than 20,000 warrants for the interception of phone calls, emails and internet use;
At least 2.7million requests for communication data, including phone bills and location information;
More than 4,000 authorisations for intrusive surveillance, such as planting a bug in a person’s house;
At least 186,133 authorisations for directed (covert) surveillance by law enforcement agencies;
61,317 directed surveillance operations by other public bodies, including councils;
43,391 authorisations for ‘covert human intelligence sources’.
In total, the report says there have been around three million decisions taken by state bodies under RIPA, not including authorisations given to the security and intelligence services.
Yet fewer than 5,000 of these – just 0.16 per cent – were approved by judges.

There are times when you can honestly believe that someone took George Orwell's novel 1984 as a template for the future of the UK. Even the language is twisted in the same way as newspeak where a new Protections of freedoms Bill means anything of the sort. The problem has always been that people in authority will use the tools available to that authority in ways the lawmakers never envisaged. This with the coupling of the EU Code Napoleon (where a law is required for permission) into various areas of UK justice (where if there isn't a law against it, it's legal) has put the UK public under ever more scrutiny even for mundane things than at any time in our history.
The most damning thing of all though is the fact that only 5 thousand of the 3 million undercover investigations ever came before a judge and worst of all, none of the 3 million were authorisations given to the security and intelligence services.
We are snooped on, spied upon and told constantly that it's for our own safety, yet the system itself is frequently used to target those whom the state see as inconvenient, people such as the leader of the EDL.

He's had his business destroyed, investigated by the taxman, been held under bail for over 18 months, had an attempted 10 year ASBO thrown at him, his wife arrested, constantly followed by special branch officers.In the end, he was given a 12 month suspended prison sentence, a 150 hour community order, and must pay £200 costs after being found guilty of assault, despite the fact that the guy who was aid to have been assaulted refused to press charges or appear as a witness for the prosecution.
Indeed as for the ASBO, the judge Peter Ward refused the application and said he did not believe it would have been submitted but for the defendant's links with the EDL.
Everywhere you go people who have stuck their heads above the parapet to question the states judgement or even request something the state is unwilling to give or simply doesn't believe them are targeted and lives investigated and occasionally destroyed.
We need to temove RIPA, we need to go back to the days of UK justice based upon ancient traditions and those who abused (in a very real sense) the provisions of RIPA should be sacked and/or imprisoned for their authoritarian abuse.
It's time to start trimming back the state, both financially, in size and in powers. Our freedom depends on the state having as little power over our lives as possible!

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