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From The Socialist newspaper, 27 November 2013

UK governments approved secret mass surveillance

O Tempora! O mores!

David Semple

"The key question is what was authorised and what was not authorised," said Richard Ottaway, Tory MP and veteran of the Intelligence and Security Committee, over the revelation that from 2007, British intelligence officials agreed to allow the US National Security Agency (NSA) the right to spy on the mobile, email, fax and internet data of British citizens.

Earlier damaging allegations have revealed how far the US targeted supposedly allied nations and their leaders, but the full extent of the surveillance operation in the UK is yet to be revealed. The actions of the NSA, and the 2007 memo, exposed by ex-NSA operative Edward Snowden, hint that the signatories to the UK/USA secret treaty of 1946 were spying on each other's citizens and sharing the results.

This allowed them to duck the restrictive requirements for spying on their own citizens.

The 2007 memo was circulated around the UK's GCHQ and the NSA, but members of the Commons' Intelligence and Sec-urity Committee, which was supposed to have oversight of such actions, have refused to comment on what they did or didn't know. The Labour foreign secretaries during the period, Jack Straw and Margaret Beckett, have rebuffed queries from the press.

Labour Party

As earlier revelations about the Tempora programme indicate, however, the Labour government was involved up to the hilt in the development of programmes that would intercept British internet traffic. The Prism programme was a US arrangement to pay tech companies millions of dollars for their cooperation in surveillance. Tempora was a UK version, tapping fibre optic cables.

Meanwhile, all of these actions are being conducted under legislation passed by the Labour government. When the partner of leading anti-surveillance journalist Glenn Greenwald visited the UK in August 2013, he was detained by police for nine hours, and had documents seized, under Section 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Tempora is legal under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

The Tory government is extending these powers, eg through making the secret use in court of such intelligence legal under the Justice and Security Act 2013.

As with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the main political parties are the servants of British and American imperialism. They will not voluntarily surrender any tool that will help them jockey for global position and so serve the interests of their capitalist class. What should preoccupy us is just how quickly these tools will be turned against domestic opponents of capitalism.

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In The Socialist 27 November 2013:


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