Fight the snoopers’ charter!

Metadata matters!

Fight the snoopers’ charter

Steve Score

“We kill people based on metadata” said General Michael Hayden, former director of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the CIA.

A government commissioned report says that UK intelligence agencies should be allowed to keep their powers to gather bulk communications data on a massive scale – records of emails, phone calls and social media (metadata).

This is in addition to eavesdropping and reading of the content of communications.

David Anderson QC, the report’s author, has, however, argued that the power to authorise surveillance warrants should be removed from government ministers and given to a new judicial body. The government is resisting this proposal.

New powers

The Queen’s Speech flagged up a new investigatory powers bill, a revamped “snoopers’ charter”. This will extend powers to collect metadata and intercept communications.

It follows the revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden (see the Socialist, issue 856) which revealed the vast scale of this snooping.

A scare campaign to justify the new bill has begun after the Sunday Times reported an ‘anonymous source’ that Snowden’s leaked (but encrypted) information was hacked into by Russia and China, allegedly forcing US and British secret agents to be withdrawn.

Governments have claimed that collecting metadata is less intrusive than surveillance. But as NSA General Counsel, Stewart Baker, points out that: “It tells you everything you need to know about somebody’s life.” A former NSA director starkly admitted: “We kill people based on metadata.”

Catching terrorists and criminals has been the justification, but these powers are also used against political activists, campaigners and trade unionists.

Recent revelations of police spies, such as Peter Francis, have shown how the state tracks activists. Francis infiltrated the Militant (forerunner of the Socialist Party), the Youth against Racism in Europe campaign, and spied on the Stephen Lawrence family and friends. Stephen was murdered in a racist attack in 1993.

These measures, increased under Labour as well as the Tories and Lib Dems, are more to do with the state acting on behalf of the ruling class to keep political control. It is not coincidental that the government is ramping them up, along with new anti-trade union laws, at the same time as increasing austerity.

They see the likelihood of mass opposition as a threat to their system, and are prepared to take repressive measures to defend themselves.

Socialists oppose these attacks on civil liberties, and link the fight against them to the struggle for a socialist alternative to capitalism – which always has to find repressive ways to defend privilege.