Understanding Julian Huppert MP’s support of Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill

Of all the things I might say about Julian Huppert MP, stupid is not one of them – he’s consistently informed, reasoned and principled. Pretty good qualities of an MP, as I think you’d agree.

This makes his support of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill… surprising.

It seems to be a broadly unpopular stance, which (appears) inconsistent with what one might expect from him. I’m pretty sure we won’t change his mind, but I’m interested to try and understand it from his point of view.

My feeling is that he’s making this decision based on data that is privileged to him which he can’t share with us.

His major contribution to the bill, which legalises wholescale spying (including you Facebook, Gmail) in the UK and expands it to include non-UK citizens, is to make it expire in 2016, after the next General Election.

I think this article in the Guardian goes some way to explaining his point of view, and yet skirts the big questions like “but clause 5 and 6 massively change the scope of the bill” to target people outside the UK.

I feel like I’m going /r/conspiracy, and suggesting that lizards in the rotary club control the world, but one hypothesis for the bill seems less outlandish given the backdrop of Edward Snowden’s revelations about GCHQ and our knowledge that multiple foreign ISPs are suing GCHQ in a UK jurisdiction for spying on them.

My suspicion would be that:

  • Julian has been told this bill will be pushed through whether he opposes it or not
  • He’s been given an opportunity to insert some clauses into it, so long as they don’t alter the ones about interception
  • He may or may not have been told semi-directly by a bunch of security types about how GCHQ is in a precarious legal position which the establishment want to shore up

If we took those things as given, then if you look at his approach from his point of view, it kind of makes sense. I don’t support it. But it makes sense.

I guess we might find out after the next General Election when he can talk freely.

PRISM: What you won’t hear the Americans say (but what you should be very scared of).

The recent revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden about the US’s PRISM program, have, in the US, mainly centered on how the NSA could be spying on American citizens which may or may not be against the constitution. The details seem to suggest that so long as the data collected is 51% or more, between non-Americans, then it’s all good. The EFF/ACLU are upset that American’s are being spied on.. and simultaneously missing the much larger point:

Since when did it become “OK” for the US to conduct surveillance on every foreign internet user?

The big thing the American constitutionalists are up in arms about is these discoveries in relation to their constitution’s 4th amendment – their protection again unreasonable searches and seizures – the oversight role of their judiciary and the requirement of ‘probable cause’.

It seems that whilst American foreign policy frequently talks up the virtues of their country’s bill of rights, they don’t feel this applies to “the rest of the world”.

The US disregards non-american's privacy in the name of it's own security.
The US disregards non-american's privacy in the name of it's own security.

Unfortunately, this means that for non-Americans, most of the world, we know that any traffic to/from the US is being spied on as a matter of course, and I think that is significant cause for concern.

The NSA director says:

“The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.”

The concept that one can lose one’s privacy, without oversight, in the name of “American Security” is something I find upsetting? Does unauthorised copyright usage also threaten US security?

Use Gmail? NSA seen it.

Use Facebook? NSA knows you.

etc.

William Hague, our esteemed foreign secretory” says: “law-biding members of the public had ‘nothing to fear'”.

Personally, I think he’s a bit of a bellend, and, more crucially, wrong.

Pet Shop Boys- Integral