Terrorism must not the excuse to curb civil liberties

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Dr Mick Taylor writes:

The world has seen a rise is senseless and appalling attacks on people exercising the right of free speech. Most immediate is the slaughter of the editor and staff at Charlie Hebdo in France by people who claim to have been offended by the magazine, which regularly lampoons both politics and religion.

Whilst the coming together of millions of people of all political opinions and religious persuasions from across the world to condemn this terrorism is a very positive and welcome sign, the predictable response from authoritarian political voices has been for more repression and more attacks on civil liberties.

Now we all know of the anti civil liberty policies of the last Labour Government with its control orders 45 days detention and ID cards to mention but some of its unappealing legislation whilst in government. We are also clear of where Tories stand on this issue as Home Secretary Teresa May calls daily for more unchecked powers for the police and security services, predicated on the false assumption that somehow this will make us safer.

So we welcome the unequivocal statements by Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg that the current proposals wending their way through Parliament are unacceptable in their present form. He is calling for their amendment to take account of the grave concerns expressed by the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. Whilst that may not be enough for everybody it’s certainly a great deal better than the current bill.

Here’s some of what Nick Clegg said about civil liberties following the Charlie Hebdo outrage.

“The irony appears to be lost on some politicians who say in one breath that they will defend freedom of expression and then in the next advocate a huge encroachment on the freedom of all British citizens.
Let’s remember, the so-called snooper’s charter was about was about storing the social media activity and the websites visited by every single man, woman and child in this country – by everyone ….
It’s not about dark [spaces on the web]; it’s about do I think with scooping up vast amounts of information on millions of people – children, grandmothers, grandparents, elderly people who do nothing more offensive than visiting garden centre websites. Do I think that is a sensible use of our resources and our time? No. Does it address the issue which you quite rightly identified and the agency quite rightly identified which is, as technology mutates, as this globalised industry becomes more and more global, how do we make sure that we continue to have the reach into those dark spaces so that terrorists cannot hide from it? I don’t think so”

Nick Clegg also defended the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish the image of Mohammed on their cover because “we have to keep our values safe.” He said that

“We shouldn’t self-censor for fear of causing offence. You can’t have freedom unless you have the right to offend people. People should not seek to impose their ideas on those they share society with.”

Nick also said that the right to privacy was qualified.

“If someone wants to do us harm, we should be able to break their privacy and go after their communications.”

Nick Clegg is the only British political leader speaking up for free speech and civil liberty. Both Cameron and Milliband want to curb civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism.

Calderdale Lib Dem Conference motion opposes new surveillance powers

Calderdale Liberal Democrats are sponsoring a motion to federal conference on the emergency surveillance powers currently being rammed through parliament. The motion has the support of the local party and a bunch of conference representatives. It has been submitted to the party’s Federal Conference Committee who will determine if the conference motion is selected for debate.

The Liberal Democrat constitution states “We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights” we believe passionately those basic rights include the rights to privacy as enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights. In order to protect that right we urge fellow Liberal Democrats to help enshrine the 10 principles on proportionate data retention set out in the European Court of Justice Ruling on the EU data retention directive  into our party policy.

Recognition that DRIP does not comply with these principles or our basic rights will put us back in a position where we can demand the UK Government provides the necessary and proportionate safeguards that help to protect us against abuses of power.

The text of the motion submitted is as follows:

Conference believes that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill does not comply with the criteria of proportionality for retention of communications data (as set down by the European Court of Justice ruling on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks – Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 and amending Directive 2002/58/EC) and as such does not comply with Human Rights legislation. 

Conference is opposed to giving sweeping powers of statutory instrument to the Secretary of State for the Home Office to create retention orders and increase state surveillance powers without the public or parliamentary scrutiny afforded by primary legislation. 

Conference notes and reiterates its support for the Digital Bill of Rights motion passed by Spring conference 2014. 

To ensure compliance with the Human Rights Act 1999 and the European Convention on Human Rights, Conference moves to adopt the following ten criteria for proportionate data retention (as laid down by the European Court of Justice ruling on the Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC) into party policy.

1, restrict retention to data that is related to a threat to public security and in particular restrict retention to a particular time period, geographical area and / or suspects or persons whose data would contribute to the prevention, detection or prosecution of serious offences (paragraph 59);
2 ,provide exceptions for persons whose communications are subject to an obligation of professional secrecy (see paragraph 58 of the judgment);
3, distinguish between the usefulness of different kinds of data and tailor retention periods on the basis of the data’s possible usefulness for the purposes of the objective pursued or according to the persons concerned (paragraph 63);
4, ensure retention periods are limited to that which are ‘strictly necessary’ (paragraph 64);
5, empower an independent administrative or judicial body to make decisions regarding access to the data on the basis of what is strictly necessary (paragraph 62);
6, restrict access and use of the data to the prevention, detection or prosecution of defined, sufficiently serious crimes (paragraphs 60-61);
7, limit the number of persons authorised to access and subsequently use the data to that which is strictly necessary (paragraph 62);
8, ensure the data is kept securely with sufficient safeguards to ensure effective protection against the risk of abuse and unlawful access (paragraph 66);
9, ensure destruction of the data when it is no longer required (paragraph 67); and
10, ensure the data is kept within the EU (paragraph 68).