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UK Taps 439,000 Phones, Now Wants To Monitor MPs

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the note-quite-enough dept.

Communications 290

JPMH writes "With the largest density of CCTV cameras in the world, and an increasing network of automatic number-plate recognition cameras on main roads, Britain has long been a pioneer for the surveillance society. Now new official figures reveal that UK agencies monitored 439,000 telephones and email addresses in a 15 month period between 2005 and 2006. The Interception of Communications Commissioner is seeking the right for agencies to be allowed to monitor the communications of Members of Parliament as well, something which has been forbidden since the 1960s. It must be that it is bringing their numbers down: on the law of averages they should be monitoring at least 5 of the MPs."

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Oh please let them be monitored (5, Interesting)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#18080938)

See how they like it.

Re:Oh please let them be monitored (5, Insightful)

iainl (136759) | more than 7 years ago | (#18080990)

Lovely idea, except there are MPs and MPs. They aren't going to be listening to John "Slippy Shoulders" Reid trying to work out how the latest disaster is Someone Else's Fault. Opposition Members might find some 'unusual' feedback on their lines, however.

Re:Oh please let them be monitored (2, Funny)

Elemenope (905108) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081482)

[...]Members might find some 'unusual' feedback on their lines, however.

Ugh, that is soooo last century. ;) 21st century surveillance is new and improved; you need not have a clue you are being watched at all!

Re:Oh please let them be monitored (1)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081694)

Yes, so assume you are always under surveilance and act accordingly. If you are an average workaday bloke follow all the laws and say nothing provocative. If you are a person with wealth, connections, or clout simply keep breaking the laws since evidence has never mattered in the past so surveilance video won't make an difference.

Re:Oh please let them be monitored (4, Insightful)

bri2000 (931484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081136)

They're hypocrits who don't like the powers they've granted the police to be turned on them one little bit. For example, when the police are pumping bullets into some guys head down in Stockwell tube because, well there wasn't really a because other than that there'd been a bombing the previous week and the police fancied shooting someone foreign looking, they're "doing an excellent job in difficult circumstances". However, when the police arrest Blair's assistants in dawn raids as part of the cash-for-honours scandal, they're described as heavy handed bully boys harassing people who should be presumed innocent.

I suspect this extention of phone tapping to MPs is specifically aimed as George Galloway as Blair's desperate for dirt on one of the biggest thorns in his side.

Re:Oh please let them be monitored (4, Insightful)

mgblst (80109) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081340)

You do realise that there is no amorphous blob called the police? You realise that the police are made up of a bunch of people, some of whom are very competent, some of whom are less so. This is why the police can do one job well, and one job badly, because there were different police in handling the issue.

So many people on slashdot seem to have difficulty in dealing with groups of people. I guess it makes it easier to argue.

I do agree with what you are trying to say, except for the last bit, nobody cares about George except his own staff. But nothing they have said is logically incorrect.

Re:Oh please let them be monitored (3, Interesting)

Elemenope (905108) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081664)

You do realise that there is no amorphous blob called the police? You realise that the police are made up of a bunch of people, some of whom are very competent, some of whom are less so. This is why the police can do one job well, and one job badly, because there were different police in handling the issue.

'Tis true that police departments are composed of diverse sorts of individuals of varying levels of competence. However, particular departments can encourage development of certain ways of doing things, certain professional culture, through policies, hiring criteria, and subtler social pressures, such that the vast majority of the officers will behave in a predictable way given the same circumstances. The quality of that behavior depends upon those policies and what the interior culture is.

At the University I attend, there are two neighboring towns which have substatial contact with the students. They have separate police departments, and while they are all individuals as you say, I have a reasonable expectation of being treated fairly by an officer from one of those towns, and not so much from the other. Occassionally I am pleasantly or unpleasantly surprised, but not often. I suspect it has a lot to do with differences of priority, different internal cultures, and probably even different policies.

So many people on slashdot seem to have difficulty in dealing with groups of people. I guess it makes it easier to argue.

The formation of categories and identification of general delineations and trends are crucial to thought and discussion. I agree it can be done well or poorly, and some folks are better at it than others. The trick is to identify which factors of distinction are important and which are trivial. Not always easy, and easy thus to err on the side of excluding something important in the generalization.

Re:Oh please let them be monitored (4, Insightful)

bri2000 (931484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081812)

Obviously the police are not homogenous. However, so far as I'm concerned the competent, uncorrupt members of the force (assuming there are any) only have the right to be differentiated from the mass if they're prepared to actually bring their incompetent and corrupt colleagues to account rather than closing ranks, stalling and "misplacing" evidence whenever allegations of corruption or incompetence are made. If the police want to stick together they're going to have to be judged together. Sorry, but years of reading Private Eye and its Police 5 section has made me deeply sceptical of the motives of the police.

A better test than you think! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081426)

I find it highly unlikely that the people in power (yes, in power; not "representing") would tolerate being surveiled. It's been forbidden for 40 years FOR A REASON: they don't want to be watched. Nobody does: not MPs, not office or factory or construction workers, not layabouts, not housewives. It's offensive to any human because it's degrading and subordinating.

Here's the test:
If this push is rebuffed, that's MASSIVE and blatant hypocrisy on the part of the lawmakers of the land. They tolerate and directly facilitate the surveillance of their constituents, but consider themselves above their constituents, and thus above such proletarian shackles. That's the status quo, and has been since it became technologically feasible to surreptitiously monitor them 40 years ago. Even if they don't allow this, it's a small news item in a world of bigger things to spin, so not many people would notice, let alone think about it enough to care, let alone act.

If they cave in, I don't know what to think. In my opinion, the public should at least be able to monitor the actions of its government and its agents, but it is abundantly clear that MPs at large disagree emphatically with that notion. Therefore, they'd have a different motive. Placating the public? "See? We're under a microscope too, the humans were meant to live!" I doubt that. The public may have the power to unseat them, but it desperately lacks the will to do so. Just don't care? Not a chance (remember: humans hate this). Just hard to imagine this outcome.

Finally, the footsteps in the night are coming for them, too.

Re:Oh please let them be monitored (2, Insightful)

HeyMe (935075) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081682)

Mr. Winston Smith, we know who you've been talking too...

Fuck this... (5, Interesting)

Ckwop (707653) | more than 7 years ago | (#18080956)

May I be the first to say holy fucking shit. I mean, I knew it was bad. I once counted three hundred or so security cameras on a trip around Liverpool but I never once suspected that we had it anywhere near this bad.

And these goons want a road-pricing scheme via GPS tracking? Jesus f-ing Christ. Next they'll want to photograph people in toilets in case they decide to take drugs in them. They really are that bat-shit crazy!

My Grandma died last year of cancer. She was one of the brave women that gunned down German planes over Widnes during World War II. Their generation's sacrifice, every single last one of them appears to be in vein. For we've become the very thing we fought sixty years ago. How did this happen? How did we let ourselves be cowed in to this?

The faceless little shits behind this will never be known. Their crimes will never go punished.

Any Canadians willing to sponsor a immigrating Brit?

Simon

Re:Fuck this... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081128)

Any Canadians willing to sponsor a immigrating Brit?

No. Don't run away to North America just because you don't have the balls to stand up to the thugs in your own country. Your grandma didn't run away. You shouldn't either.

Re:Fuck this... (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081172)

No simon, I won't house you from the evil brits. You drink too much. :-)

BTW, do you really think the cameras are archived or looked at in any depth.

Tom

Re:Fuck this... (4, Insightful)

mgblst (80109) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081414)

BTW, do you really think the cameras are archived or looked at in any depth.
 
That might make you feel safe for now, but what about the future. What about when image recognition if to the point that the computer can recognise you, and thus record everywhere you have been. Does that worry you? Is that really that far away? How much did the ministry of defence spend on Image Recognition last year? Any idea? A scary amount, whatever it is.

Re:Fuck this... (2, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081536)

Well at the point where the Crown thinks I'm an enemy I'll just stop visiting the country :-)

Honestly, I agree the cameras are a waste of effort, but the privacy issues are just not there. You're OUT IN PUBLIC for crying out loud.

Tom

Re:Fuck this... (5, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081466)

BTW, do you really think the cameras are archived or looked at in any depth.
You're right, they're just there to scare you and the images are never archived and nobody looks at them.
In fact there is no electricity going to the cameras and those in the know often climb up and bash them open to release the candy hidden inside for all the gleeful British children on the ground below.

Re:Fuck this... (1)

Hijacked Public (999535) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081804)

Beautiful post.

Re:Fuck this... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081618)

Why would they bother if it wasn't one of the two? You can bet they have at the very least a 1 year cache with monkeys watching walls of screens. Data storage is cheap, and knowing they can use this information 10 years down the line to work on a freshly reopened cold case to advance their careers is more than enough incentive for the people managing this data to want to spend tax dollars. After all, government is just a synonym for "the magical money tree" to most people. It's Can I? and not Should I? spend this ridiculous amount of money. People tend to get tunnel vision and overestimate the value of their field so they have no problem justifying it.

You should hear my idiot, aspiring "graphic designer", starving artist friend ranting about how important and powerful marketing and it's graphic design work is. Some how thinks being a sell-out used to connect with consumer base groups puts him in a position of power. I use sell out to draw parallel to prositution, not because I give a shit about "artistic integrity" whatever the fuck that's supposed to mean.

FTR, I've known more than my share of artists and they're all emo idiots. The guy beating off under his coat in the back of the bus is an example of the lower class expressing itself too, but he at least knows he's a waste of life. The fact that the rich are gullible enough to support artists is a sad statement about the ability of fools to amass large amounts of money. Atleast art boy is timing his career right in the recovery from a recession. By the time we're back in the middle of economic explosion, even he will probably be able to find someone to feed him. Provided he doesn't follow the path of the folk hippy artist. They have to drink their own urine to get by there's so little demand for those fuckers.

I don't like people. I know that statement turns people off and that's why I continue to make it. Fuck you either way. If you want to give me a high five, you're a weak minded idiot, and if you think I'm a jerk you're a naive idiot. Coddling morons is why they are allowed to vote for politicians who want a camera in every bathroom stall.

Yes, I have a very hot girlfriend. Would be wife if she had it her way, but I would never do anything so retarded. Take comfort in the fact that I am MISERABLE as a person, but blame yourself for being alive. That's the source of my misery.

Re:Fuck this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081212)

The one good news is that your security is asking. Here in America, USA PATRIOT act basically says that once a warrent is obtained for "terrorism", then the group of ppl can look anywhere they want. In addition, any and all information can and will be turned over to the DOJ. then DOJ can use that info in any fashion taht they want. Finally, the group that overseas this, is a small group from high up in the DOJ. We are more fucked than you are.

Re:Fuck this... (3, Insightful)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081360)

No need to go all the way to Canada. I'm looking at a place closer to home: Eire. They speak English, and are in the EU so I don't even need a passport to move there. Emigration looks more appealing every day.

Re:Fuck this... (4, Funny)

jez9999 (618189) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081492)

If they speak English, why aren't you calling them 'Ireland'??

Re:Fuck this... (1)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081830)

To avoid any confusion with Northern Ireland; I could have also typed "the Republic of Ireland" but "Eire" is shorter, and easier to type.

Re:Fuck this... (1)

SenseiLeNoir (699164) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081720)

Small nitpick, but even before the EU, you were able to readily emigrate/settle in Ireland (and the Irish were able to settle/immigrate in the UK).

Re:Fuck this... (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081430)

How about, actually try and fix it? The government isn't beyond the control of the average person; Bush's administration f&@ked up in Iraq, and now he's certainly not coming back next time.

Raise awareness, and if people care they'll vote someone in who wants to put an end to this. Even if that person doesn't get in the main parties will see that they can get more votes if they appeal to those concerned about privacy.

The noble grandma you talk about probably never considered moving to Canada, did she?

Re:Fuck this... (1)

Mille Mots (865955) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081522)

Bush's administration f&@ked up in Iraq, and now he's certainly not coming back next time.


This may come as a surprise to some, but GWB is already on his second term. A person can not be elected to more than two terms as President. Therefore, he absolutely will not be 'coming back next time' and it has nothing to do with the present administration's handling of the attack on Iraq. Well, unless he declares martial law and suspends the Constitution...remember when the tin foil crowd was claiming that Clinton was going to do just that? Heh.


--
This is not the .sig you are looking for.

Re:Fuck this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081742)


Bush's administration f&@ked up in Iraq, and now he's certainly not coming back next time.


Not sure what you mean by that.

If you mean he isn't going to be elected again, then as the other poster noted, he managed that by being elected the maximum number of times, not by the mess he made in Iraq.

If you mean he isn't going to be able to start the war he wants in Iran ... That isn't a done deal one way or the other. Only time will tell.

Re:Fuck this... (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081480)

I hope you have a copy of the Magna Carta. That damn piece of paper is a threat to UK national security.

Re:Fuck this... (1)

ChristW (18232) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081504)

And these goons want a road-pricing scheme via GPS tracking?
Ah, well, The Netherlands are going to implement a similar scheme as well. We'll all have a nice little black box in our cars, tracing every mile of road, so we can get charged not only on where we drive, but also when we drive there...

Re:Fuck this... (4, Funny)

phookz (944746) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081534)

Your lack or patriotism and excessive use of foul language has been noted...

Re:Fuck this... (0)

xtracto (837672) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081734)

. I once counted three hundred or so security cameras on a trip around Liverpool but I never once suspected that we had it anywhere near this bad.

Hehe, I have lived here in Liverpool for almost 3 years and I can tell you that police MUST watch these crazy Scousers as they really are fucked up. No but in all seriousness, you do live in a terrible bigbrother-1984-esque country. People here live *in fear* of their government. I just read somewhere that the probability to be sentenced after committing a crime is about ~%22 compared to ~9% in USA and ~%1 in Mexico. But me and other Mexican friends have a great time laughing at the government advertisings about tax evasion, drinking and even the stupid TV-License (gosh, I have received tens of "this is the final advice, we are knocking down your door next time").

And just the other day I was telling an English friend that it would be nice to bring some tequila and sell it here. You should have seen his face, he when he told me "But that is illegal!", I think he wished not to be my friend (with the fear of being caught for being associated with a criminal).

Re:Fuck this... (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081778)

Any Canadians willing to sponsor a immigrating Brit?

Sure. But I think you'd be disappointed.

The population here in Canada is still under the same level of control, but it's just done more subtly. Seriously. EVERYBODY is already wire-tapped. Echelon [wikipedia.org] takes care of that. It's just not discussed in parliament. And with the kind of Cell phone systems in place and RFID and satellite imaging, and heaven knows what else, (a lightbulb can function as a two-way EM transceiver if you have sensitive enough equipment, which they most certainly do, and have done for a long time), nobody has any privacy. Period.

The kind of surveillance and societal control each first world nation is pressed beneath is simply a different flavor of the same huge, planet-wide experiment. For some reason, Britain has been flagged as a nation for testing/using more provocative measures, but those measures are entirely cosmetic.

Anyway, we still have the Queen on our coins here in Canada.

This is not to say that I wouldn't look into altering your life in order to get out of the way of the speeding train. I just wouldn't recommend Canada as a particularly safe alternative. When Bush the Psychopath starts dropping nukes, I think it might be silly to assume that Canada will somehow avoid the big lock-down. --It might be marginally less insane. But I wouldn't count on it.


-FL

The answer is pretty simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081796)

"How did we let ourselves be cowed in to this?"

The U.K. has a long history of having a government that's of the bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats and for the bureaucrats. In case you haven't figured it out yet, the people don't matter, except to pacify with the facade o f lip-service you call your elections.

Until you realize that the masters of real power in your country are those nameless, faceless paperpushers, who are really answerable to no one but themselves, your country will continue to slide downhill in a fashion which best serves them.

And unfortunately, your country is a role model for every other bureaucrat the world over

Hey Brits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18080964)

Time to overthrow your government. Labor's shite; vote Lib-Dem.

British humoUr? (0, Offtopic)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | more than 7 years ago | (#18080988)

It must be that it is bringing their numbers down: on the law of averages they should be monitoring at least 5 of the MPs.
Is this supposed to be a joke? Brits and their weird sense of humor.. No wonder I never understood Monty Python.

Re:British humoUr? (1, Offtopic)

Ash Vince (602485) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081042)

You never understood Monty Python? You poor thing.

Re:British humoUr? (0, Offtopic)

Hackeron (704093) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081216)

Watch life of brian - watching it now, what a laugh riot

Re:British humoUr? (0, Offtopic)

cappadocius (555740) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081348)

It must be that it is bringing their numbers down: on the law of averages they should be monitoring at least 5 of the MPs.
Is this supposed to be a joke? Brits and their weird sense of humor.. No wonder I never understood Monty Python.
Are there still 5 Members of Python around? Or is that not what MP stands for?

Re:British humoUr? (1)

VJ42 (860241) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081434)

in this context MP == Member of Parliament.

Re:British humoUr? (1)

cappadocius (555740) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081538)

hmmm. judging by replies and moderation, i forgot to use my sarcasm voice when typing that joke....

baaaaaaa (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18080992)

My God! Your average brit must be a bleating sheep! How can they even begin to tolerate this?

Re:baaaaaaa (1)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081562)

Because nice sugar daddy Government will keep you warm, fed, and safe from all the nasties out there in the big bad world like football hooligans and terrorists. All you have to do is be amenable to a few, um, proclivities that your sugar daddy has. Now, close your eyes and think of England.

WTF? Seriously, WTF? (4, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081024)

But Sir Swinton rejected the suggestion of allowing intercept material on terrorists and organised criminals to be used in evidence in trials. "If terrorists and criminals, most particularly those high up in the chain of command, know that interception would be used in evidence against them, they will do everything possible to stop providing the material which is so very valuable as intelligence."
This has bended my mind. My mind is now bended.

Re:WTF? Seriously, WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081098)

This has bended my mind. My mind is now bended.

It's actually quite straight forward. If you were engaged in illegal activities and knew your phone was tapped, then you are not likely to use your phone to help in your illegal activities (unless your really dumb). However, if you didn't know that your email was also being monitored, then you are likely to use it for illegal activities. Ergo, it is in the best interest of those monitoring you to make sure you don't know through which channels you're being monitored (this is why intelligence agencies hate it when someone leaks the fact that Osama's phone is being tapped, what made it effective was the fact that he wasn't aware).

Re:WTF? Seriously, WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081798)

It's actually quite straight forward. If you were engaged in illegal activities and knew your phone was tapped, then you are not likely to use your phone to help in your illegal activities (unless your really dumb).

Unless you were really dumb, you'd always assume that your phone was tapped and your emails were being logged. I guarantee that any career criminal already makes this assumption and finds ways to stay off the radar. You would never know for certain that you were not being investigated.

In other words, the only point in keeping wiretap evidence secret is to try to hide how widespread it actually is. Today, storage technology is sufficiently advanced that there is no need to assign a "KGB" man to everyone you want to monitor. You just record everything you can, and then when you find someone you want to investigate, your "KGB" guys go through the recordings of that person looking for evidence. Flies in the face of "get a warrant first" laws... but laws don't apply to some Governments.

Re:WTF? Seriously, WTF? (1)

GundamFan (848341) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081170)

I'm sorry what?

How in the world can intelligence that can't be used in court be very useful? even if you use it to stop a plot you wouldn't be able to hold on to these bad guys according to your own rules. Why can't our governments (the US and UK in this case) that all this crap does is erode there credibility and marginalize the one thing they are sworn to protect above all else.

President Bush once said "They hate our freedom" and I am beginning to think that his plan for combating this is to lower our freedom to a level acceptable to the "terrorists" (of course the definition of that word and how it is used by us and on us is a whole other discussion).

Re:WTF? Seriously, WTF? (1)

GreyPoopon (411036) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081294)

How in the world can intelligence that can't be used in court be very useful? even if you use it to stop a plot you wouldn't be able to hold on to these bad guys according to your own rules. Why can't our governments (the US and UK in this case) that all this crap does is erode there credibility and marginalize the one thing they are sworn to protect above all else.

You are making the mistaken assumption that there was ever any intent to use the intelligence in court so that they can "hold on" to the bad guys. For that to be true, political leaders would have to view themselves as subject to the same laws that govern the citizens. What you OUGHT to be asking yourself is: If the government is willing to make consideration of such a polarizing issue public knowledge, what are they doing in PRIVATE that you DON'T know about?

Re:WTF? Seriously, WTF? (2, Interesting)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081544)

Sort of like all of the info that J Edgar Hoover accumulated as head of the FBI? Not very useful in court but great for ruining lives, political careers, etc.

Re:WTF? Seriously, WTF? (1)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081336)

I might be wrong, but 'can be used in court' != 'can be used by police in the course of their investigations'. A phone intercept might, for example, lead to a raid on a premises, which would then reveal evidence that could be used in court.

Re:WTF? Seriously, WTF? (2, Interesting)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081484)

I might be wrong, but 'can be used in court' != 'can be used by police in the course of their investigations'. A phone intercept might, for example, lead to a raid on a premises, which would then reveal evidence that could be used in court.
That does make a certain kind of sense. However, doesn't this pretty much suggest that the powers that be are actually more interested in gathering and hoarding massive amounts of data than actually using the data they have to catch criminals? It seems to me a bit like becoming a dentist for the explicit goal of collecting infected teeth to fill your infected tooth jar, rather than any desire to actually treat the people connected to said teeth.

Re:WTF? Seriously, WTF? (1)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081580)

However, doesn't this pretty much suggest that the powers that be are actually more interested in gathering and hoarding massive amounts of data than actually using the data they have to catch criminals?

Not really. Wiretaps are only going to reveal what people are talking about doing. Better to keep them under surveillance until they actually try to do something, don't you think? That way it's easier to prove and they get put away for longer. Furthermore, if they are all talk, arresting them won't make the public any safer, but if you don't arrest them, they might lead you to people who are more serious.

One wiretap for every twelve crimes? (5, Informative)

mrogers (85392) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081038)

The figure seems particularly large when you consider that around 5,000,000 crimes were reported [crimestatistics.org.uk] in England and Wales during the same period. Does one in twelve crimes require a wiretap? Or is it possible that at least some of the surveillance is politically motivated [lobster-magazine.co.uk] ?

Re:One wiretap for every twelve crimes? (1)

frp001 (227227) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081142)

Another interesting point would be : how many were solved? how many were solved because of the monitoring? how were solved partly thanks to monitoring?

Re:One wiretap for every twelve crimes? (2, Informative)

mrogers (85392) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081652)

After a bit of digging it appears there were 1,895,002 prosecutions and 1,484,424 convictions in 2005 [homeoffice.gov.uk] (warning: large XLS file), of which roughly one fifth were for serious (indictable) offences. I'd be interested to know how many convictions involved wiretap evidence.

Wait, haven't I seen this movie? (1)

jmp_nyc (895404) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081560)

They've just seen too many movies.

In the original Day of the Jackal [imdb.com] , the inspector is trying to determine the source of a leak, probably coming from someone at the highest level. He finally determines that it's come from one of the ministers on the board that oversees his investigation. After announcing which minister was the source of the leak by playing a tape from a wire tap, one of the ministers asks "How did you know whose telephone to tap?"

His response, "I didn't, so I tapped them all."

UK residents, welcome to the Day of the Jackal! Don't worry, the US isn't far behind you.
-JMP

Re:One wiretap for every twelve crimes? (1)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081634)

The figure seems particularly large

Yes, but read the article carefully. The big problem with this figure is that it's only the requests. How many were denied? It doesn't say. Also, this isn't all "wiretapping" in the commonly understood sense. It also includes applications for phone numbers dialled, email addresses, and so on. And is it one request per person? One request per email address? It doesn't say.

The real problem with this article is that it is extremely unclear about what is being counted, and doesn't cite primary sources. That makes any discussion about what the numbers mean just pure speculation.

Know thy (internal) enemy (5, Insightful)

Bushcat (615449) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081064)

Know what everyone does.
Know where everyone is.
Pick them up when the time's right.

I sometimes think freedom is simply a government not having the right to know where you are.

So V for Vendetta.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081090)

Is soon to be reality?

Dumb (3, Insightful)

pubjames (468013) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081094)

The thing that annoys me about this stuff is that the justificaiton for it seems to be mainly catching terrorists, but it will only catch the stupid or incompetant ones. So the government can catch some dissaffected and naieve youth with a half-baked plan that he may never commit and give it as an example of how they are winning the "war on terror".

I would of thought rule number one for any competent terrorist these days is "don't use electronic communications of any sort". We know that real terrorist cells can lie dormant for years - I'm sure they don't worry about the couple of days it might take to send a letter or spoken message.

Re:Dumb (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081206)

Well it is from the dumb terrorists the real serious terrorists recruit suicide bombers. The suicide bomber is beyond reason and is highly irrational. It is very difficult to defend against them. Thought they are dumb compared to humans, they are very smart compared to a guided missile in homing into the targets. The only defence against them is to find the missile launchers, the people who recruit them, arm them, aquire target info and launch these dumb terrorists.

But that does not justify wholesale spying on grand scale by the Govt. It is very easy for such an agency to morph into a Gestapo or KGB. We would have simply avoided being ruled by one totalitarian by being ruled by another totalitarian.

Re:Dumb (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081232)

What I hate is the definition of "terrorist" is subject to change.

Try this, be muslim and not support the war in iraq. See how quickly you're shown contempt not only from the man but from society as well.

There are more citizens than policy makers. If anything the citizens are letting it happen, they're supporting it, and not doing any meaningful action to stop it because it's inconvenient.

Tom

Re:Dumb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081286)

but it will only catch the stupid or incompetant ones

I'd rather it catch them too. All it takes is for one stupid one to get lucky right?

I would of thought rule number one for any competent terrorist these days is "don't use electronic communications of any sort". We know that real terrorist cells can lie dormant for years - I'm sure they don't worry about the couple of days it might take to send a letter or spoken message.

Yes and no. Organizing something takes timing and the closer you get to the event the more timing it takes. Terrorists and criminals are just like everyone else, they need to use todays latest and greatest to get their stuff done, it's the way of the world. A terrorist in the US isn't going to wait the 3weeks for a snail mail to arrive from the Middle East to tell give them the GO. They'll use a pay as you go cell phone once for just that purpose. So your supposition is completely wrong, they actually embrace today's tech. Do a little research.

If it saves one child .... (2, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081110)

All they have to prove is that all these spying saves one child. Presto. Everything and anything can be justified under the slogan, "if it saves one child, it is worth it."

Re:If it saves one child .... (1)

Wyrmy (916903) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081460)

Almost all restrictive legislation begins with that catch phrase, "Save the children!" Of course, what effect the stress and constant observation puts on the child later is not important.

Re:If it saves one child .... (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081738)

When men talk about defense, they always claim to be protecting women and children, but they never ask the women and children what they think. -- Pat Schroeder

Re:If it saves one child .... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081730)

Unless that child is Iraqi or lives in a poor country then bombs away!

The UK is a parliamentary dictatorship (1, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081116)

Ugly words, but true. If the party in power in the UK wants to imprison everyone whose last name begins with the letter "A", there
is nothing to stop them, as long as they can win votes of confidence and continue to maintain a majority. There are no checks and balances at all, except for the control of the House of Commons.

Look at the Iraq War. Is there any public support for it in the UK ? Not much. Is there any chance of the public's will actually being
translated into a change in policy ? Not apparently.

And, as we are finding out in America, it's when your Government is headed by messianic war criminals that you really start to feel the need for
checks and balances.

Re:The UK is a parliamentary dictatorship (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081306)

There are no checks and balances at all, except for the control of the House of Commons.

As an American I find it ironic that we broke away from Britain because of King George and now the only remaining check and balance for the UK is Royal Assent and maybe the House of Lords.

Not that we are much better off. In theory we have the Judiciary to keep the Government in line. History says otherwise though.

Re:The UK is a parliamentary dictatorship (1)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081378)

We don't need the House of Lords. The House of Commons can pass a bill for a second time to become law, even if the HoL rejects it. Also, Royal Assent has not been withheld since the 1700's.

Re:The UK is a parliamentary dictatorship (1)

badfish99 (826052) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081630)

I've never heard of Royal Assent being withheld, so this is a purely theoretical check or balance.
Actually, Wikipedia says that it was withheld in the case of the "Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill" in 1999; since the purpose of that legislation was to stop the government going to war without parlimentary approval, it's not a hopeful precedent.

The House of Lords is slowly being destroyed by the government: a few days ago they had a scheme to change the voting rules in parliament, which would have prevented MPs from rejecting government proposals for House of Lords reform.

And the opposition party in parliament is totally ineffective; I would bet money that within 20 years we will have a single-party state here in the UK.

Re:The UK is a parliamentary dictatorship (1)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081760)

It was withheld last in 1708 by Anne. The 1999 action was not withholding assent, she refused to allow it to be heard. And as a ten minute bill, it was not a significant piece of legislation, more the personal plans of a single MP.

Re:The UK is a parliamentary dictatorship (3, Insightful)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081448)

If the party in power in the UK wants to imprison everyone whose last name begins with the letter "A", there is nothing to stop them

This is not true. First the party in power has to write a law that makes it a crime to have such a name. Then they have to convince the democratically elected House of Commons to pass it. Then they have to convince the House of Lords to pass it. Then they have to convince the Queen to give her assent.

The party in power does not have the authority to imprison people at will without passing a law. That is a constitutionally protected right found in the Magna Carta [statutelaw.gov.uk] , dating back almost eight centuries.

Re:The UK is a parliamentary dictatorship (2, Insightful)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081646)

In the US you charge them with something else all the while you really did it because of their name (sounded Arabic). Even bogus testimony by "classified witnesses" who's id can't be reveal because of national security claims. Then you deny them bail and let their case stew in court for ages. By the time all of the appeals have gone through years may have passed.

They've got people in Guantanamo who've been held prisoner longer than many Nazis leaders were after WWII.

Re:The UK is a parliamentary dictatorship (1)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081706)

I addressed this in my other post in this thread, but the House of Commons can pass law without the House of Lords (see the recent hunting act), and Royal Assent is pretty much a given. While I agree that it still has to be passed by the House of Commons, it is possible to bypass it altogether. In times of "national emergency", the Civil Contingencies Act allows Parliament to use the Privy Council to enact legislation.

Now you've gone too far. Or not. (2, Insightful)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081120)

Now that government officials find themselves questioning the suspiciousness of their words or actions, fearing misunderstanding at every step... well, they'll pass laws to make it perhaps less restrictive for themselves in subtle ways, while appearing to be under the same circumstances as everyone else.

What, do you expect empathy from a system that let things go this far? Once those in charge are comfortable with their own security under such a system, they're free to become increasingly afraid of change, of differences, of people interested in learning what they themselves don't wish to have looked into.

Even if the result doesn't reflect the expected fictions, you can expect it will be harder than ever to reverse, or to justify a revolt against to fix. Now that it is becoming a fully ubiquitous part of your nation, it will become a point of your nation's pride. Hell of a legacy for the ultra-reactions from a four planes hitting three buildings in another nation, and its aftershocks.

Ryan Fenton

My definition of a police state (4, Insightful)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081122)

My definition of a police state: When the lawmakers exempt themselves from the laws they make and enforce on everyone else.

Transporter_ii

Re:My definition of a police state (1)

cappadocius (555740) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081470)

My definition of a police state: When the lawmakers exempt themselves from the laws they make and enforce on everyone else.
There's a long tradition of special privileges for MPs in Britain, especially while Parliament is in session. The American concept of Free Speech essentially started out as a reapplication of the prohibition on restricting speech within debates in the British Parliament. America's constitution just applies that same rule to all Americans because in the United States the people are soveriegn, rather than Parliament.

Several things wrong (1)

ObiWanStevobi (1030352) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081148)

However, the biggest one I find is that your average citizen can be subjected to that level of invasion, yet it is illegal to do the same to a member of parliment. That is a travesty. They need to start showing parliment what the bugged life is like. Let a damaging private phone call be exposed by a system abuse. It's the very best thing that could happen. Perhaps after a parliment member actually has real stakes in what they are allowing to go on, the may make some more rational decisions about it, and they will back off their seeming lack of interest in the privacy of their constituents.

Re:Several things wrong (1)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081510)

Maybe it is already the case. Remember that we are talking about about a country in which more member of the government had to resign due to personal issues going public than because of real political reasons.
So I would bet they are already spying on each other just in case they could use those information to trash an opponent.

So what? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081150)

There were 439,000 *requests*. This figure includes email addresses. I personally have 6 addresses. Does that figure mean 1 request for each address/phone number of 1 request per person? It does not state how many of those requests were granted.

Why shouldn't MP's be treated the same as ordinary citizens? They are not above the law, and can be sued/tried etc like any other citizen.

When the next London bombings occur everyone will complain that nothing was done to stop anyone, and it will all be the security services fault. You people need to decide what it is you want.

Re:So what? (4, Informative)

Zoxed (676559) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081748)

> There were 439,000 *requests*.

Slashdot title: 439,000 phones tapped (dramatic)

Actual report:
- 439,000 requests (i.e. a bit less dramatic)
- link to TFA states telephone *and* email addresses (i.e. a bit less dramatic)
- TFA says telephone, email and postal addresses (i.e. a bit less dramatic, again)

CYA (1)

Kiaser Zohsay (20134) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081160)

on the law of averages they should be monitoring at least 5 of the MPs.
Perhaps some MP's have already been caught in the dragnet, and they are trying to make it retroactively kosher.

I saw this in a movie once. (1)

Kirin Fenrir (1001780) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081202)

Remember, remember, the fifth of November...

Just the UK huh? (3, Insightful)

Macka (9388) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081242)


You yanks are all bleating on about how bad this is and how high these figures are. What makes you think your own government is being any less nosy about your affairs? Ignorance is bliss :)

Just the opposite.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081382)

I wondered why Brits are bleating about how bad this is, when a) they know the scale, and b) that scale is probably smaller than in the US. Shut up an move to the US if you want real information awareness.

Re:Just the UK huh? (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081660)

You yanks are all bleating on about how bad this is and how high these figures are. What makes you think your own government is being any less nosy about your affairs? Ignorance is bliss :)

Just because there is something worse going on elsewhere doesn't change the fact that it is wrong.

Let's say 10-20% of the people in my state are malnourished. Can I ignore that unpleasant fact simply because there are more people starving in Somalia?

It is a bad idea to ignore good advice simply because you don't like the source.

Guess I had to (1)

yellekc (819322) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081322)

Wow, I'm surprised no one posted 1984 [online-literature.com] yet.

It was only 23 years early.

War is Peace
Freesom is Slavery
Ignorance is strength

Who to monitor is not teh question.... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081326)

... the question is who is doing the monitoring?

People are people and in any field of occupation there are good, bad and somewhere in between.

Information is power, but who is getting the information and how will they use it?

With this in mind, does monitoring improve society or just provide more opportunity to do others wrong?

They need to keep us safe somehow.... (0, Flamebait)

TechnoBunny (991156) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081338)

If you've nothing to hide then what's the problem? Lets face it, anyone who is against this is clearly on the side of the terrorismists, and actually WANTS us to get bombed.

Re:They need to keep us safe somehow.... (1)

thorkyl (739500) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081674)

BS

It's none of the governments business where I go and when I go there.
It's none of the governments business if I pick my nose on the street corner
It's none of the governments business who I talk to
It's none of the governments business if I talk to my self
It's none of the governments business I buy a news paper
It's none of the governments business if I hand a piece of paper to someone
It's none of the governments business if I sell you a box of dead cats on the corner (unless its illegal of course)
It's none of the governments business
It's none of the governments business
It's none of the governments business
It's none of the governments business
It's none of the governments business
It's none of the governments business

But then again they did vote to not allow their citizens to own firearms

do you trust? (1)

mpoloks (1062844) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081352)

They don't sit behind the screens watching thousands of people walking to their jobs or listening to every phone call. There is no reason for you to panic unless you are invoved in a crime and they need to find out evidence!

Re:do you trust? (1)

badfish99 (826052) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081450)

They don't sit behind the screens watching thousands of people walking to their jobs

Actually, they do. Haven't you noticed all those cameras in the street? Didn't you realize that thousands of people are employed to watch the images from those cameras, all the time?

Re:do you trust? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081502)

I think it depends. We don't actively monitor. When there is an incident, we retrieve the footage from disk. Software is great, you draw an area on the image to search for activity, and it finds it. You don't need a time stamp, just a location within the frame.

Headline is WRONG! (4, Informative)

sirwired (27582) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081578)

There were NOT 439,000 requests to tap phones. There were 439,000 requests for "communications information". This includes requests for lists of e-mail addresses, lists of numbers called, etc, in addition to taps.

I'm not saying that is a good or bad thing, just that the headline is incorrect and sensationalist.

SirWired

No, wait, I've got it! (2, Funny)

Civil_Disobedient (261825) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081592)

Instead of using security cameras, which have a bad public perception, we could instead mandate that all television importers be required to install cameras inside their sets. This way we could have nearly 100% coverage, even inside people's houses (where most crimes are committed), yet not be so obviously pervasive as to give citizens discomfort.

Naturally there would be a public concern of targeted "viewing", so we just have to hire people to monitor these sets and do it at random. That way, people won't actually know if they're being monitored or not.

We could call these modified TV's... telescreens.

Finally, Proper Big Brother (2, Insightful)

TobascoKid (82629) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081648)

After all the the talk about "Sleeping Walking Into A Big Brother Society", a proper Big Brother is finally being discussed. Big Brother in 1984 didn't give a damn about the "proles" (which is what all the other Big Brother threats up until now were about), all the surveillance was for making sure party members kept in line.

That must be why there has been proposal after proposal for more and more big brother style policies, few if any of which are/would be effective. It was to get to the point where the government could monitor itself, which is far more likely to succeed, as there are a lot less people to watch.

We all need to speak in code (1)

gelfling (6534) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081692)

We need to develop a new coded speaking language. That way we don't need any expectation of privacy.

I know why you did it...you were afraid. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18081740)

V: Good evening, London. Allow me first to apologize for this interruption. I do, like many of you, appreciate the comforts of every day routine- the security of the familiar, the tranquility of repetition. I enjoy them as much as any bloke. But in the spirit of commemoration, thereby those important events of the past usually associated with someone's death or the end of some awful bloody struggle, a celebration of a nice holiday, I thought we could mark this November the 5th, a day that is sadly no longer remembered, by taking some time out of our daily lives to sit down and have a little chat. There are of course those who do not want us to speak. I suspect even now, orders are being shouted into telephones, and men with guns will soon be on their way. Why? Because while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who's to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent. Last night I sought to end that silence. Last night I destroyed the Old Bailey, to remind this country of what it has forgotten. More than four hundred years ago a great citizen wished to embed the fifth of November forever in our memory. His hope was to remind the world that fairness, justice, and freedom are more than words, they are perspectives. So if you've seen nothing, if the crimes of this government remain unknown to you then I would suggest you allow the fifth of November to pass unmarked. But if you see what I see, if you feel as I feel, and if you would seek as I seek, then I ask you to stand beside me one year from tonight, outside the gates of Parliament, and together we shall give them a fifth of November that shall never, ever be forgot.

Enemy of the State (1)

spazmolytic666 (549909) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081752)

BRILL: I was a traffic analyst. I intercepted phone calls. DEAN: How'd you get around the tap orders? BRILL: They can tap anything as along as it's an airwave intercept. Cellulars and pagers your kid can do. Hard-line calls we'd pick off the relays as they were being fed into ground cables or fired up to the SATs. We'd suck in everything. All foreign, most domestic. Domestic was my group. Druggies, radicals, loud-mouths. Anyone we wanted. DEAN: How'd you have the manpower to-- BRILL: Meade has 18 underground acres of computers. They scan every phonecall for target words like "bomb" or "President". We red-flag phone numbers or voice prints...whatever we wanted. When the computers found something, it was bounced to comparative analysis.

Isn't this what you wanted? (1)

rumplet (1034332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18081768)

Who voted for Blair without checking his CV? Blair is a Fabian. Fabianism is like Stalinism but slower. (Don't check Wikipedia yet because I haven't changed it). The use of secret police is an essential feature of this ideology and is for your own good. Without the secret police we would have all sorts of revolutionaries and terrorists running around with guns, downloading porn, not paying their congestion charges, and all the things terrorists do. Come on people, tow the party line!
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