Councils not authoritarian enough for Interception Kommisar

The print version of the the Metro, the free bus paper, headlined a story that “Interception of Communications Commissioner” Sir Paul Kennedy believes that UK councils haven’t yet been making the full use of terrorist powers to investigate people. And he’s disappointed.

“Terror laws should be used even more to snoop on the public, councils have been urged” (Quotes painstakingly copied out by me from the print Metro, 12/08/08)

Apparently, last year, there were a mere 500,000 “spying requests from councils, police and other officials” to phone and internet companies. Half a million. What a pathetic waste of the Stasi powers, hey? There are over 60 million of us, ffs. Must try harder. In fact, local councils only checked the comms of 3,000 people.

So, whom does the unusually honestly-job-titled Commissioner say that councils should be spying on?

criminals who “persistently rip off consumers, cheat the taxpayer, deal in counterfeit goods and prey on the elderly and vulnerable”

See what he did there? Threw in preying on “the elderly and vulnerable”, in case the listener dared to imagine that dealing in counterfeit goods and ripping off consumers wasn’t quite a serious enough crime to warrant the use of anti-terrorist laws. Oh, those poor vulnerable people…. Apparently the police can’t protect them so plucky local councils have to spring to their defence.

It is very very hard to see what even the shadiest blag goods market stall has to do with terrorism. In fact, dare I say it, but it’s even hard to see what robbing the vulnerable has to do with terrorism. Or councils. Either crimes are police issues or they aren’t. If they are, then what use will a council’s intercepting comms do, ffs? Are council investigators so superior to the police that they can get all manner of information about scams straight from lists of phone calls? Maybe I just lack the breadth of vision of the town hall experts but it smells of bullshit.

The online Metro apparently doesn’t think this news item, which fills the print edition’s front page, is lively enough for the morons who they must think read the news on tinterweb. The online version leads with some content-free Sienna Miller story. It doesn’t bother with text on the dull old freedoms issue, but it it has tried to give it a nuMedia buzz by mentioning the topic in a sentence and having a “poll”. For what it’s worth, 81% of respondents to the question Should councils be allowed to use terror laws to spy on members of the public? think that it’s well out of order.

This is exactly the point that Jenni Russell made in the Guardian last week. Acknowledging that there are still plenty of us who would rather gnaw off their own arms at the elbow than welcome a Conservative government, let alone vote for the buggers, she pointed out that the nuLabour government has come to be overwhelmingly identified with totally illiberal policies.

The new dividing line between Labour and the Tories is less about a left-right split than about an authoritarian approach on one side and a more liberal one on the other. And Labour are on the wrong side of it. Many of their social and economic policies may have failed, but where they have succeeded is in developing a targeting, controlling, distrustful state. From the micromanagement of civil servants, teachers, doctors and the police, to ID cards, super databases and the growth of surveillance.

2 thoughts on “Councils not authoritarian enough for Interception Kommisar

  1. It is worrying that the information commissioner is advocating the use of anti-terror laws for non-terrorism related investigations…

    Is this a slippery slope?

  2. TW
    It’s not quite that bad.

    It’s not the Information Commissioner. It’s the a href=”″ rel=”nofollow” Interception of Communications Commissioner
    This seems to be a job that involves nothing but overseeing RIPA. And apparently trying to extend his role a bit.
    (“The responsibility of the Commissioner is to keep under review the issue of interception warrants and the adequacy of the arrangements for ensuring the product of interception is properly handled.” )

    So, you have to assume he knows what RIPA is for. It certainly makes you wonder about RIPA. given that it’s always been presented as anti-terrorist, with no mention of counterfeit goods, ffs.

    Ironically, the same free newspaper also had another page about police complaining that they have to spend 3 hours in form-filling to make the simplest request under RIPA.

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