Wednesday 4 April 2012

Big Brother's little brother

Cameron - Big Brother?
Nick Clegg just doesn't get it! It's not about process! It's not about procedures! It's about principle!

The very fact that he feels the need to rationalise his boss, David Cameron's proposed new snooping legislation with talk of "safeguards" should be ringing enormous alarm bells. If it requires safeguards then it is, by definition, dangerous. He cannot sensibly argue both that the UK government's intentions are entirely benign and that they are such that we would need to be protected from their implications and potential consequences.

 Clegg says,
Any measures will be proportionate. They will not sacrifice people's civil liberties, we will not create a new government database and we will not give police new powers to look into people's emails.

Why does he feel obliged to say this out loud? Should we not be able to simply assume that the government would never do such things?

And what about his other advice? He says we should not make a fuss but wait until the government's plans are further advanced before we do anything. Did his doubtless very expensive education not cover the term fait accompli?

Most laughably of all he asks us to trust him to defend our interests. Why would we do that? What has he done to earn that kind of trust?

Yet again we have intrusive and repressive legislation being ushered in on the coat-tails of the great bogeyman, Terrorism and his sidekick, Organised Crime. Haven't we heard it all before? Nobody doubts that such legislation might aid the authorities in the fight against all manner of threats. But who gets to decide what is a threat? And what other uses might these powers be put to? Who do these powers serve?

Which brings us to that most specious and insidious and pernicious of platitudes. The mantra that only those who have something to fear have something to hide. We all have things to hide. Silly, trivial things that nobody else would or should have anything other than a salacious interest in knowing. But the "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear" argument demands that we must be prepared to forego our right to any and all confidentiality in order to satisfy some arbitrary authority that we have no more malign secrets.

It is a doctrine which fatally undermines the fundamental principle of the presumption of innocence as it enshrines as a default assumption that a person is guilty unless they prove otherwise by opening their whole life to scrutiny.

I am not a religious person. Far from it! But, were I given to such things, the following would be my most fervent prayer.

Protect us from those who would be our defenders,
And deliver us from those who would be our saviours.

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