Lord Reid and others want Snoopers’ Charter back on the agenda, but are accused of giving a knee-jerk reaction to a horrific murder
Following the murder of a man in Woolwich yesterday, a number of Lords have called for the controversial Communications Data Bill that seeks to impose more Internet monitoring on UK citizens to be put back on the table.
The killing in Woolwich, allegedly carried out by two extremists, which the government said appears to be a terrorist attack, has drawn many extreme reactions. Former government ministers, including former Labour home secretary Lord John Reid, have called for more Internet monitoring in response, angering privacy campaigners.
Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg appeared to have stopped the bill, known to critics as Snoopers’ Charter, going through to Parliament. It proposed getting ISPs to record all customers’ communications data, which includes the who, when and where of interactions over the Internet and telephony, but not the content itself.
The bill also sought to store data on citizens’ website visits, all of which was seen by many as a massive intrusion on people’s privacy.
Now supporters of the bill want the government to consider getting it back on the agenda, even though it was not included in the Queen’s Speech earlier this month.
Lord Reid said in the past comms data was massively useful in tracking terrorist threats, but now police did not have enough power to get hold of Internet-based communications quickly.
“You will never find out whether you are right on this one until there is some huge tragedy that might have been averted if they had updated the communication appraisals that can be carried out at GCHQ,” he said, according to the Guardian.
Nick Pickles, director of the Big Brother Watch, said it was inappropriate for Lord Reid to be commenting on Snoopers’ Charter given his record in government.
“Lord Reid was one of those responsible for the knee-jerk decision to try and introduce powers for people to be detained for up to 90 days without trial by the last government, after the 7/7 attack,” Pickles told TechWeekEurope in an emailed statement.
“That should be a clear warning of the dangers of rushing forward policy changes when the nation is in shock and of those who seek to use the politics of fear.
“The current government made clear in the Queen’s Speech it will bring forward proposals to address the important issue of identifying who is using a particular internet address and they are right to do so.
“We face down terrorists by defending our values and traditions and acting proportionately, which is a balance current policy recognises.”
Lord Carlile, former independent reviewer of terror laws, said the Woolwich killing should lead to talk about reviving the communications data bill. “Lone wolves, even though they are always inevitably connected at least with Internet training, are very difficult to catch so we must give the authorities proportionate tools to catch them,” he said.
Lord West, the former security minister, told Sky News: “We need to know this information and I do think that the communications data bill which was due to come through and has been put on pause by the deputy prime minister, I think that’s a terrible mistake.”
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