Something more sane this way comes

March 18, 2009 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

Well, seems as though some people in the UK are waking up from the nightmare that is their surveillance state. If you ask me, “the terrorists” (whoever they may be) have already won when nation states subject their own citizens to biometric identification, CCTV cams and ridiculous airport screening that makes travelling hell on earth. To make us live in fear or under the glare of surveillance is tantamount to terrorists winning. On the part of the State, it’s an exercise in power – the watchers have the power over those who are watched and know they are watched.

So I was listening to ABC radio the other day when my ears pricked up. I caught snippets of the former Head of top secret squirrel squad, MI5, Dame Stella Rimington, apparently saying that she was alarmed at the spread of security cameras and police stop-and-search powers (smart Dame). And the Conservative Party leader in the UK, David Cameron, saying that the fabric of liberty had been shredded.

Naturally, the interview caught my interest. Dominic Raab was being interviewed. He’s the dude who wrote the book, The Assault on Liberty, that I have ordered for fast track delivery from Amazon. He’s an international lawyer who is also Chief of Staff to the Shadow Home Secretary. Here’s a taste of what he said:

  • the UK has the longest period of detention without charge in the free world (28 days compared to  12 in Australia);
  • the introduction of identity cards with 50 items of personal information on each and every citizen which will be shared with governments;
  • up to 4.2 million CCTV cams in the UK and the taxpayer has had to cough up over AU$1-billion to fund these unblinking eyes and 80% of the footage is useless;
  • over 1,000 separate search and entry powers, which are not just for serious crime or counter-terrorism purposes (yeah, well, Australia can match that now with our new police powers);
  • massive databases stuffed full of DNA (over 3.1 million DNA profiles) – information is shared amongst the various arms of the UK Government, local councils and security agencies. Yet, the UK has an appalling track record when it comes to keeping personal data safe. Literally, the personal details of millions of Britons has been at risk.

You can read the interview transcript here. Coupled with this is a recent op-ed from The Guardian with the opening paragraphs saying:

“It was never in a Labour manifesto that individual freedom should be surrendered in the interests of collective security. Nor was it written that society should submit itself to a blanket of surveillance by the state.It was never announced as a political creed of the current government that trial by jury is an expensive inconvenience that modern democracies can, in certain circumstances, do without. Nor was it proclaimed that the principle of habeas corpus, that prohibits the crown from detaining a free individual without his or her knowing the charge, was redundant in the face of terrorist threats in the 21st century. And yet, one way or another, all of those views have been expressed in laws introduced by Labour since it came to power.”

The piece stops short, denying that the UK has become a police state or has slipped into authoritarianism. I was disappointed by the op-ed because it didn’t go far enough. Its title is “Modern Liberty has Found its Voice”. Well, thank goodness for that but let’s take it further – what are the plans to restore civil liberties to the people of the UK?  I’d like to see a civil disobedience campaign organised by people who live in countries like the UK (and the US and Australia) where surveillance is rife.

Just over a year ago, I ran a week long workshop in Morocco on communities of practice for political activists. One of the things they were trained on was non-violent struggle – the history and models of non-violent action. Why can’t we take the lessons learnt and apply them to a non-violent strategic campaign against the surveillance society?

So for example:

  • citizens actively campaigning against CCTV. Demand that authorities demonstrate the efficacy of CCTV in preventing serious crime. And since we know around 80% of CCTV images cannot be used as legal evidence because images are too blurry or grainy, then CCTV footage should not be admitted as evidence in court and citizens should campaign against the use of footage in legal proceedings.
  • why are the UK people blindly accepting the national ID card?  It is nothing more than life-long surveillance of an individual. Nothing more than numbering of individuals (remember Nazi Germany). Nothing more than making personal details into “registrable facts” to be disclosed, constantly updated and shared with who knows what agency or foreign Government. Organise a local group to educate the public. Prepare fact sheets, newsletters – better yet, join an already established local group fighting the Database State in the UK. Challenge Governments to show how an ID card would make us more secure and how the ID card will not be subverted.
  • educate yourself about the location of CCTV cams – avoid them, wear a hoodie, face away from the CCTV. That’s what I do. Here is a good site to help find the location of CCTV cams in urban environments. There are ways to destroy CCTV cams but this is about protest and non-violence so I won’t give advice on this.
  • become aware of the abuses of surveillance cameras so you won’t bleat like a sheep and parrot “If you have nothing to hide…”. If you’re a student, then get inspired by kids in school who are protesting against CCTV or if you’re a worker with video cams in the office, stage a walkout with fellow workers. If judges can do it, you can do it.
  • arrange a demonstration through city streets like the Germans did – they called their protest Liberty Instead of Fear.
  • get an online petition going, like the Romanians, to protest against RFID and biometric identifiers in passports. Here’s one already started – No To RFID Chips. Let’s remember that the FDA in the US has cleared the way for RFID chips to be used in humans. Also remember that the RFID industry is very keen to embed chips into fashion clothing (they call this inventory control) – but it will allow retailers to create databases linking individual chips to consumers, so your own clothing will be a tracking device in the future. Protest before it’s too late.

Heck, these are just starter ideas. The fact is – we are nothing more than:

if we don’t pay attention to the creeping threat of surveillance and loss of civil liberties. Facebook looks at us this way:

Don’t let this happen. Become an anti-surveillance activist. Download this resource – Non-Violent Struggle – 50 Crucial Points: A Strategic Approach to Everyday Tactics. And learn how to plan symbolic public actions. It’s a fabulous resource for non-violent struggle against any form of political power.

Image source for Facebook sheep


Entry filed under: Privacy, Rant, Surveillance society, Useful resources. Tags: , , .

How do you define “Depression”? She’ll be right mate! (we hope)

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