September 1, 2014 9.58 am This story is over 110 months old

Terrorism is a nonsense excuse for DRIP

A cloak and dagger exercise: The government insists the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) is vital to the security of the nation, but Pete Dixon argues it’s excessively intrusive.

When was the last time the people, buildings or streets of this nation were savaged by an act of terrorism? The last one to my knowledge was the shocking murder on a Woolwich street in May 2013 of Guardsman Lee Rigby. Before that, according to Wikipedia it was a lone ” Islamist extremist” in Exeter in 2008 and before that, June 2007 for the Glasgow Airport bombing. In Exeter, only the would be perpetrator was injured and in Glasgow there were no fatalities or serious injuries suffered.

Thankfully, most of us, the people we know, the people they know, and the people they know, will never ever witness the atrocity of a successful act of terrorism.

There’s more chance of being struck by lightning and then knocked down by a bus when you get up again than being caught up in an act of terrorism.

Apart from creating the need to manufacture and sell arms, why do our leaders constantly overplay the threat? Why do they use the fear of child stalking paedophiles to cajole us into meekly accepting a law that allows politicians, with cross party support, to store our personal communications over a minimum 12 month period, and be available to wholly inappropriate bodies for examination if considered necessary?

The government insists that its excessively intrusive Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) is vital to the security of the nation. Made law on July 17, why was this bill rushed through parliament despite having been struck down by the European Court of Justice in April this year as a disproportionate abuse of our basic rights?

Liberty, the leading rights and freedoms group in our country has challenged the government’s assertion that emergency legislation is required and argues that DRIP ignores the EU Court of Justice judgement that neutralized the Data Retention Regulations 2009 and in fact reintroduces wide ranging new powers that were proposed and rejected in the Draft Communications Data Bill.

 “If you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear”. What nonsense, this argument repeatedly peddled by those who seek greater control over us. We all have things we want to keep private.

What if someone wanted to expose fraudulent behaviour, or a product or process that is found to be responsible for a rise in childhood tumours or environmental damage? Who can they discuss it with or take advice from knowing their communications are stored and available to anyone with the right connections? What about those of us who are trade unionists, campaigning for the rights of others against the poor practices of a corporate employer.

This law isn’t about protecting the citizens of the United Kingdom from terrorists. It isn’t about protecting our children from sexual predators. It’s a cloak and dagger exercise with the government of the day serving the corporate desire to exert greater control over us.

The recent Gagging Law which effectively prevents civil society and opposition groups campaigning against government policy in the run up to an election, has now been backed up by a law, rushed through parliament with total disregard for the democratic process, that enables the powerful elite to access private conversations and communications made by anyone they consider to be a threat.

DRIP will enable, and will be used in the corporate interest to monitor the activities, not only of so called radical protest groups but also civil society. Charities and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), who on a daily basis are struggling to help the most vulnerable in our communities cope with political dogma that frowns upon their very existence, will struggle to run brand damaging campaigns against inequality and social injustice. The end of the wedge gets thicker by the day!

Pete Dixon is a town councillor for Moor ward in North Hykeham, a member of the Green Party and Chair of the local branch. He works for the NHS at Lincoln County Hospital. Father of a young daughter, he's also a keen biker and enjoys watching Moto GP or a glass of Islay malt.