Whining bastards !
Not so funny anymore when it's happening to YOU now is it ?
Parliamentarians have hit out against a ruling by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) that GCHQ is allowed to collect the communications of MPs, a move which seemingly ends the so-called Wilson Doctrine. Or does it? During parliamentary debate this week, Labour MP Chris Bryant said: "Until last Wednesday, it was thought …
You should not expect the "powers that be" to do anything about something that does not apply to them.
Example: libel law. It does not apply on to MPs within the Parliament's building. So rather unsurprisingly, they have not done anything about it for many years. Even the latest (rather feeble) attempt at reforming it is clearly nowhere near where it should be.
Now, imagine all the MPs, being subject to the same libel law as the commoner. Guess how long until it would be reformed in a way where it can no longer be used as a weapon to bankrupt someone you do not like by making him pay the court fees all the way to the top.
"Example: libel law. It does not apply on to MPs within the Parliament's building."
Think that one through. Let's way you have an issue about something but you lack the proof which would stand up in a court of law or, even if you have proof, you couldn't afford to defend yourself against libel. So what do you do? You can take it to your MP. Would you really think it a good situation if they were to respond that they're bound by the same rules as you? As things stand they can raise such issues in Parliament or with a minister and not be stuck with the limits you have.
It's part of the toolkit that enables a good constituency MP to work on behalf of constituents.
Now, imagine all the MPs, being subject to the same libel law as the commoner.
That's not a very good example. Defamation laws don't apply to MPs on the floor of the Commons for a very good reason: it would be impossible for an MP to bring up some contentious subjects and for Parliament to debate them. Remember the recent difficulties over super-injunctions?
Defamation laws don't apply to MPs on the floor of the Commons for a very good reason
That supports the OP's thesis, since if those laws did apply to Parliament, Parliament would thus be forced to reform them into something sensible.
One law for the politicians and another for the common folk is a dismal substitute for having well-designed laws apply to all.
I seem to remember that it used to be that that was only the case if whatever was said was prefaced by the phrase "without prejudice" as in "may I say without prejudice that my honorable opponent is espousing views that indicate he is unquestionably criminally insane and a danger to the public good".
Actually Google is not your friend here - I can't find him. His daughter, Julie, was murdered in Kenya and the investigation was, er, less than adequate. As I recall he failed to pay his rates and was eventually summoned to court in the UK. Having taken the oath in the witness box he then accused named individuals of the murder before the judge or barristers could stop him.
"Members of this House are not above the law or beyond the scope of investigatory powers,"
For that, in a civilized country, there is an official procedure. It is called "removal of parliamentary immunity". Once this has been done you can apply the investigatory powers as much as you wish.
AFAIK, the whim of Josephina Vissarionovich May does not quite match the description of that procedure in a democratic country.
The only legal parliamentary immunity in the UK is against libel and slander for things said in the chamber, which is how it should be. In countries where individuals get more general immunity because of their jobs, removing it or not becomes a political decision and so all it does is protect political corruption.
The Wilson Doctrine falls into this poisonous category, as it makes Parliamentarians into a privileged elite.
So if you raise a matter with your MP are you saying that it should be open to GCHQ to snoop on them as you deal with it?
Exactly the opposite.
GCHQ should not be permitted to spy on anyone, whether they are an MP or not, without solid justification which has been scrutinized and approved by an impartial authority. The identical mechanism should apply to everyone.
You can't have a "don't spy on MPs ever'" because there are occasionally good reasons for doing so. For example Czech intelligence archives from the Cold War period revealed that Raymond Mawby MP (now dead) sold information to them, and a Czech defector claimed that John Stonehouse MP (also now dead) had too.
Exactly the opposite
Indeed. The obvious solution is to strike the Wilson doctrine, and then rein in the police state. Unfortunately Parliament has shown no inclination to do the latter. (We have much the same situation here in the US, of course.) Perhaps overreaching by other branches of government will encourage them to do so, though I don't have much hope for it.
Historically, in the US, what we've seen is a cycle, with a period in which a lazy, idle, fearful populace supports increased surveillance and repression in the name of "safety" is followed by one where the lazy lose interest and political agitation repairs some of the damage and ushers in some new protection for civil rights. Then the pendulum swings back. How long this can continue is anyone's guess.
I bet the "misconceptions" she talks about are her suggesting the MPs think they're being specifically targeted and she wants to say it's okay because it's mass surveillance. Which is a rather bizarre argument to my mind. It reminds me a quote from Saint Yossarian of Catch-22 fame:
"They're trying to kill me," Yossarian told him calmly.
"No one's trying to kill you," Clevinger cried.
"Then why are they shooting at me?" Yossarian asked.
"They're shooting at everyone," Clevinger answered. "They're trying to kill everyone."
"And what difference does that make?"
So really, Theresa May, what difference does it make? I don't say "oh, I'm okay with being spied on and having all my communications scanned because they're doing it to other people too", and I don't think the MPs will be either. But I bet that's the play Theresa May is trying to make here. How do I get out of this Joseph Heller novel? There's a lovely Terry Pratchett book the next shelf over that I'd much rather live in.
As long as common plebs are being subjected to surveillance, that's okay. But for MPs (elected, privileged plebs, so to speak) it's obviously not.
Pathetic whiners, but not at all surprising. Maybe get your lazy MP arses out of the ivory tower and join real world every once in a while? Why on earth shouldn't MPs be treated the exact same way as their constituents? Nothing to hide and all that.
I welcome the IPT's decision, and I'm having a laugh while MPs finally realise the scope of what they (or their predecessors) have created.
I listened to Davis and Cameron on the radio during the leadership race - Davis came across as a much better candidate. I guess it's similar to how Kennedy "won" the debate against Nixon with the viewers, whereas Nixon "won" with the listeners.
The problem is that he's bloody boring - exactly what I want in a politician - which counts against you in this era of X-Factor style politics.
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It may be slow but realisation of what's happening is gradually spreading. At some point it will become unsustainable to maintain indiscriminate surveillance contrary to the weight of public opinion. Now that MPs in general are included in the weight of public opinion that point might have become a good deal closer. We're getting there, one step at a time.
I don't like that I am spied upon by my state, and that parliamentary representatives allowed this, but this is more important than schadenfreude.
When people have legal problems and the judiciary fails them then they complain to MPs. When your state acts illegally and you want to blow the whistle, then you should be able to write to your MP.
Politicians, doctors and lawyers need special protection from state snooping, not for their sake but for our sake.
Now the state has pointed out that they don't and won't respect that. Activists already knew that the state breaks it's own laws, I once discussed this with the local top cop and he stated honestly "If we can do it, we will do it" - an open admission of illegality that he was utterly fine with making.
Technologists - techies - need to protect these people especially from the NSA/GCHQ, because laws alone have failed to do that. I personally have suffered from my data leaking from the NHS and my MP, so I'm sure it is common.
You can't have a functional democracy without privacy.
But that's the problem with the Wilson Doctrine - it singles out a single section of society and puts them above the rest. What happens if you need to discuss your whistle-blowing with a confidante before going to your MP - shouldn't you be protected then? If you're concerned about your communications being intercepted, then you're a fool for even believing that a letter/email to your MP is safe.
I was always under the assumption that the Wilson Doctrine was a gentleman's agreement, and therefore taken with a pinch of salt. What's more likely to happen now is that MPs will want to grant themselves legislated immunity, which will leave an even more bitter taste in our mouths.
Going by the record was
The spooks (and special branch?) wouldn't normally intercept (at the time that meant read/listen to) MPs communications
If the government did wanted to change policy they would do so, and tell MPs when they wanted to.
So I guess, government (of many hues along the way) has changed its mind as to its OK recording who MPs are communication with but (they say) not necessarily the specific of opening the virtual envelopes to see what the contents are.
There were theories at the time that Wilson only got agitated about spookish spying when he discovered that they were in fact keeping an eye/ear on HIM. There was some suspicion in their upper ranks that Wilson could be a Soviet 'sleeper'.
'The Wilson Discovery' shortly thereafter became 'The Wilson Doctrine'.
“[Parliament] should be unsurprised that agencies use their powers to the limit. If I were working for MI5, MI6 or GCHQ, I would use every power that I was given to the limit, just as I would if I were a policeman," he added. "The tendency is to stretch the limits or for those limits gradually to move.” …. Tory MP David Davis
Methinks it should most definitely be the case, for if it is not then surely are security services rendered quite farcical, that if I were working for MI5, MI6 or GCHQ/FSB/NSA/Mossad/PLA Unit 61398 etc., I would use every power that can be thought of, and can be securely and/or secretly enabled to the limit and beyond, in order to achieve and maintain an overwhelming advantage. And those sorts of powers are invariably never given, they are ones which one assumes and activates with practically/virtually everyone presuming such a facility and capability, virtually/practically impossible and most improbable.
And indeed, in deed, it would not be wrong to view them as Special Powers.
As a taxpayer I would like to see a breakdown of how much time my MP is spending on confidential private/consulting work for you or any other individuals or organisations. I would then expect the MP to cross-charge you directly for any time spent on confidential matters that are of no benefit to other constituents :P
"Quick mental exercise, would parliament be able to disband GCHQ and have the staff transferred to non-intelligence jobs?"
Depends if you mean from the legal point of view or actually doing it?
To actually do it, you'd have to somehow organise the required parliamentary shenanigans without letting on to GCHQ. If they knew about it, they'd be able to do a Sir Humphrey-like civil service judo move on you.
If they didn't know about it, or weren't able to execute the avoidance manoeuvre, then they weren't worth keeping anyway...
Snail mail is equally susceptible to interception, with added disadvantage of the delay between sending and reading. Even tamper evident seals are easily replaced with the right resources behind you.
Encrypting snail mail is possible but could be popped at either end if the security services really wanted to.
Mark well Theresa May's weasel words: "Members of this House are not above the law or beyond the scope of investigatory powers." You have to give her full marks for wilful obfuscation! No-one was arguing that MPs should be above the law. If they contravene the law they can be investigated (and have been fined/jailed in some cases). And, since the Recall of MPs Act 2015, constituency voters can remove MPs found to have broken the rules (well, certain rules anyway).
Sadly, with a handful of honourable exceptions, the MPs have only just woken up to the pervasive evil that is blanket surveillance. If they do not like the idea of all their own communications (e.g. with constituents, lawyers, other MPs, Ministers, parliamentary committees, lobbyists, etc.) being swept into the haystack, they might finally understand why Joe Public is so averse to it. Their late arousal might still achieve some good ... but I'm not holding my breath on that.
If you don't like it as a politician then tough sh@t, don't be a politician. You are no better than anyone else and are certainly not above the law. Even if you are a monarch or just a minion.
All the laws should be applied as equitably to one person as to all persons.
Writing yourself an exclusion is illegal as far as I am concerned and as such should be ignored.
Does not matter where you are, or who you are, we should all have equal rights and responsibilities under the law.
Writing yourself an exclusion is illegal as far as I am concerned and as such should be ignored. .... Anonymous Coward
Quite so, AC. And availing oneself of such a provision conveniently indelibly marks one as a person of particular and peculiar interest to leading secret security authorities and virtual protection services.
Is it imagined anywhere that the likes of MI5/MI6/GCHQ supply competence and provide effective and efficient cover for leading secret security authorities and virtual protection services in Blighty? Or is the whole practical truth and nothing but a virtual reality somewhat different and disturbing and perturbing?