back to article Planned Espionage Act could jail journos and whistleblowers as spies

Proposals in the UK for a swingeing new Espionage Act that could jail journalists as spies have been developed in haste by legal advisors, The Register has learned. The proposed law update is an attempt to ban reporting of future big data leaks. The British government has received recommendations for a "future-proofed" new …

  1. nsld

    Handy timing that

    Just as the IP Bill becomes law and the government is hoovering up all that data.

    Almost a de facto recognition they cannot secure it.

    You don't want to get caught leaking the dwarf porn viewing habits of your local MP if this goes through.

    1. Red Bren

      Re: Handy timing that

      Your local MP is exempt from scrutiny under the IP bill. Their dwarf porn viewing statistics from before their election will become a state secret, only to be revealed if they start getting ideas about privacy, human rights and proper oversight of the securocrats.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Handy timing that

        Only they're not exempt, their data will be hoovered up anyway but not shown when searched for later, because it's extremely difficult to record everything everyone does inside .uk except for 650-odd people.

        As this data is held by the ISP, they need something big to threaten then them with.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Handy timing that

          "it's extremely difficult to record everything everyone does inside .uk except for 650-odd people"

          Dan 55, i think you have an unnecessary hyphen there?

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "the job they were given proved too big to have time to talk to journalists and editors."

        Back to the days of The Official Secrets Act 1911.

        Passed in a day in the H of Commons during a spy scare about German spies everywhere.

        This suggests the Cabinet Office either gave them too broad a brief or inadequate time to cover all of it.

        Of course you should never ascribe to malice what simple motherf**king incompetence can explain.

        Unless you're dealing with a senior Civil Servant sympathetic to the goals of his political "Mistress."

        1. Danny 14

          Re: "the job they were given proved too big to have time to talk to journalists and editors."

          And no ECHR to fall back on either.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "the job they were given proved too big to have time to talk to journalists and editors."

            >And no ECHR to fall back on either.

            Why not? We signed that in 1950 - nothing to do with the EU. Likewise if you mean ECtHR in Strasbourg (established 1959).

          2. chris121254

            Re: "the job they were given proved too big to have time to talk to journalists and editors."

            um yes we can fall back on the ECHR, they already said they wont be able to get rid of it until sometime after 2020 and that if they win in 2020 but that unlikely

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "the job they were given proved too big to have time to talk to journalists and editors."

              >they already said they wont be able to get rid of it until sometime after 2020

              Don't know who 'they' is, but certainly not lawyers. No way ECHR/ECtHR can be 'got rid of' on a whim - as it is we're facing years of complex new UK legislation much of which till be tested in court over the next decade in a feeding frenzy of corporate litigation against UK Gov.

              Ultimately countries can ignore ECtHR/ECHR - Russia (there's 47 states in the Council of Europe) are subject to them but often wobble over rulings and either take years to pay the fines or just accept the economic sanctions.

  2. Zippy's Sausage Factory
    WTF?

    Stasi wet dream

    You weren't supposed to use "1984" as an instruction manual, damn it!

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Stasi wet dream

      No wonder Chairman May has to wear leather trousers.

      (pass the mind bleech please)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Stasi wet dream

        "No wonder Chairman May has to wear leather trousers."

        Phwoar, leather trousers, Maggie never wore those.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Stasi wet dream

          "Phwoar, leather trousers, Maggie never wore those."

          Maggie in leather trousers?

          I really wish I could unsee that mental image.

          1. Daniel von Asmuth
            Big Brother

            Re: Stasi wet dream

            "Phwoar, leather trousers, Maggie never wore those."

            ...and anyway, if she did, we would be required to deny it.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Stasi wet dream

          "Phwoar, leather trousers, Maggie never wore those."

          I bet John Major thinks he's Bonar Law!!

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Stasi wet dream

      Well, they did. And now the US will have follow on to this race to the bottom. <sigh>

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Stasi wet dream

        Yes, US looks at UK bad legislation and lawmakers drool.

        UK looks at US bad legislation and lawmakers drool.

    3. JLV Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Stasi wet dream

      >1984

      That is a rather silly accusation. Your government is trying to save the taxpayer money by not wasting time reinventing the wheel.

      Instead, they wisely decided to follow best practices and just called up the Honorable V. Putin to ask him how he deals with embarrassing leaks. The key is to just label everyone involved a "foreign agent", regardless of what happened and what was exposed and throw everybody in jail.

      Trump ❤️❤️ Putin & May ❤️❤️ Trump. So, by transitivity, it follows May ❤️ Putin, no?

      I am relieved we just got rid of Harper, otherwise there'd be even more lying together at this big happy love-in.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Well I'd like to reveal.........

    .........hang on that the sound of my door being broken down, I wish they'd use the bell like normal people.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If my reading of this article is correct then it seems that government will be able to claim that they've consulted media organisations and human rights groups, without actually having done anything of the sort, because those media organisations and human rights groups will not legally be able to report the lie.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But what if they just happen to let it slip to a country outside the UK's jurisdiction, with no way to know for sure WHO was the one to let it slip?

  4. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Probably pass it when Trumpton is over here, to give journalists an alternative hate target.

    1. Baldy50

      Well.

      Haven't they recently arrested and charged about ten journo's about the inauguration riots footage? 4 last week! Dystopia here we come, need a punk rock revival, God save the Demean, dum da da dum da dum, wah wah wah wah, etc.

      Pussy riot out yet?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fake news.

    Note tongue firmly in check before I'm accused of being a Trumperton.

  6. LDS Silver badge
    Joke

    It's better you brexit quickly...

    ... meantime it's time to build a wall along the Channel to stop all those Britons who will try to escape and migrate here...

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: It's better you brexit quickly...

      Nah, Scotland will be an easier choice once they have independence. Oh, hang on, there's a wall up there already...

      1. Afernie
        Headmaster

        Re: It's better you brexit quickly...

        If you mean Hadrian's wall, that's all England's. No part of it crosses the Scottish border. PGN, because the icon works for Pedantic Geography & History Nazi too.

      2. Wensleydale Cheese

        Hadrian's Wall

        "Oh, hang on, there's a wall up there already..."

        Aye but that would need to be improved to meet modern building regulations, and be classed as renovation, incurring VAT.

        Could save a bob or two by constructing a new wall.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

          Re: Hadrian's Wall / saving money by constructing new wall

          You should look into this offer, then!

        3. Dave 15 Silver badge

          Re: Hadrian's Wall

          Can just ask our Chinese friends to fund it, run it and profit from it.

          I wonder, is at least part of this rush of very secretive legislation, the clamp down on the internet, the clamp down on journalists, the stopping anyone telling anyone anything just something that the Chinese have extracted in return for expensive electricity?

        4. Afernie

          Re: Hadrian's Wall

          "Could save a bob or two by constructing a new wall."

          We could make it out of Hawes' finest product, lad! I'll get started inventing everything we need!

  7. wolfetone

    All for British Values, of upholding justice and the rights to freedom of speach and freedom of the press - until something is done or said that makes those career politicians who never worked an honest day in their lives MP's a wee bit uncomfortable.

    What an amazing future we have ahead of us. I won't even ask what's next, because I don't want to ignite a discussion highlighting things the Government could do in case they're reading and they're short of ideas.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      It's odd because May doesn't seem the imaginative type. I suppose the army of civil servents and three letter agency people behind her are.

      1. Kane Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        "It's odd because May doesn't seem the imaginative type. I suppose the army of civil servents and three letter agency people behind her are."

        I've said it before and I'll say it again, two words;

        Charles Farr.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Guardian has gone downhill since Rusbridger left.

    The Guardian is mere shadow of its former self without Alan Rusbridger. People can comment on CiF on hedgehogs's hedgerows, but not NHS cuts (as examples this week).

    (The above comment is something you can't actually post on the Guardian CiF without falling foul of their terms, I might add)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Guardian has gone downhill since Rusbridger left.

      "[...] something you can't actually post on the Guardian CiF without falling foul of their terms, [...]"

      My suspicion is that the Grauniad mods use the Roman Legions' meaning of "decimate" to remove random posts - "pour encourager les autres".

      They strike me as being thin skinned, partisan, and arbitrary. I said so in a comment that they removed - along with similar criticisms by other people.

      Are they paid moderators, volunteers - or is it outsourced to a service in somewhere like China? Do the writers of the articles act as their own moderators?

      Whenever I am tempted to pay them a subscription - I remember how their moderators actions suggest they are too keen to suppress dissenting views.

    2. Dave 15 Silver badge

      Re: The Guardian has gone downhill since Rusbridger left.

      Not just the Guardian, the BBC keeps stunning me by just how poor its journalism can go... currently going on about a chemical company that might want to make a 4x4 and claiming its British when its headquartered abroad.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And where are all those who shouted so loudly about the posibility of the Queen being too embarrassed to meet Trump now?

    Are we about to have mass demonstrations outside No. 10 about this? Nope. Because they're too busy foaming at the mouth over whatever Trump is doing to notice the erosion of civil liberties in their own country.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      And where are all those...

      Give 'em a chance to get home and watch the bloody news first! They're not all goofing off at work on a Friday afternoon like you and me...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Don't you mean "Give 'em a chance to get home and watch Neighbours first!"?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I'm guessing the down-votes are from Home and Away fans?

    2. Dave 15 Silver badge

      Demonstrations?

      Nah, No 10 is inside London so you wont get the permission you need.

      The police state makes sure you aren't allowed to dissent

  10. a pressbutton Silver badge

    MP's Expenses Scandal

    ... Final payback for the publicity

    Next time you cannot publish and if you try get 14 years.

    1. Nick Kew

      Re: MP's Expenses Scandal

      We've already had Leveson to stamp on that kind of practice by the press.

      (Under the guise, of course, of dealing with altogether-less-sympathetic uses of investigative techniques).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: MP's Expenses Scandal

      14 years? more like a 14 minute head start before Creedy's bag men come for you

  11. tr1ck5t3r
    Trollface

    Hmmm, I wonder how the search engines like Google & Bing will have to change their practices piecing the various leaked pieces of gossip together to form a bigger picture for the NSA?

  12. fruitoftheloon
    Stop

    Well cluck a duck...

    I think Putin would be impressed!

    Time to contact your MP and politely but directly express your opinions...

    Cheers,

    Jay

    1. wolfetone

      Nice Idea

      But my local MP is Margot James and all she's interested in is making sure landlords don't get taxed more or have to lower their rates.

      Why? Oh well she's a landlord herself.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice Idea

        "But my local MP is Margot James [...]"

        My Tory MP always votes for the party line - except when the Vatican tells him to vote against some liberalising measure that their religious dogma proscribes.

        1. wolfetone

          Re: Nice Idea

          "My Tory MP always votes for the party line - except when the Vatican tells him to vote against some liberalising measure that their religious dogma proscribes."

          You sure it's the Vatican? I thought that was dyed in the wool Tory policy?

    2. The First Dave Silver badge

      Re: Well cluck a duck...

      "Time to contact your MP"

      But my MP is SNP so will be completely ignored at Westminster.

      Just like the labour ones were a few years ago...

  13. James 51

    When countries like China, Russia and Turkey behave like this we wag our finger at their political, legal and moral failings. Soon it will be pot and kettle time. No wonder May wants out of the ECJ and ECHR. They would stand up for British citizens in a way the British goverment never will.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      I don't think it was ever different in any country around the world: no ruling class ever doubted they should be able to rule unquestioned and absolute, whichever way they see fit, regardless of what it actually said on the tin. They just seem hell bent to go ahead and drop the act completely these days...

    2. Dave 15 Silver badge

      Soon?

      Nope, not soon, we are already worse than they are. Why worse? Because we do all the same things but still go around saying how we have democracy and stand up for it

  14. Nick Kew
    Black Helicopters

    Prisoner Peston?

    "sensitive information relating to the economy [should] be brought within the scope of the legislation... in so far as it relates to national security".

    Hmmm. So Robert Peston would've had to watch his back when he told us all was not well in 2008? What about private citizens who might have spread dangerous gossip about queues outside Northern Rock?

    1. James 51

      Re: Prisoner Peston?

      Then it's China time when information, even if it is accurate and complete will earn you some porridge if the party doesn't like what you're saying.

  15. FuzzyWuzzys
    Facepalm

    " Jim Killock, chief executive of the Open Rights Group (ORG), told The Reg: "Public-interesting whistleblowing is vital to society. Without it no one could have known the secret scale of global surveillance." "

    Of course they wouldn't, and not putting too finer a point on it, I think that's the point of this Espionage Act, to stop we sheeple from finding out how deep the government's "love" goes as they're bending us over the barrel!

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      But there was then no consultation or further communication, according to ORG. The commission say that the job they were given proved too big to have time to talk to journalists and editors.

      That's remarkably handy. How they think that excuse will convince anyone that it wasn't a complete stitch-up is beyond me.

  16. phuzz Silver badge

    So, plenty of penalties for people who leak, or newspapers who publish, but funnily enough, no measures to bring civil servants to account for allowing the data to be leaked in the first place.

    Edward Snowden was a foreigner working for a contractor to the NSA, why did he have access to so much information about GCHQ in the first place?

    On the other hand, if GCHQ weren't spying on all and sundry and passing it along to the US, then there wouldn't have been anything to leak in the first place....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      but funnily enough, no measures to bring civil servants to account for ....

      ....anything.

      Lets face it, it was valued members of the Civil Service that drafted the Snoopers' Charter. And who routinely screw up government IT projects. And government procurement. And energy policy. And defence policy. Even basic borrowing gets screwed up as "PFI"; letting a simple contract for a rail franchise is beyond these cretins meagre talents. Balancing the books in either public spending, or even within the health service is too difficult. Not even good at giving billions away under the asinine "Foreign Aid" programme.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        No accountability for civil servants

        Business as usual then.

      2. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Even basic borrowing gets screwed up as "PFI"

        The decision to keep the PFI liability off the books sits firmly at the feet of successive chancellors, not in the hands of a civil servant.

        letting a simple contract for a rail franchise is beyond these cretins meagre talents

        The entire franchising idea isn't simple -- that's the bloody point. Again, political direction.

        the asinine "Foreign Aid" programme.

        Yet another idiot who reaches for Daily Mail thinking instead of giving a moment's consideration to an investment in the future. It's almost like some people want developing countries not to climb out of poverty and to risk discontent, instability and war, eventually sending more refugees out into the world. Far better, ethically as well as pragmatically, to help people and to help create markets for our goods and services -- even David 'Pigfucker' Cameron understood that. You do want more trade deals once we're outside the EU, don't you?

        1. Dave 15 Silver badge

          I disagree with your foreign aid discussion

          Giving away billions to a country with a nuclear program, nuclear submarines (more than we can afford), space programs etc..... to save them from poverty?

          If you want to give something away then give them some BRITISH goods and services. If they don't want a Landrover then we don't send it, we certainly should NOT be sending them a cheque to spend on a BMW or Toyota... Our civil service and politicians seem to be hell bent on spending our money, or giving it away to the direct detriment of the workers of this country.

          If the police drove Rover cars, or the councils drove Leyland vans or the army had Bedford lorries there would be 3 companies still going. If the NHS computer system had been developed here maybe we might even still have a software industry instead of a shell around outsource companies spending out money in China, India and eastern Europe.

          As a tax payer I am sick to death of paying tax so that the politicians and civil servants can buy foreign and cause me to pay even more tax to support and police those in this country who should be working (about 30% of the working age population are NOT working). Worse is the perfect storm, because 30% of the working age population are idle the tax is taken from a far lower wage than it would be if we had near 100% working.

          The only reason the government doesn't worry about discontent, instability and war here is because the police state has sufficient in its arsenal to ensure no one can get together enough to start it.

    2. LDS Silver badge

      "why did he have access to so much information about GCHQ"

      May because GCHQ likes to share the bed with NSA? He got access to data GCHQ shared, not leaked.

      But beware, whistle-blowers could be also civil servants, if you scare the hell out of them, target reached anyway.

    3. Baldy50

      Wouldn't have a snow balls chance in hell.

      http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/russia-eyes-sending-snowden-u-s-gift-trump-official-n718921

  17. Red Bren

    "The sentences available should rise from 2 to 14 years imprisonment, the commission suggests."

    Because there is no greater crime than embarrassing the state.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As the monarch's prerogative has become the instrument of the Prime Minister - then it looks like a modern act to punish lese-majesty.

  18. Nick London
    Unhappy

    It has to cut both ways

    If a public servant obtains private information they should also face prison of 2 to 14 years. The law should include the managers as well as the pbi.

  19. lglethal Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Funny, not my first thought...

    "The volume of information that can be disclosed without authorisation is much greater... this means that the ability to cause damage to the national interest has also increased. The sentences available should rise from 2 to 14 years imprisonment, the commission suggests."

    Funnily enough my first thought when hearing that much greater damage could be caused by having more data in digital format, wasnt to increase the penalties for someone falsely accessing that data. My first thought was to get RID of the bloody data. Reduce what you store to that which is absolutely essential, and guess what, the potential damage DECREASES. Fancy that... I guess I'm not Public Servant material with that sort of thinking...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The proposals have been slammed by the reporting team who faced down British and US government threats to publish Edward Snowden's sensational revelations in 2013."

    They stopped the governments from publishing the revelations?

  21. chivo243 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    It' all so Zappaesque

    CENTRAL SCRUTINIZER:

    This is the CENTRAL SCRUTINIZER...it is my responsibility to enforce all the laws

    that haven't been passed yet. It is also my responsibility to alert each and every one of

    you to the potential consequences of various ordinary everyday activities you might be

    performing which could eventually lead to The Death Penalty (or affect your parents'

    credit rating). Our criminal institutions are full of little creeps like you who do wrong things...

    and many of them were driven to these crimes by a horrible force called MUSIC! Our studies

    have shown that this horrible force is so dangerous to society at large that laws are being

    drawn up at this very moment to stop it forever! Cruel and inhuman punishments are

    being carefully described in tiny paragraphs so they won't conflict with the Constitution

    (which, itself, is being modified in order to accommodate THE FUTURE).

    I bring you now a special presentation to show what can happen to you if you choose

    a career in MUSIC . . . The WHITE ZONE is for loading and unloading only. . . if you

    have to load or unload, go to the WHITE ZONE... you 'll love it... it 's a way of life . . .

    This is the CENTRAL SCRUTINIZER...The WHITE ZONE is for loading and unloading

    only...

    1. Afernie

      Re: It' all so Zappaesque

      On our playlist in the office, "Joe's Garage" started the very second I started reading your comment. Positively Fortean.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It' all so Zappaesque

        Great googalie moogalie!

        Excuse me, I have to get ready for Saint Alfonso's Pancake Breakfast. I think I'll steal the margarine.

      2. chivo243 Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: It' all so Zappaesque

        Cool office!

        1. Afernie

          Re: It' all so Zappaesque

          "Cool office!"

          Well, we're probably already "those misfits in IT" so quirky play lists just add the image. A typical exchange with travellers from other reaches of the empire goes along these lines:

          "What on earth is that?"

          ""Psychic Warfare", by Clutch"

          "Got any Justin Bieber?"

          "No."

  22. tentimes

    It's Fascism

    This is a big addition to our (already) Fascist state. 20 years from now it will be worse than it was in cold-war eastern Europe. Get ready for the Stasi. Goodbye hard-fought civil liberties.

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: It's Fascism

      20 years? You're an optimist.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: It's Fascism

      Well...

      1. Afernie

        Re: It's Fascism

        "Well..."

        Luckily we don't have a Department of Alteration just yet.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's Fascism

      we should do everything we can to stop the UK becoming a Fascist state and protect civil liberties

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The irony...

    Isn't this sort of sneaky, backhanded, devious, unethical "sovereign perogative" style law that people have been protesting in Romania this month?

  24. Graham Cobb

    Public Interest

    Public Interest should be a defence for every proposed offence in this Act. And intent must be taken into account during any sentencing.

    And there should be no offence involved in publishing information already released on the Internet. There is absolutely no point going back to the completely failed "Spycatcher" days of attempting to prevent publication in the UK of something freely available elsewhere.

    1. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: something freely available elsewhere

      That brings back memories of ever so resourceful Soviets.

      General public was not allowed to have accurate topographic maps. Only military had good maps. For even greater security, all publicly available maps were heavily mangled to thwart evil spies.

      So, if someone wanted to hike in wild areas like Karelia or Kola peninsula, they had two workarounds available: to grease a pair of palms at some military base; or travel to Finland and buy a set of decent maps from the nearest bookstore.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: something freely available elsewhere

        The GDR did that too (I'm guessing it was standard procedure in the whole eastern bloc). The parts of the maps showing the parts of the country next to the (western) border were massively distorted. Anyone trying to jump the fence who wasn't really familiar with the terrain would end up right in front of the border troops when using such a map.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Public Interest

      "And there should be no offence involved in publishing information already released on the Internet. "

      You are forgetting the parallel tactic of making ISPs block everything that isn't white-listed by a government agency.

      Oh - you thought that was only about protecting the children? To the Government - we are all to be treated as "just children".

    3. Dave 15 Silver badge

      Re: Public Interest

      Ah yes, freely available elsewhere... well don't forget the government already has rules to let it close down access to those dangerous child abusing terrorist websites that Jonny Foreigner uses to spread this untrue information (just the same as China has the rules). And just in case you find a clever way around it they will know from the spying. Don't think about bringing in printed material.. .we have customs channels back in proper operation after this bizarre EU thing

  25. Nolveys
    Big Brother

    Won't Someone Think Of The Criminals?

    The gist of this law is that "if you find criminals operating in the government and tell then you are guilty of treason"? So this law was written specifically to protect criminals? It also follows that this law was written by or on behalf of criminals?

    Am I missing something here?

  26. Howard Hanek
    Mushroom

    So?

    This begs the question.....'Who IS El Reg spying for?"

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      Re: So?

      WFT? Is that an 's' I see after http in the forum URL? Excellent.

      I guess that puts el Reg in the "anti-spy" camp. Finally!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So?

        "I guess that puts el Reg in the "anti-spy" camp. Finally!"

        Don't get carried away on a sense of false security. MITM anyone?

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: So?

        "I guess that puts el Reg in the "anti-spy" camp. Finally!"

        You just noticed? The rest of us have been using it for simply ages!

  27. earl grey Silver badge
    Flame

    British Embassies abroad?

    So, if i posted a picture and the address of a British Embassy in the united snakes they would send someone over to tag me? Good luck with that.

  28. A Long Fellow

    "Espionage" seems to imply an "us vs. them" mentality. Indeed, the notion of relationships here is critical.

    When a _spy_ leaks information to _an enemy power_, that damages _our country_ by compromising _our national_ interests.

    When a (journalist) leaks information to (the citizens), that damages (who??) by compromising (whose??) interests.

    It seems obvious that this bill casts citizens as the enemy of the rulers.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      @ A Long Fellow, Citizens are the most likely potential enemies of bad, totalitarian governments and may explain why most countries are steadily militarising their police forces.

    2. Emperor Zarg

      A long fellow wrote:

      It seems obvious that this bill casts citizens as the enemy of the rulers.

      Well, the Government have been acting like the enemy of the people for quite a while now.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what about ..

    if you find information on a memory stick left on a train by a civil servant? Does the person who left it get the 2 - 14 years?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: what about ..

      You'd probably get the 2-14 years because you plugged it in and looked to see what was on it.

      1. DoorFairy

        Re: what about ..

        And what about an ordinary Joe like me who wants to disclose my experiences of government wrong doing in a blog?

        oscailandoras.wordpress.com

        Do I get nicked?

  30. John 104 Silver badge

    Staggering

    The amount of government overreach with this is amazing. I certainly hope you UK folk snuff this out before it get much further.

    Also staggering that our recently elected POTUS has been accused of facism, nazism, etc, without actually introducing anything as damaging to the citizenry as this. But by all means, keep screaming across the pond while your MPs actually attempt it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Staggering

      would be a fair point, John 104, but don't forget we didn't actually vote in the facist / nazi /stasi / nomenklatura in question.

      Nor do our government spokespeople act as mouthpieces talking down a specific retailer, or pick on specific countries for their blatant disregard of human life - they're equal opportunity despots, perhaps.

      1. John 104 Silver badge

        Re: Staggering

        @AC

        Not familiar with how your government functions. Are you saying you don't elect your MPs?

      2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: Staggering

        "would be a fair point, John 104, but don't forget we didn't actually vote in the facist / nazi /stasi / nomenklatura in question."

        Um... yes, you did. The electorate elects the parliament. Parliament elects the PM.

        Pro tip: time to get a constitution.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Staggering

          Why have the replies to this message so failed to understand the point.

          John 104 is correct - The MP's are elected, but not neccesarily actually representing the voice of the people who elected them.

          As for the PM bit, John104 is right again and you are wrong.

          The Tory party chooses it's own leader, the Labour party chooses it's own leader, all parties choose their own leader.

          If they have the majority then the party leader becomes PM. They are not elected by the people or parliament.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Staggering

          "Pro tip: time to get a constitution."

          We have one. It's just not all on one page.

  31. fidodogbreath Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Is this really the government we deserve?

    De Tocqueville (allegedly) said that democracy can only survive until the people discover that they can vote themselves money from the public till.

    Well, freedom can only survive until the government discovers that it can get away with using the unbridled power of the state against its citizenry, to protect and perpetuate itself.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't the mere publishing of this article, constitute a violation? It's over for El Reg. That would explain why the Android app suddenly stopped connecting to the articles and downloading them, a couple of days ago.

  33. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken
  34. Conundrum1885 Bronze badge

    Dear Rt Hon Theresa May (PM)

    Are you trying to use "Nineteen Eighty-Four" by George Orwell as an instruction manual?

    If so, please desist. This was never intended and will only end badly.

    Kind regards, Andre de Guerin.

  35. SVV Silver badge

    Hasty and bodged legislation?

    I doubt it somehow. Must have been lying around in some Whitehall office for some time, fully worked out and waiting for a PM whp is authoritarian enough to want to implement it.

    Seeing as her recent overseas trips were to Trump's USA and Erdogan's Turkey, no wonder this would be a good time for the Sir Humphreys to dig this out. How many journalists are in prison in Turkey right now? The new friends she is picking for Britain, after we've flounced off from our near neighbours are not a promising replacement in my opinion.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hasty and bodged legislation?

      "lying around in some Whitehall office for some time, fully worked out and waiting"

      The office of someone like this already-mentioned sound chap, for example:

      https://www.gov.uk/government/people/charles-farr

      He's definitely "one of us", right?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Farr

      https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/apr/13/charles-farr-gchq-spymaster-counter-terrorism

      Check out the connection between him and anohter of May's senior staff e.g.

      "a fascinating tale of two Home Office civil servants who are having an affair together.

      One of those involved is a no-nonsense Scottish divorcee, Fiona Cunningham, 40, who is Home Secretary Theresa May’s devoted spin doctor. For two years, she has been in a close relationship with her colleague Charles Farr, 54, a former spy chief who runs the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office."

      warning: unreliable source:

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2649035/The-discreet-affair-two-Home-Secretarys-closest-advisers-REAL-reason-bitter-split-Cabinet-colleague-Michael-Gove-Islamic-plot-schools.html

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Fiona Cunningham => Fiona Hill

        Fiona Cunningham is now Theresa May's joint chief of staff, and goes by the name Fiona Hill:

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36783185

        Small world.

  36. Esme

    You know the drill

    Write to your MP's and get your friends, families and significant others to write to their MPs protesting against this NOW.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Write to your MPs

      "Write to your MP's and get your friends, families and significant others to write to their MPs protesting against this NOW."

      Why? MPs are not going to do anything for anyone except their paymasters, and that isn't their constituents. People doing what you suggest can be first against the wall, they volunteered to be re-educated.

      Organise, by all means necessary. But keep it underground. Remember, there's a war against terror to be fought.

      Is there a November 5th this year?

      1. Dave 15 Silver badge

        Re: Write to your MPs

        My MP will pen a very polite letter back telling me not to bother my fuzzy head as it is clearly all in a very deserving cause and nothing to worry about...... I know this because he does this every time and then goes off and votes as he is told by his best buddy the chief whip who makes sure he climbs another well paid step up the greasy pole.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You know the drill

      I don't regard my MP as a decent human being. He stood up in Parliament and invoked god during the debate on same sex marriage, praying that it would be struck down in the other house. He is pro fox hunting. His speech on the Brexit bill in the House described robbing of my EU citizenship rights and harming my business, which relies on the free movement of my expertise and equipment, as "the culmination of a political lifetime’s ambition." His personal values don't align with mine or with the well being of my business.

      The only time I have seen him vote against his party line was same sex marriage, where his party wasn't far enough right for his liking. He's a career party brown-nose that was moved between constituencies to keep him in Parliament and further his ministerial career.

      Honestly, an email to my MP wouldn't be worth the pixels it was printed on. Our constituency is a very safe seat with a large military presence whose votes keep him in his seat so he doesn't have to keep the people happy to stay in Westminster. Because of the First Past The Post system, my vote will never matter. He is famous within the community for either ignoring requests for help, especially if the come from someone who didn't vote for him, or nodding, promising to be on your side then voting to stuff you, the way he was going to anyway.

      And they say they wonder why the public feel disenfranchised and have no faith in politics or politicians.

  37. Sir Alien

    Two things...

    A) if the leak is posted in another country then unless that country is willing to extradite this law can do nothing to international (internet) leakers. No matter how much they put that clause into law, it cannot affect anyone not in the country or in a cooperating country. Look at Snowden and America, a good example of why such a law is useless and easily seen to be aimed at the general public.

    B) Like many African countries, what will happen is if a state becomes too totalitarian the country will start to have a brain drain. All knowledge leaves to other countries and all that is left are those that can't afford to leave or are to stupid to see the state of affairs.

    If I start to feel like a prisoner in public and cannot do anything about it, I would simply leave the country and go else where. Germany seems like a good bet since their constitution prohibits things like this, or so I am told.

    The only innovation that would be left over is the innovation of covering your tracks on whatever you do.

    - S.A.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Two things...

      "If I start to feel like a prisoner in public and cannot do anything about it, I would simply leave the country and go else where. Germany seems like a good bet since their constitution prohibits things like this, or so I am told."

      One, they could prevent you from leaving (see China). Two, Constitutions are just ink on a page in the end.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same here

    Ordering my new passport now. Hint: Not where you think, actually a far more benevolent society.

    Hopefully the authorities will learn not to mess with my stuff and respect intellect.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Same here

      I understand that when you order your passport not through the official channels, but through an, let's say private contractor, you can freely choose name, nationality and personal details.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm

    Wonder if it includes the option to include a go/no go (or is that track/no track) option that "Official" passports lack?

    The addition of my own tracking unit which lets me trace a lost/stolen passport but only if I choose to enable it by *insert devious method here involving a graphene substitution printed nanoantenna, Droitwich/GLONASS/Galileo RX, 1*1mm Be ion nanoatomic clock array and internal hearing induction loop and WiFi powered charger/TX* so that my "lost" passport can be located from orbit if need be. :-)

  40. GrumpyKiwi

    The Official Secrets Act exists not to protect secrets but to protect officials*.

    That's been known for forever. This just codifies it for the digital world.

    *As told to Kiwi when he signed the OSA while working for the UK MoD in the 1990's.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting

    I was told (or cannot confirm/deny this) that the OSA is basically a contract that you will respect the chain of command (eg if someone higher up says something is covered then it is, period) even if subsequently mentioned in any media the official position is that the event never took place.

    Apparently regular flights take place to and from Nellis AFB but either they keep other planes out of the area or simply use the old blacked-out windows trick.

    I did speculate that perhaps commercial GPS receivers have a "Nellis Filter" aka "block sensitive areas" so if it detects you are approaching somewhere sensitive the software leads you off course without getting totally lost.

    Intriguingly there is a conspiracy theory suggesting that Galileo was sabotaged precisely because the member countries would not add this filter as asked by the GPS collaboration, by adding sneak circuits that caused clock failure to ensure navigational supremacy could be maintained.

    (icon: Tinfoil Hat)

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think, therefore...

    ...I'm in trouble...

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: I think, therefore...

      I think, therefore......I'm in trouble... .... Anonymous Coward

      Oh, AC?

      Surely,..... I/We think, therefore they are in trouble.

      And aint that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the gospel truth.

      And their problems can only blossom and escalate in these novel EMPowered times with virtual command and remote control spaces which do not accept the follies of fools ....[defending and extending the inequitable and indefensible]

  43. Tom Paine Silver badge
    Pint

    Good journalism

    A spot of meta: good work Mr C and El Reg, and nice to see this story being picked up by your downmarket rivals from what used to be Fleet Street over the weekend. Here's Monday's Grauniad front page:

    http://ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/660/cpsprodpb/9056/production/_94605963_guardian.jpg

    Definitely worth a pint.

  44. richardA

    Disasters and Secret Courts

    The first thing to understand is that Civil Servants and Governments love disasters. Perverse Incentives run through government and finance like “BLACKPOOL” through a stick of rock. The bigger the disaster, the more money and power given to the government. But disasters are unpopular, hence the need to control the news. Some examples: If Fukushima ever erupts, it could make the Northern Hemisphere uninhabitable, hence the Japanese Government will declare the event a “State Secret”. Similarly, Mr Modi had to keep his plans for a massive transfer of wealth from the poorest people on the planet to the wealthiest, all funded by USAID, secret from all but a few cronies.

    Not to mention secret laws, secret courts, secret verdicts, secret prisons, secret executions, most of which may already be in place. After all, Mr Cameron boasted to a captive audience of the execution of two British Citizens in Syria, thus setting aside hundreds of years of legal precedent. For earlier discussions of the slide into tyranny, seach for “After Dark British Intelligence”.

    As for the consultation, aka request for free legal advice, I shall offer my services at market rates, with a link to the Executive Summary posted on “The Register” comments.

  45. Simon Harris Silver badge

    "Hasty and botched"

    The de facto standard for any government legislation these days.

  46. Vinyl-Junkie
    Black Helicopters

    Realising the full extent...

    ...of this proposed legislation requires a little knowledge of government labelling.

    The title says "the protection of Official data". "Official" is actually a government data classification. It is the lowest level classification but it applies to every piece of information produced by government, be it national or local. So an email from one parish councillor to another is "Official" data.

    This can be beneficial; "Official" data requires a level of safeguarding in line with NCSC guidelines (although many local authorities fail to understand this!).

    In this case however, given the title, I can't help wondering if this is in part designed to stop local union officials revealing the true scope of cuts to the local rag before the council has chance to put a spin on it; "that data was Official; therefore we're sending you to jug for 14 years"...

  47. Shaha Alam

    <obligatory 1984 quote>

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    time to fire up them proxies.

    all 7 of them

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020