A modest Constitutional Proposal
Difficult to control the increasing rage I feel as we continue to see these recurring attempts to bully the public and politicians into accepting egregious invasions of privacy with all its risks to civil society that others have mentioned.
I think its time we organised a major constitutional challenge, beginning with a petition on the government website and funded by a crowd-sourcing campaign. I hereby propose a first draft of such a plan:
The aim would be to render illegal the imposition of any communication controls which have the potential to be abused in ways I don't need to repeat, in detail, here; but certainly including any threats to dissent, free association and standard privacy expectations.
The relevant Law would further make it a mandatory condition of employment that
a) anyone witnessing such abuse would be guilty of abetting that crime if they fail to report it
b) anyone proposing the implementation of such controls or any other attempt to bypass the law, would be guilty of the new crime
Ideally I would also like to ban any politician proposing such a change in policy from holding office for a period of ten years but that implies a limitation on free speech which I can't defend.
None of the above implies that such intrusive surveillance can never be permitted. The conditions under which it may be permitted, however, must be strictly confined to the following conditions:
1) the surveillance attack must be limited to an individual or tightly defined small group of related individuals who are suspected, as a result of legitimate intelligence sources, of committing or planning acts which could result in significant physical harm to other citizens, serious damage to property (eg a cost in excess of £500k) or serious financial fraud (eg a value in excess of £1m)
(i.e. the law will explicitly recognise that intrusive surveillance is not justifiable for "trivial" matters)
2) the decision making process and the implementation of the attack must all be digitally recorded and the records protected by timestamped hashes stored on immutable hash-chains or block-chains (see my previous thoughts on Accountability Theatre for more detail)
3) a civil audit team (12-20 experts), independent of both government and the intelligence agencies must be informed of the existence of all such planned attacks prior to their implementation and must have unfettered access to the data and decision makers, together with the legal right to raise objections both with the courts and, if they deem fit, with the media. They also have the unfettered right to publish summaries and reports on the operation of this monitored surveillance regime as and when they see fit.
4) that audit team must include experts in ALL the relevant fields (Law, Civil Liberties, Intelligence/Surveillance and Crypto). They should be selected by a process similar to jury selection but from a restricted publicly visible pool of a few thousand volunteer experts. The state and normal citizens can have the right to object to selected members of that pool and to propose their exclusion, on publicly stated grounds, but these proposed exclusions must themselves be approved by an ad hoc jury randomly drawn from other members of the pool who have not been selected for exclusion (and can, therefore, be assumed to be widely trusted)
5) No prosecution would be permitted to include Surveillance based intelligence unless it is certified by the auditors as having been gathered under the new legal conditions. The defence team would be entitled to a more detailed report from the auditors to justify the use of the intelligence, though the auditors would have the discretion to withhold details which could damage the operation of the intelligence gathering process or key individuals involved in it.