Great news from the Guardian – Canadian citizens are now almost totally free from any risk of terrorism!
While my opening sentence is clearly bullshit, it is, somewhat perversely, the exact reason why the Canadian Government, Liberal Party included, pushed through this new legislation despite the obvious pitfalls, risks of abuse and not-so-subtle stench of creeping police state surveillance. The irony was clearly lost on Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Liberal Party Leader;
Joining all Canadians today in proudly celebrating the 33rd anniversary of our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. #CdnPoli
— Justin Trudeau, MP (@JustinTrudeau) April 17, 2015
Thankfully, the media in Canada are not as meek and subservient as our own, and seem to be following this up with plenty of vigour, regardless of how…eh…meek and subservient their politicians may turn out to be.
How About Australia?
Just as bad.
The Asio Act 2014 granted Australia’s equivalent of Canada’s security services similar powers, including but not limited to (nor restrained by);
- greater protection for intelligence officers who commit crimes while conducting operations;
- cracking down on the leaking and publication of information about secret operations;
- expanding ASIO’s access to computer networks;
- making it easier for Australia’s spying agencies to work together.
At a glance, none of the above seem too sinister, but knowing security services and their rabid lust for self-perpetuation (and budget), the timing of these extra powers (in Canada too) speaks volumes of the wider and malignant web of the deep state. In both countries, these acts were preceded by “terror attacks”, all bearing similar hallmarks, and strangely – all culprits being previously known to the respective security establishments. Resisting that rabbit-hole, let’s look at what the above four bullet points mean in the real world.
1 – greater protection for intelligence officers
Again, as a headline, it’s not too alarming, but it doesn’t mean quite what you’d think. What it does is dissuade any member of the Australian public, the “normal folk”, from reporting on serious abuses of power by the security folk, going so far as to criminalise disclosure of information that relates to a “special intelligence operation”. So, no matter what they do – short of murder/rape – they’re potentially beyond the law.
What could possibly go wrong?
2 – cracking down on the leaking and publication of information about secret operations
Standard state suffocation there, really. If you believe everything that your government keeps secret is legitimately in your best interest, then fine, sign up to this. If, however, you’re aware of the historical abuses such powers encourage, any attempt to tighten secrecy, regardless of the Terrorist Boogeyman who lives under our beds, is a bad one.
On paper, this law targets intelligence officers themselves, to prevent leaking of secret stuff, and embarrassing and illegal stuff too. Journalists (ie. anyone with a camera phone or internet connection) were rightly up in arms, as its scope clearly isn’t limited to those in the area of state security.
3 – expanding ASIO’s access to computer networks
This one is my favourite.
In the legislation, there is no definition of what a network is, so potentially (and highly likely) the cool, suave, toned James Bond types will interpret it in the best way possible for their own ends, as we’ve seen on countless occasions with NSA/GCHQ etc.
Professor George Williams of UNSW said;
“The problem is, it applies to computer networks and the internet is a computer network – it’s a network of networks”
Legislation around surveillance and “terrorism” quite often leaves things deliberately vague, to allow plausible deniability should they ever get caught (which point 2 tries to mitigate).
4 – making it easier for Australia’s spying agencies to work together
Yeah, whatever – this just retroactively legalises the data sharing between intelligence agencies that’s most likely been going on since the end of World War Two.
France – Liberté, égalité, fraternité me bollix.
The whole JeSuisCharlie thing was a great way for hipsters and politicians to look cool on Twitter, and get some pretty impressive photos to boot (despite not telling us it was a closed street packed with security and barriers).
Compare this image of unity, defence of free speech blah blah blah……
……with a wider shot of what actually went down.
Few would expect world leaders to stroll with the unwashed masses, but the subsequent u-turn witnessed in France in relation to its own actual free speech laws speaks volumes of the opportunistic manner in which those who crave power strengthen their grasp.
The provisions, as currently outlined, would allow the intelligence services to tap cellphones, read emails and force Internet companies to comply with requests to allow the government to sift through virtually all of their subscribers’ communications.
Par for the course really, something bad happens so the government must “be seen to do something”, even if that something is futile, ineffective and ultimately dealing with a different issue altogether – which makes me wonder if that’s the intent from the off.
Whatever your views on Charlie Hebdos cartoons, and I for one am an equal opportunity offender of everyone, France has stifled free speech in the last few months to a degree that even Jon Stewart found a little confusing;
Usually, defending free speech rights is much more of a lonely task. For instance, the day before the Paris murders, I wrote an article about multiple cases where Muslims are being prosecuted and even imprisoned by western governments for their online political speech – assaults that have provoked relatively little protest, including from those free speech champions who have been so vocal this week.
What he was alluding to is the still-strong aversion in the US, Europe and all their little Anglophile allies to anything anti-semitic, anti-christian, anti-“our values”, but the doggedness behind the attempts to legitimise anti-muslim speech as protected. There’s a clear contradiction there, but it’s not one which is welcome in the main. We must remain strong in our attempts to rile the muslim world, for if there’s no boogeyman to keep us quiet, the state can’t excercise its will quite as easily.
Which, finally, brings me back home to Ireland, a great little place to do business.
I’ve previously written (waffled?) about the dangers of walking blindly into a police state and the risks involved when preventing real journalists from doing their jobs – keeping tabs on what the government are up to and reporting events to where the power should lie; the people.
Common in both these concerns is the ability of the state to know what its citizens are thinking, planning and criticising. Without this power, the government are resigned to the role they were initially (and somewhat naively) intended for – to act merely as a facilitator for the functioning of a genuine democracy. This role has long changed, and an increasing power-grab has taken over. No “democracy” can truly claim to be so, although Iceland seems to have the best chance of a full recovery. The heart of this decline is money, and with money comes power. If you’ve enough money, you can cement your power more effectively, and this is the cycle, the race to the bottom that we now find ourselves in.
Since June 2000, Ireland has been an active, although unnamed, partner in the massive global network that was Echelon, and has since morphed into a seemingly unending network of “information sharing agreements”, all designed to maintain the Anglophile dominance on trade, communications, commerce, finance and knowledge.
In June (2000), Ireland will become part of a secret alliance, joining Canada, Australia and New Zealand to help America’s NSA (National Security Agency) and Britain’s GCHQ (Government Communications HQ) communications spy systems to snatch computer secrets from all over the world.
With all this talk of high-powered surveillance networks, massive undersea cable splitting and satellite interception, it’s easy to think cute little old Ireland isn’t part of it, but on the contrary – our geographical location makes us a valuable, albeit quite, partner in the abuse. Our internet cables run through the UK, and another (which appears to be the main EU-US one) lands in Maryland. So, even if we aren’t complicit, we’re certainly vulnerable, and one would assume the government would take steps to ensure our sovereignty, independence and privacy.
But, alas, the opposite has happened. Our government, through the current minister for justice Frances Fitzgerald, not only acquiesced to the demands of our former overlords, but actively facilitated their rape of the digital world. Alarming language perhaps, but these three headlines – and the timing of each – points to nothing but this fact. If you can interpret them in any other way, then you deserve a job in government.
New documents released this week via the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden outline how Irish subsea telecommunications cables have been targeted by British intelligence.
The Department of Justice and the Department of Communications would not comment on the revelations last night.
Foreign law enforcement agencies will be allowed to tap Irish phone calls and intercept emails under a statutory instrument signed into law by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.
The legislation, which took effect on Monday, was signed into law without fanfare on November 26th, the day after documents emerged in a German newspaper indicating the British spy agency General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had directly tapped undersea communications cables between Ireland and Britain for years.
The Government has refused to comment on the documents – leaked from whistleblower Edward Snowden – which were reported by The Irish Times last Saturday.
Ireland is not soft on jihadist fighters Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has insisted, rejecting claims of a lack of appropriate counter-terrorist legislation.
“You can never absolutely rule out a terrorist threat as we all know from our own history.“
Here’s the chain of events:
Süddeutsche Zeitung reports the Snowden leaks relating to GCHQ, Vodafone etc tapping undersea cables.
Frances Fitzgerald, in one of the most coincidental acts of timing ever known, just so happens to pass legislation which makes all the cable tapping retroactively legal, the day after the leaks were published.
The Irish Times report details on the issue three days after legislation was passed, and four days after the leaks first appeared in Süddeutsche Zeitung.
What caused the delay? I was well aware by then, and I’m certainly nothing near an “accredited journalist”, whatever the fuck that means, who’s job this is.
The Irish Times detail the new powers which tagged along with the retrospective legalisation of spying by the UK on Ireland, particularly “Companies that object or refuse to comply with an intercept order could be brought before a private “in camera” court.”
“In camera” is fancy legalese for “in secret” – you know, the same secrecy that our dear leader Enda Kenny vowed to dismantle.
Enda Kenny's promised democratic revolution of transparency, accountability and integrity is now dead in the water.
— Gemma O'Doherty (@gemmaod1) September 30, 2014
But, sure isn’t that what you say during an election?
Feeling a bit of pressure to justify the lightning quick legislative turnaround, in true Orwellian fashion the Irish Times regurgitates an answer to a question nobody asked.
“I have absolutely no evidence that training camps are taking place in Ireland, nor have the gardaí at present” she said, having only a month previous signed away our privacy under the assumption of just that.
There was no mention at all in the article of the very same “appropriate counter-terrorist legislation” that had been under the spotlight as a result of the GCHQ/Vodafone leaks.
And that’s how this whole thing works, folks. And I haven’t even mentioned the current attempts to regulate social media in the most ridiculous way possible, but you can read all about that here – via Mark Malone.
So there you have it – for whatever reason, which we’ll never know due to this government’s (and in fairness, most governments’) love of secrecy, our Minister for Justice with the approval of Enda Kenny, bent the knee to foreign security services, and instantly covered their collective asses which were threatened because of Snowden’s leaks. Not based on conscience, not based on the will of the Irish citizens, but based purely in the desire to maintain control over what we read, write, think, discuss, plan and instigate.
It’s not to keep you safe – it’s to keep them safe.