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United Kingdom Government Privacy

UK MPs Hold Emergency Debate After Court Makes It Legal For GCHQ To Spy On Them ( 140

An anonymous reader writes: After decades of a gentleman's agreement to exempt them from surveillance, UK MPs have discovered that GCHQ now deems them as legitimate targets of surveillance. Consequently, members of the UK Parliament have called for an emergency debate on domestic surveillance. Shadow Commons leader Chris Bryant said: "To all intents and purposes, it means that the Wilson doctrine is dead. It is the cornerstone of the bill of rights and it is one of the most ancient freedoms of this country. In another era, before the existence of telephones and emails it meant that MPs and peers, even in war, had a right for their written correspondence not to be intercepted or be interfered with."
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UK MPs Hold Emergency Debate After Court Makes It Legal For GCHQ To Spy On Them

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  • But wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @03:06AM (#50741639)
    How can they be the ruling class if they're lumped in with the proles? There aught a be a law!
    • by Etherwalk ( 681268 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @03:10AM (#50741647)

      How can they be the ruling class if they're lumped in with the proles? There aught a be a law!

      This isn't about the ruling class. This is about everyone else. If GCHQ gets to spy on people who make decisions about how extensive their operations are, then they get to blackmail those people. This is the problem with government surveillance--not what most people do with it, but what happens if someone in a position of power within the surveillance system takes advantage of it to manipulate government decisions rather than to defend the nation or its people under the auspices of and within the constraints of the law.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @03:41AM (#50741757)

        Indeed. Unfortunately, it is much, much worse: If they have material about an MP before that person became an MP (and they will have that), they can already blackmail that MP.

        • by Big Hairy Ian ( 1155547 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @07:20AM (#50742349)
          This is probably the real reason VIP pedophile rings have been covered up for years in the UK Government. Simply because GCHQ didn't want to lose their trump card!
          • by gweihir ( 88907 )

            Quite plausible. And just look at Germany where a PM that asked critical questions about the conduct of the National Police was eliminated in exactly this fashion with timing that is more than just highly suspicious. Obviously the spiritual successors to the GeStaPo have material about everybody they potentially may be threatened by, but they only use it when these people move against them. This is a hidden, slow coup, nothing else.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 16, 2015 @03:42AM (#50741763)

        You can make the exact same argument about people that aren't part of the government. It includes company directors, bankers, members of think tanks, journalists... all of which could be blackmailed in order to change how the country is run. And civil servants could already be spied on and government manipulated that way.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You can make the exact same argument about people that aren't part of the government. It includes company directors, bankers, members of think tanks, journalists... all of which could be blackmailed in order to change how the country is run. And civil servants could already be spied on and government manipulated that way.

          True -- but as we've been saying for decades, the reason we're more afraid of governments than corporations is that a corporation cannot arrest you, nor can it pass a law deeming you a cr

          • Because a corporation gets you arrested for, for example, shoplifting, by telling government to do it. So corporations CAN get you arrested. Just like government can.

            If the police and courts are banned so the corporation can't do that, either

            a) they will lose everything to looters
            b) they will hire private corporations and arrest you (or just kill you, remember, there's no law now because you killed off all government justice systems)

            So therefore the corporations can STILL have you arrested.

            So PLEASE, expl

            • And the police never disagree with a corporation's accusation of shoplifting?

              In some countries, corporations hire private security to protect their goods.Not surprisingly, in countries [] where the government claims it serves the people, not the corporations. And serves neither.

          • The executive arm, in any state government or the US government, has the sole power of enforcement(hence the name). Legislatures(again, in the US) have the sole power to craft, pass, and repeal laws(courts have some power that is law repealing, but judges must have a case brought before the respective courts to initiate the use of such power; judges don't get to simply muse whatever law, whenever is convenient for them, and start repeal whatever law they wish) among other duties, and courts try alleged cri

        • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

          ah but mp's make the laws about how the spies are supposed to operate, which is why they weren't supposed to be spying on the mp's.

          now it makes gchq the ruling class.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Let them blackmail - and call the bluff everytime. Soon enough, people get tired of it all. Another gay politician? Couldn't care less. Another prostitute story? Couldn't care less. (Well, his wife might care, but she's replaceable anyway - as his actions demonstrated.)

          When there are too many celebrities, people doesn't care. Or they care for 15 min., and then find something else to 'care' about. Then the politician (or whatever) makes his comeback - shielded by the next shallow scandal. They might as well

        • by WOOFYGOOFY ( 1334993 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @08:25AM (#50742627)

          The special issue regarding government surveillance and blackmail is that the government has extraordinary powers to obtain blackmail information which the other entities you cite- corporations, individuals- do not. The special legal positioning given to government surveillance makes it a completely unique threat.

          Sure, other entities are capable of blackmail. OK. Can they pose under cover of official LEO action and frame the blackmail as "seeking co-operation in a criminal case or matter of national security" from their victim? It's entirely legal to use the offer of immunity from prosecution as a motivating incentive to criminals in order to secure their co-operation in an ongoing investigation.

          "We were going to prosecute you for this crime, but just help us out here and we'll bury this evidence against you forever instead."

          So your argument that other entities are theoretically capable of blackmail also and therefore the UK's spying on MPs is not uniquely troubling is, well, itself uniquely troubling.

      • You can blackmail someone only if they have something to hide. These MPs surely have nothing to hide!

        (tune your sarcasm detector if it didn't blip)

      • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @07:11AM (#50742309) Homepage Journal
        And lest anyone think this is paranoia, MI-5 did actually begin putting together a plot to overthrow the democratically elected government in the 1970s. It was only because Lord Mountbatten, their proposed replacement Prime Minister, refused to go along with it that the plan failed.
      • Right. It should only be possible for them to blackmail dissenters.

    • by N1AK ( 864906 )

      How can they be the ruling class if they're lumped in with the proles? There aught a be a law!

      One common form of communication for MPs is with their constituents, thus spying on communication involving MPs generally involves spying on a great deal of communication between the proles and their political representative... but don't let that get in the way of making cliché claims that politicians think they deserve special treatment.

    • Re:But wait... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Friday October 16, 2015 @03:49AM (#50741785) Homepage Journal

      There was a law, but GCHQ doesn't obey laws. They simply employ people to find legal arguments to bypass them, or if that doesn't work they just ignore them and hope no-one finds out.

      MPs must be extremely stupid if they think that they were not being spied on even when their gentleman's agreement was supposedly being enforced. Having to somehow avoid MP's correspondence when doing a full take capture of internet traffic is impossible. I pointed this out to my MP, but she was too dumb to understand it and appeared willing to take GCHQ's word for it that they would never break the law, despite me including copies of their documents detailing how to break the law.

      Now she wants to be the next Prime Minister.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If there was any time when a 1984 reference was justified, it's here.

      The book wasn't really about a general surveillance state. The Party left most of the population so ignorant and lacking in power, pacified with bread, circuses, drugs and porn, that they could never pose a threat. No effort was wasted watching the ordinary rabble.

      All the state spying was directed towards those who sought power - the ones who wanted to be a member of The Party.

      Most people seem to think the book was just about a world with

    • Dear MPs:

      Talk shit, get hit.

    • And there probably will be. Parliamentary supremacy is still a constitution fact in Britain, and if Parliament decides MPs get absolute unlimited immunity from being spied on, then that's that.

  • by Dorianny ( 1847922 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @03:08AM (#50741641) Journal
    It seems like surveillance is a big deal after all. When they are the ones being spied on at least!
    • by coofercat ( 719737 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @07:18AM (#50742341) Homepage Journal

      William Hague told us that the innocent have nothing to fear and that they're only collecting meta data etc. Successors to him have repeated that they work within a robust legal framework, must be necessary and proportionate, yadda yadda yadda.

      Surely, with all these protections and assurances they can't be worried can they?

      The thing that annoys me more than any of this story alone is that none of the Home Secretaries that spouted this utter bullshit will face any sort of recrimination. Tossers the lot of 'em*.

      * Any MP that wants to convince me that they're not a tosser is welcome to explain themselves. I even invited my MP to demonstrate he wasn't a tosser, and all he could manage was a letter back to say he "worked very hard", thus re-inforcing my view of him.

  • First, they spied on the peons

    Then, they spy on the MPs

    Dear Queen Elizabeth, they will spy on you, next !

  • by Anonymous Coward

    welcome to the rest of the country. You made this bed. Time to lay in it.

  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @03:12AM (#50741659) Journal

    With scandal after scandal, the same parties stay in power. It's the same everywhere.

    • Turnabout is fair play, or however that goes.

      • What turnabout? There isn't any. They suffer no consequences. They spy on us, we go to jail. Spy on them, and they retire with full benefits and a book deal.

    • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Friday October 16, 2015 @06:00AM (#50742119) Homepage Journal

      With scandal after scandal, the same parties stay in power. It's the same everywhere.

      That's because the parties are only an illusion of choice, perpetuated to placate the masses. Strike the root.

      • Strike the root.

        That you will find in the mirror. The 'hopelessness' is learned. All choices are personal.

      • Fight the power, vote Lib Dem! They'll fight the system.
      • by e r ( 2847683 )

        Strike the root

        What is the root of the problem?
        What solution would solve the problem?
        By the way, I consider anything involving socialism, oligarchy, or any totalitarian state to be much worse than the current system.
        Any "striking at the root" must improve the system, not merely destroy it so that it can replaced by garden variety misery.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      At the time the UK was facing the Vassall [] , Profumo Profumo_affair and Philby [] issues.
      The big issue in the GCHQ at the time was positive vetting and who got to see what files. Who was autonomous enough to look after the sigint reports at the very highest level? The comint-cleared centres and very secure UKUSA material had to be protected or the US would stop the flow to the UK.
      The UK is back not trusting its own again and is settling in
    • by Tom ( 822 )

      Because in the party systems, you don't actually have a choice.

      You have 2 (UK, USA) or 3, 4, 5 (most of Europa) parties to choose from that have a realistic chance of becoming the or part of the government. But they are all essentially the same. Like one german cabaret artist put so nicely: "Do you want to offer me shit in different flavors?"

      Nothing changes, because the people in office are all the same. It's like being asked to choose your favorite team - in a sport you don't like at all. It's a meaningles

      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        While often true, sometimes the parties are different, with the extreme example being 1930's Germany. Especially in a Parliamentary system where Parliament is pretty well supreme, a lot of damage can be done by a government that sets out to radically change things including dismantling democracy.

        • by Tom ( 822 )

          1930's Germany

          That was almos one hundred years ago, I think I should not have to spell out explicitly that unless otherwise noted, I'm speaking in the context, which is the present.

          • by dryeo ( 100693 )

            OK, present day Canada where we're having an election on Monday. 3 way race with the incumbents having done quite a few things differently then any party before. Generally the 2 main parties have been more as you describe but the incumbents have taken the Authoritarianism to new heights.
            It's actually questionable whether the current government will resign if they don't win a majority (the other parties are adamant about not working with them) and at this point it's hard to see them getting an honest majorit

      • It's a meaningless choice.

        It's a personal choice, made by those who have surrendered for the sake of convenience.

      • In Canada there are three main national parties (Conservatives, Liberals, NDP), a fourth national party (Greens), and a party that only runs in the province of Quebec (Bloc). In a nutshell the Conservatives are like the Republicans (turning more Tea Party like all the time), the NDP could be said to be left-wing Democrats, and the Liberals are somewhere in the middle but lean more towards the NDP. However they do take some policies from the Conservatives. They voted in favour of C-51 which was the big su

      • or 3, 4, 5 (most of Europa)

        Can we emigrate to Europa yet? It is kind of cold though...

  • My understanding was that they still weren't allowed to spy on them directly, only indirectly. So if they were spying on someone or doing mass surveillance and happened to pick up something going to/from an MP then it was ok,

    Might have picked up on it wrong tho

    • by elvesrus ( 71218 )

      Do they use the internet? Do they use phones? Do they leave their own dwelling? Congratulations, you have all the indirect surveillance you could ever want.

  • Legal to kill them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 16, 2015 @03:23AM (#50741681)

    See also this from back in July:

    I think they miss the bigger picture here:

    GCHQ spied on every Brit, and gave that data to the NSA. They told themselves it was for 'terrorism' purposes, but people will tell themselves all kind of shit to live with their choices.

    GCHQ knew that NSA was tapping all of the major US service providers via PRISM. It knew that British businesses, British politicians, British campaigners, journalists, lawyers judges and their families were all being spied on. It chose to keep that secret from the UK, even keeping MPs in the dark, while keeping NSA and US President fully aware of UK surveillance activities.
    GCHQ knew the smartphones were tapped and tracked, and that included every significant UK citizen, and they chose their sides, and their side was the NSA. Not the USA, because none of this mass surveillance was ever approved or discussed with voters, the NSA.

    They are Stasi, they don't quite call themselves it, or fully believe it, but they are the big threat to the UK sovereignty. They created an surveillance regime that means that every up coming MP, politicians political campaigner has a US and GCHQ surveillance file on them.

    Then there's this leak today:

    Britain REMOVED the citizenship of a British person, which then enabled his killing by drone strike when he left the country. They could have arrested him, they could have charged him, but that's messy, with evidence and discussion and checks and balances. So instead, they withdrew citizenship, killed him using his cellphone to drone target him, boom. Perhaps he was who they say he way, some major recruiter for Somalian rebels or whatever. Now history is written as though he was, and no court will ever get to see the evidence and see if they were lying.

    How is it different from Putin assassinations? Its deadlier than polonium, kills a bunch of people, whom are immediately labelled as enemy combatants.

    The MPs think they're special, but there is a big file on them and their families with the NSA, and GCHQ helped compile that file. If it becomes necessary that will be shared with the UK government, or perhaps you'll do something the US doesn't like and your kids embarrassing secrets will be leaked to the press.

    But for the moment, they still have their citizenship, and won't be drone targeted. But they shouldn't kid themselves that GCHQ or the British government or military is protecting them, the only thing that protects them is the bad press that would result.

    • by e r ( 2847683 )

      But they shouldn't kid themselves that GCHQ or the British government or military is protecting them, the only thing that protects them is the bad press that would result.

      And if the press should be controlled by the government?

      This is precisely why, in the USA, we have the Second Amendment. The first line of defense against tyranny is the First Amendment. But if that fails then there's no other way but threat and/or usage of force and arms.

      I would rather have a school shooting every single day killing tens of people each time than have death camps, mass starvation, secret police, and ultimate poverty like they have in totalitarian states like Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Chi

  • Of course they should be able to spy on some of them. What if there is evidence that they are working for a foreign power? Or giving business to their own companies? The question is not whether they should be able to spy on MPs, but what justifies it and with what oversite. Maybe a cross-party committee.
    • by N1AK ( 864906 )
      Politicians in the UK can, and have been spied upon, the difference here is how and with what authorisation.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      A "Paymaster General" was looking at all security around 1964. Every department was to have its security considered.
      Top level sigint reports got US standards and the UK really had to keep to US standards.
      The UK was working on a lot of material in paper form and it was hard to track it all during creation or as it was been worked on.
      A huge risk was the UK signals units around the world with low pay, poor conditions and high level security that was felt to be secure by default. An epic mistake.. other n
  • by Anonymous Coward

    First they came for the Terrorists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Terrorist.

    Then they came for the Foreigners, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Foreigner.

    Then they came for the Civilians, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Civilian.

    Then they came for me

  • ... die by the sword! 'nuff said!
  • These are our tax dollars being wasted to spy on us instead of building roads, hospitals and essential services. This is coming to other 5 eyes lands, so do we still believe that we are free or is it just a dressed up police state where we nervously ignore what is going on in the hope of one day being rich and above all of the concerns of the populous we all occupy.

    • by bankman ( 136859 )

      These are our tax dollars being wasted to spy on us instead of building roads, hospitals and essential services.

      They are not wasted. The money is spend to protect the people from terrorism and bad things. Of course now we have to define "people", because it quite obviously does not include all the citizens. It includes only lthe people who actually pay for this through their taxes, so they get to decide... no, wait. That's us, the citizens being spied upon. So it's the citizens who make most of the money a

  • There is an emergency blackmail list being compiled now to undermine any possible defensive legislation being presented to the house.

    • This. Over entitled spy agencies are horribly dangerous as once they are created, they completely overpower legislators with their ability to learn and leak embarrassing details which will get them booted from office. Similar to the military industrial complex combined with a standing permanent military. Once it is sufficiently sized (ours is oversized) if you don't give it wars to fight, it will go create them.

      Genie is out of the bottle, nothing short of a drastic and revolutionary change can ever pu
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I can't decide if I'm for or against the GHCQ in this one.
    On the one hand they are assholes for spying. On the other hand these MPs don't give a shit about spying as long as it isn't them.

  • It's a few years old now but a fascinating documentary from the perspective of fear driven by governments is "The Power of Nightmares" which I believe can be watched online free now. 3 parts, well worth watching.
  • Seriously? The concern is that the most ancient freedoms only applied to MPs??
    So it was fine to spy on everyone as long as that did not include MPs?
    How did anyone even say that with a straight face?
    • It makes perfect sense within their very limited and garbled world view. GCHQ fight terrorists, which could be "anyone". But MPs are not terrorists. Therefore, it makes sense to protect MPs (no false negative risk) whilst spying on everyone else.

      Where this perception parts with reality is that of course, once GCHQ has the tools, of course they're going to spy on MPs if they convince themselves than an MP is sufficiently dangerous e.g. threatens their budget. Corbyn offers much potential for this type of hil

    • by Shimbo ( 100005 )

      Seriously? The concern is that the most ancient freedoms only applied to MPs

      The privileges given to MPs are for our benefit, not theirs. They are important for the same reason that freedom of the press is important: not because journalists are special flowers but because they are in a position to hold the executive to account.

  • Turn about is fair play. If you used your power and influence to spy on citizens do not be surprised when you are spied on.
  • "But it's different when it's us!"

  • Boo hoo ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @08:12AM (#50742555) Homepage

    Maybe it's about time these lawmakers who say it's perfectly OK to spy on us finally became valid targets themselves? Because as long as these self-important clowns think they're immune from this, and spying is for the little people, they'll continue to make decisions knowing they're not included in them.

    When the lawmakers start realizing the extend of this surveillance and the like, maybe they'll start making intelligent policies.

    That they're suddenly crying foul says they've mostly been able to be outside of it, which means they're not looking at the issue the same as the rest of us. Make this shit real to them, and then see the kind of decisions they make.

    So to lawmakers and people who have previously been exempt from spying who suddenly are shocked they're included: boo fucking hoo.

    Don't come to the rest of us for any damned sympathy.

  • The MPS don't like being spied on, eh?
  • It cracks me up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nehumanuscrede ( 624750 ) on Friday October 16, 2015 @10:26AM (#50743395)

    and reveals the true hypocracy of those making the rules.

    We must have access to all communications ! No encryption ! We must keep you all safe from $badguys !

    Wait a minute. . . you can't spy on me too ! These rules are for the peasants, not the nobles. . . .

    WATCH how fast these people work to ensure their own privacy remains intact whilst they continue to allow surveillance on pretty much everyone else.

    C'mon guys, you know the saying !

    " What's good for the goose. . . is good for the gander. "

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM