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Open Response to Jack Straw

UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw blogged about the Surveillance Society, DNA databases and civil liberties on the Blackburn Labour blog.  It’s typically vague stuff attempting to justify the DNA database but failing to address the recent European Court judgement on illegally retaining DNA samples from people not convicted of a crime.

Here’s my response to the Justice Secretary.  If you’re a regular reader then you will already know the kind of thing I’m talking about.

Jack, I started to get involved in the political process quite recently because of your “government’s” obsession with criminalising people through the worship of surveillance technologies on the altar of the all knowing all seeing database. Now this country has a surveillance and monitoring mechanism in place that Heydrich, Stalin and Honecker could only have fantasised about.

Take Phorm as one example. I’m sure you know about Phorm, the company that has worked with BT, whose technology, argued to be illegal by eminent people, has been secretly tested on BT Internet users without their consent in a clear breach of the law. Yet your “government” has refused to mount a full and proper investigation, trying to pave the way for the legalisation of routine wiretapping of everyone’s internet connection. Every website visited, every e-mail sent. All recorded by a third party, unmonitorable and unaccountable.

Tie that in with Andy Burnham talking about how he wants all internet pages everywhere content rated because he believes the internet to be nothing more than a base of “casual opinion” and Hazel Blears complaining that so many bloggers are nasty Toryboys and I see a vision of a government building up lists of people who think wrong thoughts and need to be removed from society.

Let’s also talk about the Interception Modernisation Programme. That will record details of every phone call and every text message sent. Who is going to review all the information your “government” wants to keep? Why does your “government” want to keep details of every phone call and e-mail I, a citizen without criminal convictions, send and receive? What in my life could possibly be of interest to you and your colleagues? That I think for myself and find the surveillance and database states offensive? Or that I’m looking for work because of your “government’s” failures with the economy? How long before my front door gets kicked in at 2am and I get dragged off with a black bag over my head, never to be seen again?

Let’s also talk about the recent judgement of the European Court that retention of DNA samples of those not convicted of any crime is illegal. Has your “government” acknowledged this judgement and acted in compliance with it? No. A spin laden response trying to find loopholes is the best you can do.

Let’s also talk about the recent story about the Guardian report that “Police are targeting thousands of political campaigners in surveillance operations and storing their details on a database for at least seven years” – if you haven’t seen the full report it’s at  As Justice Secretary, what is your response to that?

I have friends from Eastern Europe – the former communist states – who are shocked at how this country is turning into a modern day version of their countries under the Iron Curtain regime.

Here’s the bit that should really hurt you Jack. I’m a longtime Conservative voter. But my family have always voted Labour, have been active in the trade union movement and as staunch in their beliefs as I am in mine. They won’t be voting Labour any more, not after the evidence they have seen. How many more people like that are there in this country? How many more people let down, left bitter, twisted and shocked when they see how this country has turned into a police state. Statistics can be manipulated to claim anything – witness Phil Woolas’ recent laughable claim that the NSO is “playing politics”; it is perception that is reality. My perception, and that of many others, is that this country is no longer the green and pleasant land it once was. It is not a safe society in which to bring up a child.

I believe we should all be as free from crime as possible, respecting our rights to enforce security without slaughtering the civil liberties that thousands suffered and gave their lives for during World War II. But now I have little right to defend my home, my partner and child from intruders, while your “government” is trying to claim the right to monitor everything I do, everywhere I go, online and in person, and everything I say.

I believe that we should also be free from state interference in our private lives. The business of government is not the micro-management of peoples’ lives.

Orwell’s novel 1984 was a warning, not an instruction manual.

Published inPolicingPoliticsprivacysurveillance state