Coffee House

Theresa May makes a weak argument on the Communications Data Bill

4 December 2012

7:54 PM

4 December 2012

7:54 PM

Despite a committee of both Houses of Parliament having yet to report after several months of inquiry, the Home Secretary took to the pages of the Sun yesterday to blast anyone who disagrees with her draft Communications Data Bill as a criminal, a terrorist or a paedophile. Hours later David Davis spoke in Parliament to ask why Theresa May had seen fit to traduce a large number of MPs.

Aside from the Home Office panic the article revealed, the Blair-esque rhetoric of division was surpassed by the poor examples used by the minister in her interview.

She cited two cases. One did not concern terrorism, paedophilia or a serious crime. Neither case requires the logging of every email, social media message and website visit we all make, every day.

Case one: A paedophile website, where not every user was jailed because certain data was not available.


Alternative solution: A website is distributing illegal child pornography.  Use existing RIPA powers to ask service providers to record every person visiting it, producing as much data as the police require.

Case two: Urgently identifying the address of a teen feared to be committing suicide

Alternative solution: Under existing arrangements, internet service providers do hold the addresses of their customers – they need it for billing purposes. The ISP can be asked to trace the communication live and action can be taken.

This evidential problem is not new. The evidence on how Communications Data is used by police forces currently is a two-week survey conducted after the draft Bill was published.

The debate about these powers has been presented as if there is only one choice – a wild west, or the Home Office’s way. This is plainly wrong, and perhaps why YouGov found only 6 per cent of the public felt the Home Office had made a clear and compelling case for the powers.

Parliamentarians of all sides rejected ID Cards and 90-day detention, in the face of equally shrill rhetoric. The British people do not sacrifice their liberties lightly, whether Lib Dem MP or Sun reader.  To suggest those who are not willing to sacrifice their liberties are somehow defenders of paedophiles or terrorists is a cheap line, but the political price for those pursuing it could prove to be much greater.

Nick Pickles is director of Big Brother Watch.

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Show comments
  • Arkwright

    There’s really no point arguing with those who can’t reason. One contributor at least here is definitely entitled to Special Needs help. (Bless.) If some commentators quote the Stasi (“nothing to hide, nothing to fear”) without irony or don’t realize that a critical issue is whether when the police invade a person’s privacy it is with a warrant from an independent judiciary and not another curious plod at the next desk, or (particularly) that the last administration held up paedophilia and terrorism as reasons for invading individual privacy and then just used those powers to prevent dog-fouling or cheating on school catchment areas, or that any half-competent criminal or paedophile gets around these planned measures already and it is just the innocent who will have their privacy violated – well, there is only so far you can help a moron brush up on his thinking skills.

    Give up and vote for a liberal party – clearly not Labour – disgraced utterly in civil rights, nor now Conservatives or Lib Dems, contrary to their manifestos. Anyone for a new party? Maybe I should just stop voting – and will if this filthy little measure goes through.

  • waitingpatience

    How many other legal skeletons is Theresa May being forced to hide from the public eye or parliamentary scrutiny due to the questionable actions of this administration or previous governments and those advising them? Quashing the truth is becoming an habitual policy employed, especially when it’s in the public interest actually not to do so. If true and open transparency was applied, whilst being respectful to the needs of national security, it is highly likely that this government is currently facing some very difficult decisions due to the far from open and honest actions of others, political, regulatory and commercial. Perhaps a rueful glance over current pending cases in the UK High Court will provide a clue to the actual financial damages caused by the failure of those not being called to account for their previous shortcomings, but leaving others to clear up the mess.

  • FrankS

    Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, And anyway, if it saves just one little kiddie from sicko paedo terrorists or something, it will worth it.
    After all, if you can’t trust the government with your private correspondence, who can you trust!
    You know it makes sense!

  • WIlliam Blakes Ghost

    Hasn’t anybody cottoned on? The Home Office is a pointless dysfunctional department having pretty much given away all its real jobs (policing to commissioners, immigration to the border agency, prisons and sentencing to justice) and instead has nothing better to do than waste the Government, Parliament and electorate’s time with petty authoritarian vanity projects (ID Cards, Snoopers Charter, 42 day detention) and unwanted, futile and unnecessary social interference (minimum alcohol pricing) that clearly indicate they have a ‘1984’ agenda.. No longer is it a great office of state but a graveyard for less than competent Ministers. Smith and Johnson bit the dust there and so will ‘Mediocre May’ who for all her nasty party rhetoric is a pretty feeble Home Secretary. Better that the Home Office be broken up and May dispatched to some other less problematic Ministry to do what she best, ‘ministry sitting’.

    In short there are some sick twisted puppies running the Home Office these days. Get rid of them!

  • Olaf

    Politician + technology = balls up

  • Jimbo

    Shamefully, most everybody fails to mention that data retention is part of the EU’s acquis communautaire, and the drive to acquire, retain and store centrally more and more of our ‘communications’ data has long been the plan ( in collusion with our own domestic breed of freedom-haters.

    • telemachus

      Why does this come back to Europe
      We are at the forefront of antiterrorism innEurope and lead on this– and indeed much else in the protection of you and I field

  • Sarah

    “the Home Secretary took to the pages of the Sun yesterday to blast anyone who disagrees with her draft Communications Data Bill as a criminal, a terrorist or a paedophile.”

    No she didn’t. If you’re going to lie about an article, don’t link to it.

    • eeore

      But they sneaked a cheeky up skirt photo in.

      • MirthaTidville

        what of May???????????…think I`m going to be sick

        • eeore

          She got a nice pair of pins.

  • eeore

    Of course she gave a weak case, because the cases she offers is not what this legislation is for.

    The aim is to profile all citizens, and to feed these profiles into a planned mechanisation of the the criminal justice system.

    • telemachus

      It is to get terrorists and paedophiles
      Both are getting away literally with murder
      (we could extend it to the EDL and such like if you wish)

      • I’mnotpayingthat!

        Nothing to fear nothing to hide claptrap!

        You don’t set the agenda of who is of “interest”, government does!
        As for extending to the EDL, start at that point, and where do you finish, Catholics, Protestants. Muslims or maybe Jews! That’s was done before, and look how that ended!

        Ask yourself a simple question. Why did we have real terrorism in this country for 30 years, and not need these draconian laws?

        • ButcombeMan

          Ask yourself the simple question, do you think IRA terrorism was tackled without using the electronic contact data that existed at the time?

          Ask yourself the simple question, have the possible sources of electronic contact data expanded exponentially in the last 30 years?

          Ask yourself the simple question, to maintain the same capability (which was not always perfect) are the investigators likely to need access to the new data sources?

          I have never seen any subject discussed here with greater ignorance by most commentators. For me to be agreeing with Telemachus is really something rather odd .

          • Coffeehousewall

            That you are agreeing with telemachus shows only the complete bankruptcy of your case. That you have any confidence in Government is touching but ultimately destructive of those freedoms we have left.

            • telemachus

              I actually worry about those who use false libertarian arguments to further the cause of Al Qaeda. And to let the likes of Joseph McColgan and Fred West go free

              • eeore

                It may have escaped your notice but Al Qaeda is the name of a CIA for their operatives. It has clearly escaped your notice that Al Qaeda is being armed by our government in Libya and Syria.

                As for Fred West, what has the government creating profiles of all citizen got to do with him?

            • ButcombeMan

              You could talk about the bankrupcy of my case, IF you actually looked at the points I made, andargued them point by point & logicfally rather than spouting your prejudice.

              I do know what I am talking about, plainly most here, do not.

              I do not think Charles Farr and May have made a very good job of explaining the basic need. I AM considerably struck by the failure to engage with the aguments by the crowd here.

              You just dissapoint. By failing to engage with the issues you have failed to understand how our freedoms are under attack and how we will fail to protect them if we do not address the issues responsibly and proportionally

              The response of many commentators, incfluding DD, is hysterical and emotional, rather than rational.

          • I’mnotpayingthat

            Tell that to Patraeus or General Allen who are believed to be victims of this type intrusive data capture! Are they a threat to their government?
            Previously, hopefully we had a rule of law which required a court order for a phone tap!

            Previously we had targeted investigation! It wasn’t a process of elimination of everyone in the country, starting with the letter “A”!

            As for capability, don’t make me laugh! The bombs that went off in London never happened?

            You think that you are dealing with illiterate people? They know that governments listen in! They would not be so stupid as to post anything that was not encrypted or left in the cloud!

            You are British establishment, fighting today’s war with yesterdays’ weapons!

            It is you who fail to understand the significance of this, it is YOU who are ignorant!

            • telemachus

              Petraeus was having CIA secrets leaked in a gross way and in many ways was worse than a terrorist

            • ButcombeMan

              And you would STILL have a rule of law requiring a warrant for content.

          • eeore

            Ask yourself the simple question, why are the women Mark Kennedy had sex with suing the Met, and why is Mark Kennedy suing the Met?

            Ask yourself the simple question, why did the Americans hire Marcus Wolf to set up these systems?

            Ask yourself the simple question, why can you only buy light bulbs that can transfer computer data over the power lines?

            Ask yourself the simple question, why is the government assuming that everyone is guilty?

            Ask yourself the simple question, why do you have absolutely no idea about terrorism?

        • telemachus

          The security services use to fly by the seat of their pants
          Their bosses now have to justify themselves in public

      • eeore

        Oh dear you couldn’t stop yourself could you.

  • In2minds

    It would appear that Theresa May either doesn’t know what she’s talking
    about or having fallen under their spell wants to be friendly with
    ACPO. Many Home Secs go this way, a reason to be very wary of this

    The Conservative leadership says that it doesn’t agree with state
    interference in the press but the Communications Data Bill will make
    whistle-blowers think twice about imparting information and make the
    it difficult for journalists to keep their sources private.

    The criminals, paedophiles and terrorists will probably encrypt and make
    other arrangements. And the public will therefore be paying for yet
    another ‘service’ that does not work.

    A long time ago when, generally, Cameron was trusted he spoke out
    against an over-mighty state. He, if he became PM, would not go along
    with the Labour party idea of ID cards and the like. And now look at
    his party!

    • telemachus

      It is a brave man to accuse Theresa of getting into bed with ACPO
      If you asked them you would get a very different answer

  • itdoesntaddup

    Indeed so. I wonder why May continues to help put in place the building bricks for a totalitarian state.

    • Jimmy R

      Because EUSSR Directive 2006/24/EC orders all EUSSR Subjugated States to legislate for the retention of such information for a period of 6 – 24 months.

      “Under the directive the police and security agencies will be able to request access to details such as IP address and time of use of every email, phone call and text message sent or received.” Liebour tried to impliment the same thing whilst in office no doubt due to a similar EUSSR Directive in 2002.

      Naturally none of our politicians are going to admit they are just kow towing to the orders handed to them by Brussels like the obediant little baa lambs they have to be when Brussels whispers in their ears.

      Every time they try this they come up with a different pathetic excuse claiming it is to prevent whatever is the major scare story of the day claiming if they could only snoop on everybody the danger would just disappear.

      Claiming the need to snoop ever further into every detail of everybody’s lives for public safety is the excuse used by all Totalitarian States to take control of their citizens lives.

      We have seen during the last decade how legislation introduced allegedly to prevent terrorism, international crime and other such things rapidly became used to snoop on people putting the wrong bin out for collection, possibly sending their children to the wrong school and other similarly major international crimes.

      This legislation would soon be abused by the authorities in equally intrusive and overbearing ways to victimise ordinary people, make no mistake about it.

      • itdoesntaddup

        I think you will find that the EU directive was put forward at the instigation of Labour in the first place.

        • telemachus

          This is not party political
          I am a libertarian but even I can see that people who are not paedophiles or terrorists have nothing to fear
          Those opposing this are mischievous or have other agendas

          • telemachus

            PS to Col Mustard
            What do you make of Theresa’s scarfe?

          • WIlliam Blakes Ghost

            I am a libertarian

            Hahahahahahahahaha ROFLMFAO

            And they say socialists haven’t got a sense of humour.

            After what your rotten Blair/ Brown Governments tried to do that is the most shameless piece of misrepresentative propaganda one could produce about anything to do with Labour (well except claiming that they are economically competent that is). Nobody who supports Labour has a hope in hell of claiming they are ‘libertarian’. They can barely get away with being considered ‘socially conservative’ given the dictatorial and illiberal intolerance they continue to display.

            • telemachus

              Many of us believe in Libertarian socialism which as you know promotes a non-heirarchical, non-bureaucratic society without private
              property in the means of production. Some of us believe in converting present-day private productive property into the commons
              or public goods, while retaining respect for personal

              Some of us also believe that that the exercise of power in any institutionalized form—whether economic, political, religious, or sexual—brutalizes both the wielder of power and the one over whom it is exercised

              It may not be a matter of mirth

          • Jelly Jim

            If you’re a libertarian, so are Theresa May and Gordon Brown.

      • WIlliam Blakes Ghost

        I think you’ll find that the Home office proposals go way beyond what was specified even by Brussels.The Home Office is one of the worst department’s there is for gold plating legislation.

    • William Blakes Ghost

      When has May done anything but hold the fort? When has she had an agenda to present that wasn’t given to her. She’s not Gove or IDS or Eric Pickles (or even Jenkin, Davis, Redwood or Carswell). She doesn’t represent her own flavour of Conserevatism, she represents whatever flavour is flavour of the month, She is who is put in when Cameron wants a ministry to go into a holding pattern. She was put into the Home Office because Cameron didn’t know what to do with the it having lost Davis and having seen Grieve and Grayling crash & burn in just a few months. Like Labour before him Cameron has not time or the interest for the petty social interference and people fiddling mindset of the Home Office, let alone actually understand how important it used to be.

      In my mind there is only one Minister (given Davis will not return) who could turn the rotten ministry of the Home office around and that is Michael Gove (he has all the right credentials) but he is currently busy with Education and rightly so. Perhaps if by some miracle Cameron were to prevail in 2015, then if he really wants to sort out the most troublesome wasteful and dysfunctional department’s of them all, Gove I suggest is the person for the job.

      In political terms it would be a promotion for Gove as well.

      • MirthaTidville

        By 2015 Gove will be leading the Tories

        • eeore

          My money is on Nick Boles