Douglas Murray Douglas Murray

The emergency surveillance legislation will make us safer

Isabel wonders whether it is a good thing that all main parties allied in passing emergency surveillance legislation into law yesterday. While it’s true that legislation passed without any significant political objection can be bad news, this is one case where that rule does not apply.

There are a number of reasons why the legislation was necessary. One was the European Court of Justice verdict from earlier this year that meant that this country and a large number of internet providers were at risk of entering a legally grey area. Far from being an ‘extension’ of powers, this bill is about the retention of powers which had been accepted until the European Court ruling put this into question. The retention of large amounts of data by service providers and their giving of access to them, under warrant if requested, is not new but is necessary. What the bill does is provide primary legislation to allow British agencies and service providers to do exactly what they were doing up until now.

Obviously, post-Snowden, this has become a highly emotive area. There remain vast swathes of people who somewhat flatter — as well as mislead — themselves by thinking that the NSA or GCHQ would ever wish to monitor their every move. They do not.  As the Prime Minister said yesterday, the type of people whose communications might be of interest are only those who would seek to do us harm. There is no sane reason why GCHQ would wish to find out what type of John Lewis dining table I have favourite-ed online. All that happens is that those tasked with protecting the British public seek now — as they have done for centuries — to find and disrupt the activities of people who seek to do us harm.

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