'Big Brother Britain' plan is savaged by New York Times: Think again!
Under the headline , "From the Birthplace of Big Brother" The New York Times, arguably America's most influential newspaper, today launches a swingeing attack on the British Governmment's plans to let intelligence agencies monitor all private telephone, e-mail, text message, social network and Internet use in the country- bypassing requirements for judicial warrants.
Ex-president George Bush: "His team must be consumed with envy."
"The George W. Bush team must be consumed with envy," the paper says in an editorial.
"Sponsors promote the bill as a necessary new tool to keep the public safer from would-be terrorists, child molesters and common criminals.
"We are not convinced. What such sweeping new powers surely would do is compromise the privacy and liberty of law-abiding British citizens without reasonable justification."
Proper warrants, in Britain, as in the United States, are not hard to obtain whenever there is reasonable cause, says the NYT.
"Without such cause, the authorities should not have unchecked power to snoop on private conversations. "
The paper even brings in the NotW phone-hacking affair," As Britain’s ongoing hacking scandals demonstrate, unflattering private information in police hands can be selectively leaked or bartered to unprincipled media outlets with painful consequences."
The Times says, " The measures now being contemplated would betray the election promises of both parties in Prime Minister David Cameron’s coalition to be more protective of traditional British civil liberties than their Labor Party predecessors.
"When Tony Blair proposed similar legislation in 2006, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, both then in opposition, rightly opposed it and Labor backed down."
The government’s proposed law will not be unveiled until next month. But the British press is full of semi-official leaks, said the NYT.
One report in the London Sunday Times said Internet companies would be required to install hardware that would let intelligence agencies "routinely" monitor headers and patterns of communication and give the agencies the capacity to monitor the contents of individual communications without a warrant.
David Davis a leading Conservative backbencher, has challenged the proposal for not focusing on terrorists or criminals - but on “absolutely everybody.”
He rightly characterizes it as “an unnecessary extension of the ability of the state to snoop on ordinary innocent people in vast numbers,” says the NYT.
America has a constitutional guarantee, rooted in English common law, against unreasonable search. Britain doesn't . But Britain has its own long and admirable civil liberties traditions going back to the Magna Carta of 1215.
"With London’s Olympics just months away, we recognize the need for vigilance against terrorist plots," says The Times, " But this legislation would go much too far. It needs to be rethought to protect the privacy of innocent British citizens."