Britain’s response to the surveillance scandal should ring every alarm bell

Simon Jenkins writes: What separates a necessary defender of the British state and a Stasi in the making? Seventy world human rights organisations today write to the British prime minister, deploring his response to recent revelations of what his spies have been up to. His response, in their view, has been “to condemn rather than to celebrate investigative journalism“.

David Cameron’s remarks have been extraordinary. They have contrasted with the American response to the same revelations about what are closely allied electronic spying agencies, the NSA in America and GCHQ in Britain. Washington, from president to congress to the press, has accepted that democratic and judicial oversight has broken down. Internet and phone traffic has been comprehensively hacked and stored, to be accessed globally by hundreds of thousands of staff. The system appears both insecure and out of control. Not a voice in America, not even the agencies themselves, opposes urgent reform.

In Britain there has been no questioning, only a hysterical rubbishing of the press. Even reporting the revelations has been said to jeopardise national security and “put lives at risk”. Parliamentary oversight has been made to look puny and ignorant. There is not talk of investigating the intelligence community, only of whether the press should be prosecuted. This is not a free state at work. [Continue reading…]

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