In the wake of Friday’s attacks in Paris, UK prime minister David Cameron has added his support to the idea of fast-tracking approval for the controversial Draft Investigatory Powers Bill, stating in regards to the parliamentary procedure for the bill’s approval: “I think we should look at the timetable”.
The prime minister was speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, and his comment supports the views of ex-terror legislation watchdog Lord Carlile, who was most vocal over the weekend that DIPA should not be held back by excessive misgivings about loss of privacy or the extent of the ability of the state to spy on private individuals.
Speaking to Sky News and writing in the Daily Mail, Carlile – who was the UK’s Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation between 2001-2011 – implicitly criticised the acts of ex-NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, saying that the disclosures had ‘shown terrorists ways to hide their electronic footprints’, and advocated the ratification of DIPA not by the end of 2016 as projected, but by the end of the year.
Carlile wrote: “These are extraordinary times. The threat from terrorist attacks emanating from Syria is the highest it has ever been, and we cannot wait for another horrific murder like that of Drummer Lee Rigby before we act.”
Today David Cameron also opined “We do need to take parliament and people with us. And remember this is about maintaining our capabilities and putting everything on a very clear statutory footing.”
The prime minister’s announcement, post-Paris, that GCHQ would be adding 1,900 staff to GCHQ seems to have been opportunistic timing, since the additional resources were allocated prior to Friday’s events.
Comment There is a cynical logic to capitalising on public terror before reason re-triumphs over passion, outrage and natural human sympathies; but in this instance Cameron and Carlile separately offer up the figure of the most undisciplined of the Christmas morning kids, tearing open the presents at 2am because dawn is just too long to wait. If true character manifests as the way we behave under pressure, then no news, tragic or otherwise, obviates the need for the UK to show character and look intelligently – and with great assiduity and circumspection – at the new deal which it intends to strike between government and governed.
Since Friday night half of Facebook has been alight with sympathy for people made victims of political circumstances unconnected to them; the other half was speculating, from the first minutes of news of the Paris attacks, how long it would be before something tragic was once again made an excuse for something terrible. If anything the Paris attacks – and any further attacks that may come in the period before Christmas, before the world scatters so thinly as to represent too few distinct single targets – should be cause for an even more exacting look at the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill. Because if we’re not thinking straight due to the force of recent events, we are obviously not ready to consider such serious matters at the moment.