The Omniscient State


It is not whether the individual had done anything wrong: it is whether the state has done anything wrong. Hague’s plea for the omniscient state is chilling: if you have done nothing wrong, then you have nothing to worry about. So it is alright for the state to eavesdrop all our social interactions, to follow our every move? Is there to be no privacy from the prying eye of the state, which can watch me on the toilet, and if I have done nothing wrong I have nothing to hide?

The terribly sad thing is that, by a media campaign which has raised public fear of terrorism beyond any rational analysis of the risk (depending which year you take as the base line, you have between 40 and 300 times more risk of drowning in your own bath than being killed by a terrorist) there is great public acceptance of the intrusive state. This of course depends on the notion that the state is not only omniscient but benevolent. I do urge anyone infected by this way of thinking to read Murder in Samarkand for a practical demonstration of just how malevolent, indeed evil, the state can be.

GCHQ and NSA share all intelligence reports, as do the CIA and MI6, under US/UK intelligence sharing agreements first put in place by Roosevelt and Churchill. That is one of the most widely known of all official secrets – there are probably fifty thousand current or retired civil servants like me who know that, and many academics, journalists etc – but even in the light of the Snowden revelations, you probably won’t see it much in print, and you won’t hear it in Parliament, because it is still a criminal offence to say it. Let me say it again:

GCHQ and NSA share all intelligence, as do the CIA and MI6, under US/UK intelligence sharing agreements first put in place by Roosevelt and Churchill. NSA and GCHQ do the large bulk of communication interception. Now both NSA and GCHQ are banned from spying on their own citizens without some motive of suspicion – though as Edward Snowden has been explaining, that motive of suspicion can be terribly slight, like you have someone as a facebook friend who has a facebook friend whose sister once knew someone connected with an animal liberation group. But in any event, the safeguards are meaningless as NSA and GCHQ can intercept communications of each other’s citizens and they share all information. I have been explaining this in public talks these last ten years – I am happy it is finally hitting the headlines.

We need Edward Snowden and we need Bradley Manning. I had hoped that the barefaced lies of Bush and Blair, leading to a war that killed hundreds of thousands, would make people see that politicians, and the corporate interests that stand so close behind them, simply cannot be trusted.

The world needs whistleblowers. Now more than ever. 

Leave a comment