The all-pervasive spying bill that was struck down in 2012 is back.
The Lords have slammed a version of it into a set of amendments to an anti-terrorism bill that's already in progress, and if we don't stop it, the government will have the legal right to spy on everything you do online, and use it however they want.
Lords Blair, King, West, and Carlile are responsible for this sneak attack, introducing their amendments on Thursday for the debate this Monday. If they get their way, your ISP will have to retain a record of everything you do online and turn it over the police or spy agencies without a warrant. Parliament has already looked at these proposals, just a couple years ago, and found them to be rubbish — dangerous, expensive and ineffective. Many Parliamentarians are royally pissed at the Lords who have capitalised on the deaths of the Charlie Hedbo victims — who died as martyrs to the cause of free speech — to take away the right to a private life, an essential prerequisite for meaningful debate. If you don't have the right to privately discuss issues with the people you trust, you can't effectively field those arguments in public forums.
Many of the Lords recognise this, but with only days before the debate, we must get them to show up on Monday and beat back this craven, opportunistic attack on core democratic values.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has set up an action centre for Britons to use to tweet to the Lords and ask them to stand up for privacy and limits to policy and spy-agency powers in the UK.
Even legal meaning of the new language is unclear, as the peers have declined to supply any explanatory notes to justify their new wording. But then, perhaps they did not expect to be called upon to explain to any degree of detail, given the tiny window of opportunity they have granted the rest of Parliament to examine the bill. The amendments announced on Thursday will be formally included into the bill on Monday, in a committee meeting that was not planned to include a vote. The Lords will then have two more minor opportunities to debate the content of the bill before it is passed onto the elected House of Commons in its entirety for what is expected to be a simple up/down vote. Britain's members of parliament are currently distracted as they prepare for nationwide elections in May, which means it is highly likely that a major anti-terrorism bill like this will collect enough votes to pass.
Early indications from conversations with our colleagues at the UK's Open Rights Group indicate that there's growing discontent among parliamentarians about how these amendments are being used to bypass parliamentary oversight. However, that's just the peers that have been paying attention. Dozens more would potentially step in to block the bill if they even knew what was happening before Monday.
That's where you come in. If you're a British citizen, you need to tell the members of the House of Lords that their right to analyze and discuss this legislation is being bypassed. We've set up an action alert for UK Internet users, so that you can send messages to the Twitter accounts of UK peers (you would be surprised how many British Lords use Twitter). You can also write to members of the House of Lords through the free service WriteToThem.com, but given the time frame, tweeting or phone calls are much better. Your actions in the next seventy-two hours may make all the difference.
Britons: You Have 72 Hours to Stop The Snooper's Charter