Sunday, September 07, 2008

Overreaching, as usual

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper in England has published an expose which has revealed that 75% of local city council equivalents in Britain have used invasive anti-terrorism laws to instead investigate extremely minor infractions last year.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) 2000, similar to our Patriot Act, was supposed to be used to investigate serious crimes, including terrorism and national security issues. It allows the government to tap phones and email accounts, put people under surveillance and allows for undercover agents to infiltrate businesses. It seems that the local governments, however, are instead invoking the far-reaching powers whenever it suits them, in order to root out such mortal evils as:

"dog fouling, the unauthorised sale of pizzas and the abuse of the blue badge scheme for disabled drivers", as well as "noisy children".

This is a perfect example of how well-meaning legislators, seeking only to "protect" their constituents, unwittingly (or wittingly, in some cases) put into motion schemes that somehow always seem to morph well past their intended purpose, and subsequently devolve into wholesale violations of citizen privacy.

"Sir Jeremy Beecham, the acting chairman of the Local Government Association, which represents councils, said last night: ...'Councils do not use these powers to mount fishing expeditions. First and foremost it is about protecting the public, not intruding on privacy. Crime-busting powers are targeted at suspected criminals and used only when absolutely necessary'".

Noisy children are suspected criminals?

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