Mysterious clicks on the line

This entry was posted on
Monday, January 16th, 2006
9:14 am and is filed
under The War on Stupid.

Independent – MI5 will get new powers to bug MPs: Tony Blair is preparing to scrap a 40-year ban on tapping MPs’ telephones, despite fierce Cabinet opposition, The Independent on Sunday can reveal. He is expected to formally announce to the Commons within weeks that MPs can no longer be sure that the security services and others will not intercept their communications. Until now, successive administrations have pledged that there should be no tapping “whatsoever” of MPs’ phones, and that they would be told if it was necessary to breach the ban. But that convention – known as the Wilson Doctrine, after Harold Wilson, the prime minister who introduced it – is to be abandoned in an expansion of MI5 powers following the London bombings. MPs should be treated in the same way as other citizens and will be given the same safeguards against wrongful tapping, the Prime Minister will say. The decision provoked a furious row in the Cabinet just before Christmas, when the Secretary of State for Defence, John Reid, voiced his opposition. His outburst surprised other ministers, since he is seen as one of Mr Blair’s closest allies and not known for his support for civil liberties.

BBC – MP phone tap ban ‘may be lifted’: Mr Reid told ITV1’s Dimbleby that the proposal to lift the ban was suggested by the Interception of Communications Commissioner Sir Swinton Thomas… In a written Commons statement in December, Mr Blair said he had received advice on “possible implications” of the act on the Wilson Doctrine from Sir Swinton. Mr Reid said the recommendation was that MPs should not remain exempt from the 2000 legislation. He said: “Cabinet quite correctly decided that this was worthy of deep reflection and more consideration. “So that is the position. It’s not something that’s been brought forward at the behest of the prime minister.” The defence secretary said “no one would take such a change lightly and I know that neither the prime minister nor my Cabinet colleagues would take such a change lightly”.

Independent – The politics of paranoia: Nobody is off limits in the Prime Minister’s war on terror. Now he wants to dispose of the ‘Wilson Doctrine’ and bug his own MPs. But does the state need more power to spy on us? A Prime Minister deeply distrustful of many of his own MPs, intent on fighting a war with the “enemy within”. Parallels between Tony Blair and Harold Wilson have been charted before. The news that Mr Blair is preparing to ditch his predecessor’s pledge never to tap the phones of Britain’s MPs suggests that the current occupant of No 10 has less regard for constitutional niceties. Mr Blair knows that bugging elected representatives will be fiercely opposed by many in Parliament but is confident he can argue the case over their heads that nothing – and no one – should be off-limits in the fight against terrorism. “Let no one be in any doubt,” he declared in the wake of the London bombings, “the rule(s) of the game are changing.” In truth, say critics, the rules have been changing ever since Mr Blair became PM and he has overseen a massive expansion of the state’s capacity to spy on private individuals.

BlairWatch – Is England Becoming a Fascist State [again]?: Perhaps Mr Bliar would like to tell us which MPs are to be considered a threat to National Security… Or is it just those considered a threat to Mr Bliar that are to be spied upon.

(UPDATE – I’m sure it will surprise you very little to learn that there appears to be no mention of this in today’s Sun ‘news’paper… but they do make space in their editorial to ask why darts shouldn’t be an Olympic sport.)

For the first time ever at Bloggerheads, I am going to ask you to send a ‘copy and paste’ letter to your MP:

Dear _______,

If you allow Blair and his cronies to _______ your ________, thereby _________ _________ your _________ to ___________ and ________ ________ with your _______, I feel I will have no choice but to _____________ in the _________ or _________ _________ ___________ your ______________ at the nearest given opportunity.

Yours _____________,

Mr/Mrs/Ms ____ _ ___________

PS – The nurses run naked in Portsmouth General. I repeat: The nurses run naked in Portsmouth General.

About Tim Ireland

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