According to ‘the Guardian’ today there are “proposals to radically increase prison sentences for revealing state secrets and prosecute journalists”, with the British government’s legal advisers saying that “the definition of espionage should be expanded to include obtaining sensitive information, as well as passing it on”, while whistleblowers should be imprisoned for up to 14 years. At the moment the maximum prison sentence is two years.
With Jim Killock, the chief executive of Open Rights Group, saying that “this is a full-frontal attack, recommending criminalising even examining secret services’ material,” while adding that “the intention is to stop the public from ever knowing that any secret agency has ever broken the law,” there is certainly cause for concern and Theresa May contending that “it is not, never has been and never will be the policy of the government to restrict the freedom of investigative journalism or public whistleblowing” might be treated with the contempt it deserves.
Moreover, with ‘The Investigatory Powers Act’, which gives “the UK intelligence agencies and police the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world”, now in effect the UK has the most extreme surveillance any western democracy has ever seen and, indeed, a level of surveillance that, according to Edward Snowden, “goes farther than many autocracies.” Now, effectively, if any secret agency abuses what are already very extensive powers, they cannot be held to account. Of course, on top of this, a possible sixteen year prison sentence might also deter journalists and others from accepting and publishing materials that show quite clearly that crimes are being committed by the British government.
Nevertheless, it is important to remember that this spying and these crimes are common public knowledge. The UK government sells weapons that are killing children in Yemen, that are used to subdue protesters in Bahrain, that are used to bomb Gaza. Indeed, according to one report, Britain is the second biggest arms dealer in the world. Similiarly, this blog was pointing out some seven years ago that the NSA “has its own rather comprehensive spying operation which would appear to include spying not only on American citizens but indeed on the whole planet.”
With everyone being spied on and the sword of Damocles hanging over anyone who publishes, or is even in possession of, information which can harm the dealers in death, it might appear that we have entered a new age where an unaccountable big brother has created a world in his own image; a world where the 1% rape and loot the planet, where perennial wars are the order of the day. Still, hope springs eternal and, when all is said and done, they don’t appear to be blocking this blog.