back to article Switch it off and on again: How peers failed to sneak Snoopers' Charter into terror bill

Bungling peers failed to thrust Theresa May's widely discredited Snoopers' Charter into the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill on Monday – but they did an excellent job of highlighting their ignorance about technology. A bewildered Lord King of Bridgwater trotted out the usual alarmist guff that Britain faced a grave and …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Experts?

    One of the supposed benefits of having an appointed upper house is so that 'experts' can get inserted into the legislature. People who actually know what they are talking about. Instead, we get ministers from the 80's and similar coffin dodgers, who profess about stuff they will never, ever understand. Life Peerages are well out of date. 10 years tops, then let someone else have a go.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Experts?

      House of Lords = pork barrel for politicians facing early retirement due to lack of votes. There are a few brave exceptions - I have some time for Lord Adonis who has a clue or two - but I suspect that our MP who is retiring at this election will end up with a peerage, basically for being a Lib Dem who defended the indefensible as a Minister.

      The old system of hereditary peerages at least threw up the occasional eccentric who was independent minded and had a nose for bullshit.

      1. Graham Dawson

        Re: Experts?

        By and large, the hereditaries werent' all that wealthy - yes, I know, they often had a lot of land, but they didn't have much income from it. They also didn't receive a wage for attending parliament. Most of them had jobs of some sort, and a fair number even worked in industries relevant to the legislation they were scrutinising, or were hobbyists or passionately involved in some other way.

        It wasn't perfect of course - you had your usual collection of imbeciles and wastrels that you'd expect in any hereditary system, but for the most part they only attended for as long as it took to get to the various bars and private dining rooms in Westminster Palace.

        The end result was that the Lords tended to act as a brake on the profligate excesses of the executive and forced Parliament to pay attention to the detail of proposals before sending them for scrutiny, even after attempts to stuff it with appointed life peers. Naturally it had to go.

        Nobody can legitimately argue that what we have now is in any way better than what we had before. I'd even go as far as to argue that very few alternatives would be better given they all rely on political patronage of some sort. An elected upper house, which has been proposed a few times, would probably be the worst solution of all. The only real alternative is to take the original principle of the Lords, which was essentially a sort of severely restricted jury service based on property and title, and generalise it to to the entire population. Appoint members to the Upper House by lot, have them attend for a fix period with suitable compensation. That way you can avoid the problem of appointed patsies, perpetual election campaigners and party-political ideologues (though you do potentially risk replacing it with a different set of ideologues) and instead you get a relatively reasonable cross-section of the population, with a higher chance that someone proposing or scrutinising legislation has some idea of what they're talking about.

        1. Craig Chambers

          Re: Experts?

          I'm no fan of the aristocracy at all, but one thing that could be said for life peers is that they were likely to be educated to a very high standard (even the stupid ones). It's unfortunate that the same is not particularly true of a random cross-section of the population.

          1. phil dude
            Coat

            Re: Experts?

            "I'm no fan of the aristocracy...." -that's the point. You are their cannon fodder of choice.

            "but one thing that could be said for life peers is that they were likely to be educated to a very high standard"

            I would argue that anyone who does not have at least one degree that required differential equations and linear algebra is not educated.

            P.

            1. fruitoftheloon
              WTF?

              @Phil Dude: Re: Experts?

              Phil,

              you could be right but you are probably more wrong[!].

              Ignoring the somewhat small sample size, wifey went to Imperial, has a Masters in Nuclear Medicine and Astrophysics, I went to a shitty school in east london and have a few 'O' levels, she [rather kindly I think] is quite sure that I am much brighter than she is.

              I have a much broader world view than she does, have had a wider variety of jobs [usually reasonably successful too], and have travelled/lived all over our fair country; of the two of us, who do you think could best serve the country from the Upper House?

              Just a thought,

              j

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @Phil Dude: Experts?

                A female astrophysicist in the Lords? If we can't have Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, sounds like your wife would make a very creditable alternative. This one is a no brainer.

                1. fruitoftheloon
                  Thumb Up

                  @Arnaut :Re: @Phil Dude: Experts?

                  Arnaut,

                  She would be far too sensible, rational and focussed...

                  Cheers,

                  Jay

              2. phil dude
                Pint

                Re: @Phil Dude: Experts?

                Alas I think the Tardsphere completely missed my point, or the silent "<sarcasm>"...

                I put some arbitrary educational bullet points that I know I would think is "right thinking" sort of stuff. I mean, how about a C coding exercise to take your seat? Who's for that?

                The point is the current system is just that - stuffed with people who have proven to have convenient opinions for the duopoly of the political system.

                You may have noticed in my rants, that I am not in favour of the current "stacking of the deck" in Government.

                And that applies on both sides of the Atlantic.

                P.

              3. Sarah Balfour

                Re: @Phil Dude: Experts?

                The point you're all overlooking is that education doesn't necessarily equate to intelligence. You can stuff kids' heads full of dates, quotes, formulae, etc., and they can regurgitate that on an exam paper, but does that mean they're intelligent…? Just because one has simply learnt something, doesn't necessarily mean that one understands it.

                For example, I'm sure a large cross-section of the population would know Einstein's theory of relativity is E = MC2, but how many would know what it means and to what, exactly, it applies…?

                Conversely, uneducated doesn't necessarily mean unintelligent, but that's the connotation.

                I'd say that this shower o' shite demonstrate the former perfectly.

                As for the Lords, whilst I agree that being unelected means they're free of political affiliation, those who weren't 'promoted' from the Commons, at least, what's to stop them from having personal agendas…? I don't trust any of 'em, aside from the ones I do, and there ain't many of 'em, let me tell ya.

                Besides, what are they gonna know about tech stuff…?! The last time I saw 'em it may as well have been the Westminster old folks' home!

                I wouldn't be any more confident if they had an advisory panel, as it would probably be identical to the one 'advising' on the MoDA - look what happened when David Nutt actually DARED to go against the - then 'Labour' - government, he got the boot, sharpish. I can't see one for nanosecond that one for tech/Internet will be any different. All the government want is a bunch of yes men. Actually tell the TRUTH and see how long you last…

            2. Maty

              Re: Experts?

              'I would argue that anyone who does not have at least one degree that required differential equations and linear algebra is not educated.'

              Go on then - I'd like to see you make that argument. Meanwhile lump me in with uneducated peasants such as Winston Churchill, G.K. Chesterton or Mary Beard.

            3. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: Experts?

              "I would argue that anyone who does not have at least one degree that required differential equations and linear algebra is not educated."

              Fairy snuff. But I can implement virtually every component necessary to create the modern internet, design the networks at macro and micro levels and even write code that makes it all go, if required. And I ain't got me no degree.

              Challenge your mathematician grad to do that. Fuck, I challenge most Comp Sci graduates to create a boot floppy and update a BIOS, especially if they have to attach the floppy first!

              White collar folks shouldn't be making all the decisions, eh? Some of us blue collar types have visibility they don't.

            4. Andy Davies

              Re: Experts?

              "degree that required differential equations and linear algebra ...."

              'O' level maths required differential equations and linear algebra .. well 'Ordinary Alternative' did.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Experts?

            ...but one thing that could be said for life peers is that they were likely to be educated to a very high standard

            You jest sir. The vast majority of them are broken down political hacks that couldn't be re-elected, hacks of the calibre of cabin boy Prescott and beefburger Gummer that still follow the political diktats of the party.

          3. Whiskers

            Re: Experts?

            Life peers are not necessarily aristocrats; they are political appointees. Hereditary peers are by definition aristocrats, and do not owe their status to any patronage other than whatever got their ancestor ennobled (such as killing lots of Saxons during the Norman Conquest, or giving money to dodgy prime ministers, or being the illegitimate offspring of a Royal). So hereditary peers are more likely to be willing to think for themselves.

            I support the notion of appointing members to the upper house on a lottery of the whole population, for a fixed term. Perhaps with a lower age limit of, say, 50; a sort of National Service for grown-ups.

            1. Peter2 Silver badge

              Re: Experts?

              The problem in the house of lords is the people that the political parties have stuffed in there.

              The chap covered in the article was a perfect example, and was identified as representing a political party, rather than being an independent. If we are doing anything with the lords then it should include the utter exclusion of political parties, voting factions and ensure that debates are held to inform and persuade, rather than provide sound bytes to the media.

            2. Mark 85 Silver badge

              Re: Experts?

              I would add: that anyone who wants to have their name in the lottery is automatically eliminated.

        2. The Dude

          Re: Experts?

          Hear! Hear!

          Same problem with the Canadian Senate. For the most part, a useless collection of political bag-men, un-electable doofuses, and media lap-dogs who wrote what they were told to write. There are a few excellent exceptions, like Senator Anne C. Cools, who is (in my humble estimation) a bloody saint.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Experts?

            "Same problem with the Canadian Senate."

            It could be a lot worse - the upper house could be abolished.

            As mentioned, it does act as a brake on the worst excesses of the chamber and an example of what can happen when it's not there can be seen in New Zealand from the time the upper house was abolished there in the mid 1950s.

        3. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Experts?

          There's problem: Appoint members to the Upper House by lot, have them attend for a fix period with suitable compensation. That way you can avoid the problem of appointed patsies, perpetual election campaigners and party-political ideologues (though you do potentially risk replacing it with a different set of ideologues)

          So who does the appointing? Who gets appointed? The only thing that changes is the time limit for the office.

          1. Oninoshiko

            Re: Experts?

            "So who does the appointing? Who gets appointed? The only thing that changes is the time limit for the office."

            Read it again, the proposal is to have it decided by drawing or casting of lots.

            http://lmgtfy.com/?q=definition+draw+lots&l=1

            Which is to say, a national lottery (note the same root-word, of "lot").

          2. david 63

            Re: Experts?

            This needs to be updated to take in the upper house. Can't be any worse than what we have.

            http://davidsdiamondsandrust.blogspot.com/2015/01/put-some-fun-into-politics.html

        4. veti Silver badge

          Re: Experts?

          @Graham: Appointment to the upper house by lot sounds appealing, unless you've actually served on a jury.

          As Winston Churchill is reputed to have said: "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter".

          I'd rather we just put it back the way it was before Tony Blair got his claws into it. I don't blame Blair for the Iraq War, that was a judgement call and I personally think it was the right one. But his constitutional reforms, now... those were a real disaster.

          1. Roj Blake Silver badge

            Re: Experts?

            Replace the House of Lords with a Senate elected by PR. You'd still have a load of failed politicians in it, but at least no party would have an overall majority - meaning that it won't pass anything too extreme and/or stupid.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Experts?

            " I don't blame Blair for the Iraq War, that was a judgement call "

            The problem is that the reasons _given_ for going in had nothing to do with the _actual_ reasons for going in and the way it was done was guaranteed to cause problems later on.

            The ultimate chuntzpah afterwards was appointing Blair as "Middle East Peace Envoy"

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Experts?

        "The old system of hereditary peerages at least threw up the occasional eccentric who was independent minded and had a nose for bullshit."

        And yet the amendment was withdrawn rather than being voted on because it blindingly obvious it would lose, which tells me the majority of the Lords saw through Mays stooge.

        (He must've been a stooge since he seemed to have little grasp of what he was arguing for in such a half-hearted way)

    2. JonP
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Experts?

      I don't think it would make any difference who the peers are. They're clearly just put-ups spouting whatever bullshit they've been told to to advance other people's agendas.

      It would be interesting to know why they're pushing this 'snoopers charter' thing so hard - it looks like it will do more harm than good and (I assume) they must realise it makes them look bad and can't be doing their (all important) popularity any good, yet still they keep on with it...

    3. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Experts?

      The main benefit to having an unelected house in my view ( and why I would keep it ) is that it provides the opportunity for a pushback against stupid bills, especially those pushed through by large commons majorities.

      The fact that the lords are unelected means they don't have to worry about appeasing the public desire for a knee-jerk reaction to things. Obviously in the case of this particular bill, it doesn't seem to be doing its job, but I remember it gave Blair some trouble during his tenure.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: Experts?

        >I remember it gave Blair some trouble during his tenure.

        For which city-based Labour provoked a constitutional crisis over the manner in which rural farm pests are put down.

        The article was far too kind by describing them as incompetent. They are compromised puppets. Give me real incompetence over efficient corruption any day.

  2. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    Boffin

    Organising the Techies

    It seems clear that the snoopers charter is not going to go away having been identified by our lords and masters and their civil service puppet masters as a fundamental part of the bread and circuses needed to fight "the war on terror".

    I cant help feeling as techies we are missing a trick relying on the likes of ISP's and the occasional condescension from Google and the like to push it back. Given how deep they have their hooks in the politicians its only a matter of time before they see something to be gained by allowing this legistlation to pass.

    So pop quiz - what can we as techies do - that we are uniquely suited to do - to fight this in an organised manner, without necessarily having to closely align with any other protest group?

    Answers in replies please......

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Organising the Techies

      Write to your MP (and any local Lords if they deign to live in this country) and explain in simple words how, for example, adding a back door to SnapChat would allow pretty much anyone to read messages, and how it couldn't be limited to just the government. You could also add how 'the government' also encompasses local authorities trying to catch people who don't pick their dog shit and so on and not just the security services chasing terrorists.

      Perhaps point out that when politicians show clear lack of any technical knowledge they look less electable (I have no idea if this is true, but it's worth keeping them personally interested).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Organising the Techies

        "Write to your MP "

        Tried that with my current MP several times - basically he wasn't interested in constituents' issues of civil rights or equality. It appears he always votes with the Government - except when he follows the the Vatican's line to impose on civil society.

        He always reminds me of Harry Enfield's "Tim nice - but dim". A recent door-knocking party canvasser was shocked that I could object to "such a nice man".

        1. DJV Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          Re: Write to your MP

          Yeah, mine too.

          Except I get the impression mine's rather more devious than the "Tim, nice but dim" image. She likes to get her mug in the local papers at every opportunity while doing extremely minor "attendances" at things like openings. However, most of the local constituents don't understand that she is stabbing us in in the back when she votes in parliament (she's pro fracking and was an architect of the gagging law amongst others).

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Write to your MP

            "she's pro fracking and was an architect of the gagging law amongst others"

            Oh, that's a tough one. Would I vote for gagging and stay warm, or freeze and be gagged?

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Organising the Techies

          > A recent door-knocking party canvasser was shocked that I could object to "such a nice man".

          Safe Tory seat by any chance?

      2. dogged

        Re: Organising the Techies

        I wrote to my MP regarding the last heap of crap they shoved through Parliament. He basically told me to fuck off.

    2. Spanners Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Organising the Techies

      what can we as techies do

      We can Follow the Money

      Yes some/many of them push these idea because they like to keep the peasants in their place but they are all either past, present or future beneficiaries of the system they seek to expand.

      This information is almost all out in the wild. It is just not organised. Organisation of information is what we all do.

    3. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Organising the Techies

      What we're supposed to do, our jobs properly. Just the right amount of logging, https, keys on the client if possible.

      If someone's knocking up a PHP site or mobile app which leaks data like a sieve then they're doing it wrong.

      Justify the time spent by quoting Sony and Target till the cows come home.

    4. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      Re: Organising the Techies

      > what can we as techies do ?

      A: Take inspiration from Shinto shrines that have been in existence for hundreds of years, but which are rebuilt every 20 years. We should create an ISP that goes into administration every 6 months, only for all accounts and user details to be transferred seamlessly to another ISP that buys all the assets except the archive of retained data.

      1. dogged

        Re: Organising the Techies

        >A: Take inspiration from Shinto shrines that have been in existence for hundreds of years, but which are rebuilt every 20 years.

        That's very clever......Do you work for GCHQ?

      2. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: Organising the Techies

        >We should create an ISP that goes into administration every 6 months,

        I have an easier plan. Put the MP's internet providers' archives on pastebin.

        You'd only have to do that once.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Organising the Techies

      what can we as techies do - that we are uniquely suited to do - to fight this in an organised manner, without necessarily having to closely align with any other protest group

      More/stronger encryption/pervasively/PFS everywhere.

      If everybody does their part no matter how they legislate it should make it very difficult for them passively read whatever they like. It then comes down to them actually getting warrants and providing evidence.

      Speaking of which be nice if El Reg supported https.. Talking about stuff that GCHQ, the government and terrorists are doing in the clear isn't the most fun thing in the world.

    6. The Dude

      Re: Organising the Techies

      True enough, if they can snoop then it's guaranteed that they will snoop. Encrypt everything that isn't "public" on the net, end-to-end. It's actually not a bad idea anyhow, and really should be baked in to every serious OS.

    7. Eponymous Cowherd
      Big Brother

      Re: Organising the Techies

      While avoiding the snoopers charter infrastructure wouldn't be that difficult, what is really needed is to make that avoidance plug and play.

      Gargoyle supports TOR via a plugin, and you can configure it to route data from your LAN over TOR by default, so that nothing from your home network can be "snooped".

      So what we need are broadband routers that offer TOR connectivity out of the box (without having to flash a 3rd party replacement OS) and which can be bought from your local PC World.

      TOR, of course, has demonstrable weaknesses, so research into a more secure anonymising network (TOR2?) which could be implemented in hardware / firmware on off-the-shelf routers would be a laudable goal.

      Kickstarter, perhaps? A secure broadband router that protects you against Government snooping? Reckon that'd sell.

      1. streaky Silver badge

        Re: Organising the Techies

        TOR is overkill for the actual problem. Not only that but the network clearly doesn't have the bandwidth to cope with that even if it was the solution to the problem.

        HTTP2 is a start, a big start. Getting everybody's SSL config up to scratch is good too.

    8. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Organising the Techies

      "So pop quiz - what can we as techies do - that we are uniquely suited to do - to fight this in an organised manner, without necessarily having to closely align with any other protest group?"

      A "general strike" of admins and support? :-)

    9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Organising the Techies

      Write to your local MP. Suggest they get together with various members of their friends & family of a reasonably wide range of age groups. Get each one to check his smartphone for apps which use encryption. Ask them what their reaction would be if those apps were made illegal. Point out that the likely results would make the Cameron policy the shortest political suicide note in history (your MP should get the reference).

      Also point out that criminals, including terrorists, disregard laws. Although the MP's constituents would be affected by such legislation and considerably angered by it the terrorists wouldn't. They'd have sufficient resources to roll their own apps; the strong encryption genie has been out of the bottle for a couple of decades now and it isn't going back, ever. So all that will have been achieved is a large bunch of unhappy voters and a smaller bunch of uninconvenienced terrorists.

    10. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      Re: Organising the Techies

      [W]hat can we as techies do?

      Everyone I talk to already assumes that such collection is happening all the time for the peons. Not correct but there you are. What needs to be brought to the attention of the people voting this crap in is that we are not really the ones that need worry. Any collection is going to be the #1 target for hacking (Anonymous anyone?) and *they* are going to be the #1 target for exposure. "The Fappening" and "The Snappening" should scream about how exposed the various collections of elites are to this type of attack. Personally, if they are looking over my devices here not a thing would/should surprise the intelligence agencies, complete down to peccadillos. After the background check I received, they know me down to (pick an anatomical feature or thought pattern). Do *they* want such information around about themselves, hmm? Pity I have a conscience, or something that I use as such. Such a target ... oooh.

  3. kbb

    Here's your problem Lord B

    "...and hand this over to the government without a warrant". Perhaps if you were to ask for something and abide by due process with checks and balances you might get somewhere.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Here's your problem Lord B

      Encrypt your mail, web traffic and use VPNs for everything. As people used to say under Communist dictatorships, "fill their microphones with silence".

      People can make this stop and keep these people honest, they just have to care enough. Until the powers that be are forced to use their powers effectively (which quite frankly is the case for national security, much of the time), politicians will continue to make these silly noises and find new ways to waste the taxpayers money. Dog-shit tracking applications and other revenue sniffing themes will then become the best we can hope for and the terroristas will have truly won.

      But by all means, write to your MP or call them as well.

      Better yet, send them an email (using AES-256 encryption) that explains how it all works.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Here's your problem Lord B

        "[...] keep these people honest, "

        That was always my policy for both management and customers. It doesn't make you popular when you remind people that what they are proposing potentially contravenes laws - but they take notice and the issue usually gets dropped. Whether they tout that round several techies and get the same response I don't know. There is always the danger that the ambitious can't always afford to be totally scrupulous.

      2. charlie-charlie-tango-alpha

        Re: Here's your problem Lord B

        "Better yet, send them an email (using AES-256 encryption) that explains how it all works."

        Ummm. In order to send an MP an encrypted email you would need that MP's public key (assuming a PKI type system). My MP barely copes with email in clear. He certainly doesn't have a GPG key. And even if he did, GCHQ would never allow encrypted email in through the Parliamentary email gateway.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Here's your problem Lord B

        > As people used to say under Communist dictatorships, "fill their microphones with silence".

        I prefer filling them with silence and then masking it with white noise.

        1. DropBear Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Here's your problem Lord B

          "I prefer filling them with silence and then masking it with white noise."

          So, are we back at writing e-mails in the shower...? Hmmm, I might have to get a waterproof smartphone...

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Verily, I do not begin to understand the dark workings of the evil one

    I've just imagined one of those medieval line drawings with a moustached gentleman in a strange hat setting fire to a witch and a devil watching from his dark cloud.

    Would it be wrong to focus on Lord King and tar them all with the same brush though? If the rest don't know much about technology, at least they know when they're being sold snakeoil.

  5. Rol Silver badge

    Mmm. Smoke and mirrors, me thinks.

    If there's one thing Snowden has shown us, is that, regardless of legislation, the trench coat brigades have no problem accessing whatever it is they want to access. Encryption is nothing other than an irksome delay in the process of unravelling your entire online life.

    So why the eagerness to push through a bill that has many frothing at the mouth when it will not deliver any more than what is currently available?

    Well. they haven't pushed it through, have they, The whole hullabaloo gives the impression the internet is still a safe place for terrorists to conduct business, as agencies are hamstrung by a lack of legislation.

    My betting is this bill will rumble on and on, never getting into law, but forever announcing our surveillance abilities are seriously compromised, with a hope nefarious organisations might feel a little safer to start banging on their keyboards with gusto.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mmm. Smoke and mirrors, me thinks.

      That would be almost too good to be true and even verges on believable. Unfortunately, even this kind of double-think will only trip up the stupider ones while keeping the rest of the population at more or less high levels of anxiety. The smarter terrs (like OBL) will just keep using trade craft that dates from Biblical times.

      And if this is the best dog and pony trick the TPTB can come up with, I am not very impressed. Good tin-hat fodder though. Speaking of which, why hasn't Matt chimed in yet?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mmm. Smoke and mirrors, me thinks.

        One of the things that keeps getting forgotten about Osama bin Laden is that he used to be an engineer which is why he did things the way he did. Don't have missiles yet want to make a big boom? Planes are a nice substitute. His communications were very low tech for one reason. All the high-tech ones could easily be compromised. In the espionage biz everything is kept a simple and low tech as possible as things will go wrong as any engineer knows down to their bones. [Murphy was an optimist.] He did give them a good run, just not quite good enough.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Mmm. Smoke and mirrors, me thinks.

          "[bin Laden] did give them a good run just not quite good enough."

          Measured by short term and longer term results, which is also what engineers do, OBL had and is still having a massive effect on the way our politicians operate and the way us plebs are allowed to live.

          You probably have to go back quite a long way (introduction of the NHS, maybe?) to find something with an equally significant impact. And goodness knows there have been a lot of changes post-Blair that most of us could do without.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mmm. Smoke and mirrors, me thinks.

      Or (more accurately) another attempt by the unelected (and unelectable) Civil Service heads attempting to put something into law that benefits them and not the population they are supposed to be the servants of..

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So why the eagerness to push through a bill [...] ?

      Because they want to retrospectively legitimise the criminal surveillance that they have been performing up to now?

  6. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    You can read it for yourself

    The Hansard transcript can be read here :

    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/lords/?id=2015-01-26a.12.6#g33.0

    You will see that the first few speeches in favour are all from "institution men" - pen who have in one way or another been (or still are) connected with the services that supposedly want these extra powers.

    But if you read down, you'll see that several peers spoke eloquently about why the amendment was a bad idea - between them they've pointed out that the bill this attempts to resurrect was killed after damning criticism, that it's an abuse of process to try and squeeze it in this way, that it would severely undermine what little respect people have for the law enforcement/security services, and that in fact the "poster child" events cited as to why the new rules are needed are actually already catered for by existing legislation.

    Lord Strasburger really kicks off the opposition, and then others line up to support him. Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho and Baroness Warsi make particularly compelling speeches - the latter making a point about the impact of profiling and how the effects can alienate the very people we need support from.

    And Baroness Ludford makes a point that GCHQ seems to do what they like regardless of what the law allows !

  7. Adrian 4 Silver badge
    Holmes

    ORLY ?

    "The police and the security services are not asking for new powers. Rather, they are asking for the retention of what they already have but are now losing," he told the House.

    Or, to put it another way, they'd like to get away with their illegal surveillance without the fear of being outed.

  8. Alistair Silver badge
    Flame

    I don't understand this stuff so - lets legislate the crap out of it.

    This (Canuck, so I get the concept of an upper house) is what the senior house is supposed to prevent, not follow. If one does not comprehend the subject, one cannot create comprehensive and effective legislation, thus one should not be ramrodding it in.

    I understand the objective and why, and in reality the objective is honourable, but it is so fine a line between *preventing something* and *watching everyone all the time* that the legislation to effectively, correctly and properly manage the information such that it is not "We Want Everything from Everyone All The Time Just In Case" but rather "We need to find the problems before they happen" cannot be written. It JUST CANNOT be written. Effectively once the pool of information, no matter how stripped down, cleaned and controlled it is, exists, it becomes a case of (5 years from now its illegal to say the word shit on the internets) -- GO BACK AND FIND EM ALL!!!.....

    I would have less of an issue with the idea of gathering "intelligence" and storing it if;

    a) those that stored it could be trusted to keep it and *NOT MODIFY IT*

    b) those that were using the intelligence could be trusted to use it *ONLY* for those things that we need to prevent (Mass murders, serial rapists perhaps, and such) - but it will be used (this might be offensive to some but it makes the point) by future Feminazi government types to find misogynistic males who've even once uttered the phrase "Hey babe, wanna get laid?"

    c) if all of humanity *as a species* could give up on the "My sky fairy is better than your sky fairy" and "My economic model kicks your economic model's ass" or the "My skin makes me better than your skin" bullshit that tends to run our lives these days.

    d) If and ONLY if economic engines are separated by impenetrable barriers from legislative engines. Until such time as companies are utterly BANNED from any political activity of any form, under pain of execution of the entire C suite, we will not have freedoms and legislation for persons. Only for and by the corporations.

    (okay - the last bit is perhaps a tad over the top, but you get the drift, yes - I'm ranting because I'm dealing with a 4 vendor finger-pointing roundabout today, appropriate icon is appropriate)

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: I don't understand this stuff so - lets legislate the crap out of it.

      "I'm dealing with a 4 vendor finger-pointing roundabout today,"

      Sit them around a table. Have your staff stand behind each chair.

      Smash their faces into the table each time they point at someone else.

  9. Alister Silver badge

    ...all the other services, are increasingly being used across the internet via something I now know more about than I ever wanted to - a system known as VoIP, the Voice over Internet protocol. This makes all those transmissions untraceable.

    Wait, What!!?

    So VoIP is now the root of all eeevilll???

    I'm really glad Lord Blair knows so much about it now and doesn't in any way confuse it with VPNs...

    Maybe he can help me sort out a problem I've got with the office Asterisk box...

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      He was a clueless idiot when he was head of the Met, and he's still one now.

  10. Evil Graham

    People just aren't angry enough

    I imagine like many of us I have friends who are techies and probably more friends who are not.

    My technically-aware friends get angry about these rampant abuses of technology that infringe our human rights, but the non-tech people generally don't because they just don't understand it.

    And here's the problem. Imagine the government presented a new bill saying that all cars had to be fitted with GPS trackers so that we know where they all are (because terrorists use cars - and it's fine, because we aren't going to look *in* the car, just see where it's going). Naturally there would be uproar and such a law would have no chance of being passed, because people understand the implications.

    But when it's applied to something less tangible like the interwebz - well that's just a murky pool of jargon and complexity. And anyway it's only my cat videos and Skype sessions with family in Australia. If I've done nothing wrong, I've got nothing to fear and all that.

    These are the attitudes we are facing.

    1. I Am Spartacus

      Re: People just aren't angry enough

      I Agree.

      Imagine the uproar you would get if you said every man, woman and child must carry a tracking device by which the powers that be can know where you are at every moment of the day or night. Unthinkable.

      Invent the mobile phone, make it sexy, in pink and an "i" in front of its name. What's that, you want two?

      Oh, but that's all right, you can track children when they go missing. And we will only ever use it when it's necessary. Yeah, Right.

      It always was so, I have seen MI5 enter a telephone exchange to bug a terrorist in the 70's. I worked in a telco in the 90's, where one of my jobs was to store all the call records of who called whom and when and for how long

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: People just aren't angry enough

        Just like ANPR - to avoid you stick to the back-roads and keep an eye on the websites that tell you where the rozzers will sat eating their pies today.

        1. JohnMurray

          Re: People just aren't angry enough

          The back roads are also being filled now.

          Beware the "village average speed cameras", being fitted everywhere to protect the residents [from themselves, since it is usually the residents who speed].

          Just try to get into Northants without being noted...

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: People just aren't angry enough

            Beware the "village average speed cameras"

            A few strategically placed pieces of tape seem to be the preferred way of confusing them.

            Or just do what they do in london and clone a few plates. At least 12% of cars in Greater London are on the road illegally and a good chunk of them have counterfeit plates (I've had the misfortune to have had one crash into me and the driver/passenger run off. It even had a pretty authentic looking tax disc attached)

            Bear in mind that the ANPR systems that are fitted into police cars only contain a list of plates _of interest_ (known to have expired, no sinsurance, etc), not a list of _valid_ plates - so a totally fake plate won't trip any alarms and nor will cloning a similar vehicle.

  11. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Lord King of Bridgwater

    AKA Tom King. It looks like wonkpedia's account may need to be rewritten:

    "King's career in the Cabinet may appear odd to some observers due to his many quick moves between departments. The moves were a reflection of his ability to 'master his brief' quickly, and as successive crises hit the government it was King who was moved to fill the gap. King never had a strong public profile compared to other members of the Cabinet, but neither did he draw attention to himself by elementary errors or public gaffes."

    Of course there's an alternative explanation of why he got moved round so much...

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: Lord King of Bridgwater

      If he was a useless seat warmer, why was he elevated .......... oh

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lord King of Bridgwater

      Yes, I thought Winkipedia didn't allow opinion to be posted as fact? No citations or anything....

      This should be edited to remove the opinion, in my opinion

  12. Misky
    Paris Hilton

    WOW!

    I'm honestly shocked by the fact that these people have stood up and openly said "I don't know anything about this, I'm totally ignorant of what this is and have no idea of the ramifications, I'm a clueless buffoon with a knowledge of the subject that would embarrass a dead fetid badgers ass, but “terrorists”, so make it law".

    Stop the world I want to get off!

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: WOW!

      I'm not at all shocked, but nevertheless highly concerned, that a number of "these people" have stood up and said they were experts in this field, and then go on to conclusively prove they've no idea what they are talking about.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WOW!

      I worked at an ISP with a person who went on to a career in politics. This person was, as far as I know, reasonable good at what that person did. What this person was best at though was pointing the finger when an issue occured. This person always had a fall guy and stuck to the story. Now this person's a total party yes person. You couldn't tow the party line harder. Doesn't matter the issue this person'll always do as the party says and the party recognizes that this person's not bright enough to put in the public eye. This person'll never be a cabinet minister as this person couldn't help but come off as the stooge this person is.

      I suspect that there are lots of politicians very much like this person. Politics and management attract a certian personality type and that personality is self-serving and it doesn't appear to matter that many of those elected are idiots.

  13. Joe Harrison

    Jobhunting

    Hi everyone! Wouldn't mind a new job. Want something part-time and it must have comfy office with free food, but also lots of trips out to exciting places. Must be well-paid. My CV? well I don't know anything much about any of this modern thingy but hope this isn't a blocker!!1! Any suggestions where I could be looking?

  14. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Pardon me, I was just passing by when...

    ...somebody's just slipped a fiver in my pocket and asked me to present this wonderful set of proposals, of which I, honestly, don't know anything about. But they said I'll get another fiver when I do it, so here goes....

  15. Ol' Grumpy

    What really gets me about the whole terrorism thing is that the government seems hellbent on removing civil liberties with dog-shit policies like this in the name of protecting us yet at the same time, continually cutting the ability to respond to any such acts by reducing numbers in the armed forces.

    1. JohnMurray

      The only terrorist attack they are worried about, is one on them.

      The rest of us are just cannon-fodder waiting for the next arms-trade profit enhancer.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Some numbers NEED to be cut.

      EG:

      1: There are far too many admirals and other high ranking naval bod for the number of boats actually in the water

      2: There are far too many high ranking bods in the RAF (it's something like 80% of the number in the USAF which is more than 4 times larger

      3: Same in the army.

      And you wonder why the UK commits to buy pigs like the F35B or HMS Sitting Duck

      Getting rid of the trough-wallowing higher ups would mean that mil.uk could actually live up to its implied social obligation and look after rank-and-file staff who've been injured (physically or mentally) during their term of duty (they get paid a shit wage, the risk really isn't worth it), instead of trying to foist the load back onto the UK public via chuggers pushing the likes of "Help for Heroes"(*)

      (*) The only good thing about chuggers: Once it gets to that stage, you know it's a lost cause and "administrative fees" are soaking up substantial portions of what's raised long before it gets to where it's actually needed.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    " I do not know about them, but it is absolutely clear that the terrorists and jihadists do"

    Hmmmm.

    I bet he doesn't know anything about the Raspberry Pi either. I do: does that make me dangerous?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: " I do not know about them, but it is absolutely clear that the terrorists and jihadists do"

      "does that make me dangerous?"

      If you are working for a State agency - no. Otherwise - yes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Raspberry Pi considered dangerous

      I'm aware of a secure site which from time to time gets schoolkids in for work experience for a few weeks. The kids obviously can't use the site network (for understandable security reasons) so one of the software teams got a Raspberry Pi in so the kidz could work on a standalone computer and learn a bit of geekiness without any harmful security implications.

      IT Department confiscated the Pi because it was dangerous.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Clueless politician

    my Lord!

  18. lucki bstard

    Can we just bring back Cromwell and reform parliament (and the House of Lords that way)? At least he achieved something, the appointed lords/ladies seem to have the job purely as a reward for following orders.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Sorry

      (un)lucki bstard, you're now on a watch list for coming up with a comment like that.

      Sadly we're all lurching towards a Cromwell type moment when someone does stand up to the government and say "in the name of the people GO!" and it wont be very nice either

      Oh well I'm now on the watch list too :(

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Unhappy

        Re: Sorry

        Cromwell was an MP, do you really think any of those (select your personal bit of invetive) in Parliament would actually stand up agaisnt the power of patronage for more than 5 minutes. These are much reduced days.

        These laws can only be portayed as opression, this may in time lead to your 'Cromwell' moment and all the gore it entails - and then a restoration - nothing really changes

    2. fearnothing

      You might like that up until he bans Christmas and starts policing your morals.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "You might like that up until he bans Christmas and starts policing your morals."

        If they were elected the Tories had promised to roll back Labour's intrusions into civil liberties.

        Whoever you vote for the Government always gets in. That may have something to do with many MPs being people who have a degree in PPE, started work as interns to their party machine, and eventually were parachuted into a seat. Politicians have largely become a self-serving elite.

  19. Eponymous Cowherd
    Mushroom

    Bullshit

    "Before Paris and Belgium, the government raised the threat level to severe. Intelligence showed what might be coming. We could easily have been Paris or Belgium. Thankfully, so far we have not been exposed in the same way, except for the tragedy of Fusilier Rigby, but it is a very brave man indeed who says that at the present time we would not be."

    This sort of bullshit really annoys me. Not sure if the people who spout this nonsense are really that inordinately stupid, or are just hoping that if they spout this bollocks often enough the Great Unwashed will swallow it.

    The filth that carried out the Paris atrocities and the murder of Lee Rigby were known to the security services. The fact that they managed to carry out their attacks is down to mistakes by and/or under-resourcing of the aforementioned security services. Having data on every man, woman, child, cat, dog and, for all I know hamster's Internet activity wouldn't have made a jot of difference.

    Why is it so buggering difficult for these twatspanners to grasp that there is no point in slurping zettabytes of additional data when the data they already have on people who are known threats are already overloading the people whose job it is to protect us from those threats.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Bullshit

      Since it is beyond human capacities to properly sort the signal from the noise, obviously we need artificial intelligences to do it for us. Cue Watson and a ginormous contract with IBM.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bullshit

        Since it is beyond human capacities to properly sort the signal from the noise, obviously we need artificial intelligences to do it for us. Cue Watson and a ginormous contract with IBM.

        What do you think SAIC do? It isn't called "the largest systems integrator you have never heard of" for nothing!

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Bullshit

      "The filth that carried out the Paris atrocities and the murder of Lee Rigby were known to the security services. "

      For that matter, so were the 9/11 bombers and Tomothy McVeigh.

  20. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Holy shit!

    "I do not begin to understand the dark cloud, but those are the threats that we may now be facing."

    Wow--just wow. "I don't understand what the threat and risk really is, but let me in my ignorance suggest that we pass far-reaching legislation to combat this threat that I haven't bothered to understand."

    Completely un-fucking-believable...

    1. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Holy shit!

      >"I don't understand what the threat and risk really is, but let me in my ignorance suggest that we pass far-reaching legislation to combat this threat that I haven't bothered to understand."

      It works for Check Point, Cisco, Bluecoat and all the others.

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Holy shit!

      "the dark cloud"

      Clearly the horsemouth nebula.

      1. Whiskers

        Re: Holy shit!

        > "the dark cloud"

        > Clearly the horsemouth nebula.

        Just don't mention dark fibre.

  21. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    It will rise again!

    The price of freedom is eternal vigiliance, followed by merciless arse-kicking.

    Unfortunately, the former is sorely lacking and the latter cannot be properly deployed at the polls.

  22. AsherGoldbergstein

    GCHQ will continue to do as they please regardless.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the current system obviously does not work.

    I don't know why you guys are still debating improvements to the political system.

    If Britain is truly represented by her citizens, then let every citizen represent themselves.

    With today's technology it's perfectly possible and feasible. The current system was invented when people weren't able to do so.

  24. Stuart Castle

    The problem with the bill as I see it..

    The problem with the bill is not so much that it allows the security services to monitor the internet, more that it allows the security services to monitor the internet *without* passing the checks required by other communications methods. You can't (in the UK anyway) start listening in on someone's phone. Even if you managed it without being caught, any "evidence" you obtained would probably be inadmissible in court.

    Personally, I have no problem with the certain users of the internet being monitored, provided the authorities have demonstrated that they have reasons to be suspicious of those users, in much the same way they are required to do this to tap phones.

    The problem I have with this bill (and the actions of the security services in general) is that they are eroding everyone's right to privacy, including tens of millions of innocent people, with the promise that they are keeping us safe from a threat that they seem unable or unwilling to define. This is bad, partly because it is affecting 10s of millions of innocent people, and partly because the only thing the bill will actually achieve is to drive the terrorists they know are presenting an actual threat on to communication systems that can not be so easily monitored, such as Tor. Even if they don't move to any secure internet connections, it's easy enough to download an open source Instant Messaging server to install on your own machine, or open source forum or email server software. While the same IP would show up in any logs kept by the ISP, using Tor or a VPN would mask that.

    What are they planning to do next? Restrict our rights to install our own IM or Forum servers? Ban us from installing our own email servers? Restrict VPN access? There are perfectly good legitimate reasons to use all of these.

    1. BenR

      Re: The problem with the bill as I see it..

      This is exactly what I came here to say.

      If you have a good reasons to suspect a particular person - fine. Go to a judge, explain why you have these suspicions (even if they are a bit vague and nebulous), and then monitor them until your heart is content. Even if one were to slurp up data, you'd still need to have good reasons for looking at a particular person's records - and those same pointers would be enough to convince a judge that further targeted surveillance was warranted (literally).

      Why can they not understand that for most people the issue is probably less about the data being available in controlled, overseeable circumstances, and more about the fact that the Police, GCHQ, SOCA and the rest have all *ALREADY* proven themselves to be totally untrustworthy!

  25. teebie

    "But the Tory peer then went on to expose himself"

    That's par for the course.

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