Sunday, April 13, 2008

British bureacrats routinely put citizens under surveillance.

England was once a free country. Of course that ended long ago and it is now has one of the most extensive surveillance systems in the world -- and the targets of that surveillance are not criminals or terrorists but average people going about their average lives.

The Regulation of Investigatoryh Powers Act was passed to give government agencies spying powers in order to go after criminals and terrorists. Well, that was the excuse anyway. Originally these spying powers were bestowed on nine government agencies. Of course, since the damn camel got its nose in the tent matters have escalated. Now 792 government agencies have the right to spy on people and they are doing so!

One family in Dorset discovered that local officials used the law to put them under surveillance for weeks. Their alleged crime was to apply to have their youngest child attend a school where the council said they were not allowed to apply. In reality two of their other children had been attending the school for years. Government bureaucrats followed the family aroundl and kept record of where they slept at night. The school itself had told the parents that admission was legitimate. But for weeks detailed notes of the family were kept by the local council. (See the attached sheet of notes as an example.)

Tim Joyce and his partner, Jenny Paton, and their children were the targets of the investigation in Dorsey. Mr. Joyce said: “It used to be that the Home Secretary had to talk to a judge to get surveillance through the police. Now it seems the world and his wife can carry out surveillance whenever they feel like it.”

Last year government departments, unrelated to policing, engaged in 12,484 cases of surveillance on citizens. That is one citizen being targeted for regular surveillance every 42 minutes, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. The London Telegraph reports that this is a doubling from the previous year’s level of domestic surveillance.

In Gosport the local council has put dog owners under surveillance to see if they pick up the dog’s crap. Chris Davis, the would be “intelligence officer” for this sad little bureaucracy says: “We have strategically placed members of our enforcement team to blend in with the natural environment and observe people walking dogs. They are using digital cameras to get hard evidence.” In Stoke-on-Trent bureaucrats are using domestic spying to check on “illegal building work” and to see if people are dumping trash in violation to council rules.

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