Friday 25 October 2013

Three urgent questions about bugging foreign leaders

"I would no more trust such MPs with my liberties than send them out to buy a pizza," said Simon Jenkins on the front page of the Guardian this morning.

He was comparing the political action, from both Democrats and Republicans in the USA, to control the business of total surveillance and the abject way that MPs over here stay silent in the face of their own failures to oversee the same process here.

The recent revelations that the USA has been bugging Angela Merkel ramps up the pressure.  It is a serious question - not that nations haven't always spied on each other's leaders, because they have, but because this kind of activity needs to be brought within the rule of law.

If if isn't, experience shows that surveillance loses focus.  Politicians and security mandarins are famously unable to distinguish between national security and their own dignity, and that has serious consequences for their own effectiveness.

The bugging of Angela Merkel's phone was so lazily achieved, and so pointlessly ordered, that these are becoming vital questions - and there are other urgent questions for us here too.

First one: are David Cameron's private conversations being listened to by the NSA, and reported to American security?

The second one is this: if not, what is the quid pro quo?  Is there some agreement to share in the contents of conversations by Merkel and Hollande?

These are very serious questions.  It does not threaten national security to ask them, though it will be embarrassing for politicians and officials - but, as I say, these things are very different.

Here is the third question: why are MPs over here not asking these questions?  Why is the Labour Party not holding the government to account?  Why is Miliband silent?


Anonymous said...

No, the most important question is: are GCHQ doing all they can to bug foreign leaders (Mr Obama especially: you can't deny it would be a great help for the FCO to know what he is saying privately about, for instance, Iran, Egypt and Syria) and other senior members of foreign governments and civil services in order to give the UK the best edge it can have in competition and negotiation, and if not, why not?

Anonymous said...

& what do your LibDem colleagues in government have to say about this ?

David Boyle said...

Heaven alone knows...