It come to my attention a few articles describing egregious RIPA law abuses in UK. RIPA was enacted to provide powers to law enforcement to fight threats to national security: terrorism, internet crime, serious organized crime, paedophilia, etc. I’m no law or national security expert so my impressions based on news reports might be superficial. The point is intentionality of the law. Even after numerous abuses surfaced in the press over the years – not much has been changed or has there? I don’t think anyone was held accountable. So one would make an assumption that public outcry generated wasn’t enough to curtail it’s abuses since it’s not really an abuse.
It’s just a tool that can make targeting crime easier, terrorism or not. Crime is crime. At least in the eyes of the ones who are able to use it. If you can solve a problem why not, right? So the important part of these articles is not so much the description of abuses, but the framing of defence by accused. Some avoided to disclose the usage at all. Others justified it after being confronted. Between 2000 and 2009 the Tribunal setup to investigate abuses has only upheld 4 out of 956 complaints.
Council chiefs – while refusing to reveal where the tree was – have defended using RIPA, stating that nearby residents were concerned the tree was being “attacked”.
Alarmingly, seven public authorities refused under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose why or how often they have used the powers. They included the BBC and Ofsted.
The spies are called ‘covert human intelligence sources’. In many cases they will be council employees, such as dog wardens or trading standards officials, but school children are sometimes recruited to test for the sale of underage alcohol or cigarettes.
‘Despite nearly ten thousand investigations in three years, most resulted in no action being taken, reinforcing the need for a comprehensive review.’
He said: “This legislation is what we are required to use if we want to carry out surveillance on suspected fraudsters, con-artists, cowboy builders and flytippers and catch them red-handed. We make no apology for using all the powers Parliament has given us to try and catch people who rip off consumers and taxpayers.”
“If they really want to chase down a pub for allowing smoking. they can do so, just by walking in and catching somebody smoking. To use covert operations like this makes a mockery of process.”
Common misconception that these laws were reaction to 9/11 attack. In fact they were enacted in 2000 and expanded multiple times in later years.
Nowadays, however, for reasons unfathomable, every authority of whatever kind, from local councils and trading standards – and that latter one can still be understood – over the Milk Marketing Board equivalent and the one responsible for eggs and whatever else, aside from police, security services and HMRC, that is to say Customs and Excise, are given such covert surveillance powers. (archive.org)
One can only speculate how professional are these spies who are using these newly obtained powers to investigate their targets. It’s not far fetched to imagine that it will not take long for innocent person to notice that he is being followed and spied upon. Getting paranoid. Going on the internet finding some info about gangstalking “brighting”, “red cars” and ball starts rolling as it’s easy to apply situational environment to new belief structure. I’m not putting every targeted individual in that category, but I believe some cases might be stemming from situations like this. The real issue is that public resources can be abused for personal gain as long as you’re able to define and frame the problem as requiring authority attention on the target. Knowing the cooperation and information sharing across all agencies one can only speculate how it goes from there.
Now looking at England you have to assume that something similar is going on in most other liberal democracies on bigger or smaller scale, since law structuring and layering has to be more or less compatible around EU in order to effectively cooperate and participate in common goals in defending from terrorist threat. I guess UK is more transparent with it’s Freedom of Information Act so these “abuses” surface to public attention. Abuse is only in the eyes of beholder.
None of these articles try to investigate affect the targeted covert spying had on people in question, how it affected their lives.