Soapbox for the 99%: Steve Schofield on the global electronic surveillance system


Steve Schofield, author of the Yorkshire CND report, Lifting The Lid On Menwith Hill, asks:

“How much more power will the secret services accumulate before we begin a serious debate about the usurping of democracy by a national security state?

The detailed revelations on the United States National Security Agency’s Prism programme are shocking on many levels – from the sheer scale of domestic and international surveillance, through the years of official denials that such capabilities were being put in place, to the total lack of accountability at a congressional and parliamentary level, as legal protections and basic human rights to privacy are trampled into the ground . . .

The objective is to move beyond their traditional military, commercial and diplomatic espionage functions and to build a fully integrated network, combining the interception of all forms of electronic communications with highly detailed satellite imagery.

Ultimately, this will provide real-time intelligence to identify targets and to carry out attacks anywhere in the world without the need for conventional ground forces.

menwith hill aerial view large

Britain plays a vital role through Menwith Hill, one of the largest of the NSA’s regional electronic spy bases. Located in North Yorkshire, it has undergone a vast expansion of its surveillance capabilities, combining satellite and fibre-optic telecommunications interceptions, with extraordinary computing power and analytical support, in one of the largest and most sophisticated technological programmes ever seen in Britain. Nominally an RAF base, the majority of the staff are US personnel from the NSA and commercial contractors like Lockheed Martin. Britain is represented through GCHQ operatives but access to satellite communications and computer analysis is reserved exclusively for senior US staff. Intelligence assessments are directly fed to the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, along with those from other major regional centres in Hawaii and Australia, to ensure global coverage.

And there you have it – the basic structure of a national-security state . . .   

Terrorists can and do carry out despicable acts of individual violence, as at the Boston marathon and Woolwich, but this does not constitute an existential threat to our way of life from a global enemy.

Far from protecting us against terrorism, the national-security state is enslaving us with secret courts, new powers of arrest and detention and restrictions on assembly for political protest that can only lead to further invasive surveillance in a spiral of authoritarianism . . .

Can we reclaim democracy when faced with such unaccountable power?

A modern Bill of Rights would re-establish the primacy of the people’s interest over the state. At its heart would be the right to privacy and a highly restricted role for the security agencies built around criminal law. Any individual would have the right to access data held on them by those agencies, to appeal to an independent commissioner against that information being held if access were denied and to have such records destroyed if that appeal proved successful . . .

Menwith hill report coverThe stakes now are too high, the accumulation of power even greater and the threat to democracy so acute that we cannot accept anything other than root-and-branch reform.As far as Britain is concerned, the issue is very clear. A national campaign must build an unignorable demand that NSA Menwith Hill is closed down before it becomes a fully operational, regional intelligence hub in 2015. This would signal to the rest of the world that British territory is no longer being used for NSA operations and that we are ready and willing to work with others in Europe to rebuild our democratic institutions, enhance our civil rights and dismantle the national security state.

Let’s live in a democracy of hope rather than a tyranny of fear.

Read the whole article here.


Posted on July 24, 2013, in Democracy undermined and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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