The “Queen of Surveillance,” UK Home Secretary Theresa May, has assumed the office of prime minister. May is a longtime champion of every form of intrusive surveillance that ever came before her desk at the Home Office. For Britain, what is already the world’s leading high-tech surveillance state will now move closer to George Orwell’s dystopian futuristic Britain, a country he dubbed “Airstrip One.”
Instead of “Big Brother,” May will become the consummate “Big Mother.” As home secretary, May drastically increased the powers of the Security Service, also known as MI-5, to spy on people in Britain. May has had plenty of time to implement her Orwellian society. Home secretary since 2010, May has served as home secretary longer than any predecessor since the 19th century. As prime minister, May’s zeal to spy will extend to the Secret Intelligence Service, MI-6, and Britain’s NSA counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
May’s pet project at the Home Office has been the passage of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (DRIP) Act, legislation that saw its second reading on the way to final passage in the House of Lords. However, Liberal Democratic lords have demanded changes to the legislation and have slowed its final passage.
DRIP will take Britain from being a highly-intrusive nation to one of almost total electronic surveillance. May’s first attempt at pushing through her surveillance act in 2012 was stymied by the Liberal Democrats, then in a fragile coalition government with May’s Conservative Party. But as it is so named—DRIP—the act became a constant drip for business and privacy advocates in Britain. When the Conservatives were free of their Liberal Democratic coalition partners after the Tories won outright in the 2015 general election, May pushed again for adoption of her DRIP act.
May has had a stormy relationship with telecommunications and other high-tech companies over her insistence that every computer safeguard that companies use to protect their customers’ data, including encryption, be shared with the government to give it back-door access. May’s bill would also require Internet companies to maintain browser histories for a year and turn them over to the government when required. The bill also permits the government to engage in the bulk collection of raw data. May has not hesitated to criticize companies like Apple, Google, and others for their opposition to her “snoopers’ charter,” the nickname given to the surveillance bill.
In what has been called a compromise by May, under the “Wilson doctrine” members of Parliament can only have their communications hacked into by the government if authorization is granted by the prime minister. However, this concession came before May became, by default, prime minister. May has never once in her job as home secretary refused to convey surveillance authority to the police or security service. Likewise, the protection afforded to journalists’ communications and their sources may be abrogated if the judicial commissioner deems it necessary in the public interest. The Labor Party has not seen any changes in the bill that would protect trade union leaders from government snooping. May’s placebo “concessions” have not strengthened privacy protections under the DRIP but have turned the legislation into a slice of Swiss cheese with plenty of holes for the government to sneak through its planned surveillance operations.
Although May was a supporter of the remain in the EU campaign, she now says she will oversee Britain’s extrication from the organization. However, many in Britain see May’s sudden support for Brexit as her golden opportunity to leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, therefore removing a major stumbling block on implementation of her surveillance law.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
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Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).