But they’re right, aren’t they?

Civil liberty campaigners are under fire after insisting terror attacks on the UK are a “price worth paying” to ensure the spy agencies do not conduct mass surveillance.

The groups, including Liberty and Justice, said privacy was more important than forms of bulk surveillance that have proven to stop terror atrocities.

What’s that phrase? The tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots?

Summat like that.

And there’s a rather difficult calculation to be made. Full on Nazi style threat of invation permits rather more curtailment of civil liberty than does 50 people blown up on the Tube every decade or so. The loss of liberty needs to be proportionate to the threat to it in other words.

Think of this from he side. We could larelgy close Ritchie’s tax evasion gap by simply banning the use of cash and insisting that all transactions, of any sort, go through monitored electronic payment systems. Is that loss of liberty worth closing that tax gap?

Ritchie would almost certainly say yes. I wouldn’t and I would be right.

Is the mass monitoring of the population worth stopping 1%-2% of the murders that happen in the country each year (total is in the 800 range a year, terrorism is a handful). Y/N?

Your choice but it’s something that people can righteously differ on.

We’ve even another way of looking at this. The statistical value of a life is around £2 to £3 million. We should therefore be willing only to spend up to that amount for however many lives are being saved by our spending. Who wants to try and work out whether the surveillance state costs more than the handful of lives saved by not having a few terrorist attacks?

Yes, this is all a rather harsh calculus. But everything has a value, even civil liberty and the lives of the slain.

Which gives us our final calculus. How many would be willing to fight and die to prevent the imposition upon us by Johnny Foreigner of said surveillance state? 300,000 maybe, as fought in WWII? Then that’s the scale of damage that we should be willing to put up with without having it imposed then, isn’t it?

Yes, there’s holes in all of those arguments and comparisons. But the basic logic is still true. There’s a value to having freedom and liberty and that value is greater than some number of lives lost by still having freedom and liberty. The difficult question is, what is that number?

33 thoughts on “But they’re right, aren’t they?”

  1. I would sooner live in the jungle and accept the associated risks than in a gilded cage watched, spied upon and constrained by the benevolent state.

    If the price of my liberty is the chance that I might be a victim of terrorism, I’ll accept that price gladly. The state is a greater threat than the terrorist ever is, for it willingly does his job for him.

  2. Of course a better immigration policy in the past would have enabled us to be safe without survelliance.

  3. “Which gives us our final calculus. How many would be willing to fight and die to prevent the imposition upon us by Johnny Foreigner of said surveillance state?”

    A hell of a lot fewer than back then, I suspect. We didn’t have ‘X Factor’ and ‘Dancing With The Stars In The Jungle’ in the ’30s…

  4. “What’s that phrase?”

    There’s way more than one.

    My favorite from Robert Frost: a liberal is a man who is so broad-minded he won’t take his own side in a quarrel.

  5. The groups, including Liberty and Justice, said privacy was more important than forms of bulk surveillance that have proven to stop terror atrocities.

    The proof is in paragraphs 81-89 of the report:

    81. GCHQ have provided case studies to the Committee demonstrating the effectiveness of their bulk interception capabilities. Unfortunately, these examples cannot be published, even in redacted form, without significant risk to GCHQ’s capabilities, and consequential damage to the national security of the UK. We can, however, confirm that they refer to complex problems relating directly to some of the UK’s highest priority intelligence requirements. (These examples are included in the classified version of the Report that is shared with the Prime Minister.)
    Example 1: ***
    82.
    ***.
    83.
    ***.
    Example 2: ***
    84.
    ***.
    85.
    ***.
    86.
    ***.
    Example 3: ***
    87.
    ***.
    88.
    ***.
    89.
    ***.

    So I hope that lays to rest any misgivings about what’s happening.

  6. Whoever is putting Liberty etc “under fire” can direct said fire up their own arseholes. Terrorism is a brazen excuse for tyranny. Esp when the “protectors” are the ones who have imported millions of potential terrorists in the first place.

  7. ‘Is the mass monitoring of the population worth stopping 1%-2% of the murders that happen in the country each year (total is in the 800 range a year, terrorism is a handful). Y/N?’

    Y. Because we don’t know how many killings there would be without the surveillance but I would suggest there’d be a lot more. We don’t really have a good comparator but maybe Iraq a few years ago might give us a bit of a clue.

    There seem to be two prices of liberty here – surveillance of my calls/texts/emails/website visits or an increased risk of being gunned down at Marks and Sparks/having my head hacked off while out posting a letter. Difficult choice?

  8. W’shins–You proposition foolishly implies that the state is your buddy–and oh so concerned with your well-being. Which is what the lying twats say of course and the none too bright accept with grateful thanks.

    Leaving aside the fact the head-choppers would not be over here without the action of your helpful friends in the first place–the flaw in your proposal is that it is bollocks. With the scum of the state as your pal you have no need of enemies. States have murdered 150 million so far in the last 100 years and ruined the lives , both personally and economically, of 100s of millions more. Everything they touch turns to shite. They are up to their arses in everything bad in the world and are indeed the cause of most of the non-eternal (eternal stuff would be old age, death, personal mischance etc) bad stuff that is happening in the world –war, economic ruin, injustice–you fucking name it the politpigs are in there causing it or making it worse.

    And you think this pack of pukes give a flying fuck if you get blown up or decapitated?. They would welcome it (so long as they and theirs are kept safe) as an excuse for exactly the kind of control they want. Your pals are about thieving and lording it over others and terrorism is the ideal excuse.

    Better a thousand head choppers–you can at least fight the fucks and have a chance. When the cop thugs arrive on your doorstep you will have none against a corrupt and tyrannical system.

  9. Do you think Islam will last the century? I don’t.
    Historically, terrorists either win (Bolsheviks) or go home (Fenians). So the requirement will not be eternal.
    Perhaps, to concentrate the spooks’ minds and make them a bit careful how they snoop on the general public, the solution is something like the old Army Act. At each parliament the establishment and it’s budget has to be voted anew. And if the bill does not pass, the spooks are out on their ears.

  10. Well, Mr E, you’ve turned the hyperbole up to 11 so it’s clear we’re never going to agree on this so any argument is pointless.

    I’d say though that I don’t think the state is my buddy. Because it’s run by fallible human beings it’s prone to human stupidity and incompetence, and yes malevolence.

    But having lived to the ripe old age of 55, the state’s provided me and mine with healthcare, shelter and education, plus ensured enough general stability in the country to allow me to earn a few bob.

    I don’t disagree that ‘the state’ can screw up monumentally, humans do. But how would we manage without some form of organisation in society?

    ‘Better a thousand head choppers–you can at least fight the fucks and have a chance.’ I’d rather not, of course. I’m glad ‘the state’ pays people to do that on my behalf.

  11. While there is a small chance that Islam might pack up its tents and vanish the fact hat it has been around for 14 centuries suggests not. See what odds William Hill will give you.

  12. There seem to be two prices of liberty here – surveillance of my calls/texts/emails/website visits or an increased risk of being gunned down at Marks and Sparks/having my head hacked off while out posting a letter. Difficult choice?

    The risk of having one’s head hacked off in the street is increased mainly by a population who have been brow-beaten over decades into being scared to intervene and/or defend themselves and instead “wait for the police to arrive”. I suspect had two men tried to hack the head off a serving soldier in Victorian times, they would not have gotten very far.

  13. The state pays people to fight for it Widders. They will make a big show of fighting terrorists (the FBI is esp keen on Improv but not very good at it) but they know who their enemies are. Islamic terrorists have zero chance of overthrowing the British (or any other Western) state but ordinary people getting sick of thieving and arrogance just might. The states hired men are now paid to watch us and if we ever refuse to touch the forelock they will be paid to fight and kill us.

    Also–all the benefits you got from your govt buddies –they took them off someone else under threat of violence–just in case you didn’t know.

    And as for hype–are you saying those millions weren’t killed by the state?

  14. Tim Newman: “I suspect had two men tried to hack the head off a serving soldier in Victorian times, they would not have gotten very far.”

    The general public certainly wouldn’t have milled about, taking photos, while two ladies tried to intervene!

    Or is that more benevolent sexism?

  15. I have to say I distrust Liberty’s motives. They (and Chakrabarty in particular) have shown that they view Liberty as an a la carte menu. They are extremely dodgy on Leverson, for example.

    If it advances Progressive causes Liberty are all over it. If it doesn’t, they are either silent or on the other side.

  16. Is the mass monitoring of the population worth stopping 1%-2% of the murders that happen in the country each year (total is in the 800 range a year, terrorism is a handful). Y/N?

    Your choice…

    Perhaps worth pointing out that we haven’t had that choice (although sadly I think a majority are in a panic about terrorism), as the security services have done much of this without Parliament’s input. And whatever else you think of Snowden, he brought it to light. Even the entities ostensibly responsible for oversight – the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the Foreign Secetary, the Commissioners, the ISC – apparently had no idea about a lot of it. Even the ISC report says it’s concerned about such decisions being made only internally within the security services and little “visibility” of the issues to the Ministers and Commissioners.

    Rob,

    [Liberty] are extremely dodgy on Leverson, for example.

    In what way?

  17. It is almost incredible that anyone wld accept anything emanating from the UK security apparatus after the Iraq catastrophe. That bloody episode was wicked in itself and lethal for UK citizens who are now, understandably, hated by millions.
    If there is truth to the proposition that history is little more than a record of the crimes and follies of mankind we shld enquire into the nature and occupation of those responsible.

  18. Per JuliaM, many Victorian Britons carried guns & modern US experience is that crimes of public violence approach zero where that’s the case.
    And that’s what’s wrong with Tim’s argument: it creates a false dichotomy of state surveillance v mass murder. I’d much rather carry my trusty Glock than have my emails spied on by a government that can’t even ID the nation’s child rapists.
    @ukliberty
    I think Rob means the director of Liberty helping set Leveson’s TOR to exclude hacking being enabled and concealed by the cops.

  19. “I’m certainly frustrated that people talk about statutory regulation of the press which I do not believe is what I recommended,” said Leveson in 2013.

  20. Cripes, false dichotomies abound. Surely the 80/20 rule applies to states (Mr Ecks), and the surveillance they undertake. In that 80% of the results come from the first 20% of effort.

    State/not state is a dichotomy of sorts, but having discovered that anarchy quickly turns into a proto-state ruled by the guy with the biggest and most personally loyal private army, I’ll take some kind of state over none. Anarchy would have killed far more than 150 million souls and left us with a much poorer world.

    I’ll even accept a state that then mission-creeps to some extent I personally don’t want it to, by way of compromise, even if I would prefer a lot less than it has now. I can also express that desire in a functional democracy, to a much greater extent and effect than when in the gaol of some warlord.

    Some kind of surveillance, targeted one hopes at known (and to a lesser extent potential) wrong-uns is also tolerable, mass surveillance rather less so absent an imminent and severe internal threat, but we had some of that too before the internet.

  21. BiG:”Anarchy would have killed far more than 150 million souls and left us with a much poorer world.” Boilerplate.

    “If there was anarchy the biggest whatever would rule” –what do you think the state is. Over here they play little games with which idiot gets in but they all support thieving and lording regardless.

    “I’ll even accept a state that then mission-creeps to some extent I personally don’t want it to, by way of compromise, even if I would prefer a lot less than it has now” You don’t get to choose. They decide how heavy the boot rests on your neck not you. Their bungling is getting close to undermining 2 centuries of market-created prosperity and they are getting ready to stomp hard to keep hold of the power/money. All over the Western –so far prosperous world–you only have to look to see it.

    Snooping enables tyranny. How many more would have been butchered if Uncle Joe and the rest had had todays snoop power available to them.

  22. So Much for Subtlety

    bloke in france – “Do you think Islam will last the century? I don’t.”

    I think it is more likely English and French won’t last the century and France will be another member of the Arab League. But why do you believe this?

    “Historically, terrorists either win (Bolsheviks) or go home (Fenians). So the requirement will not be eternal.”

    Well no. The Bolsheviks rejected individual terrorism for a start. At least until the 1970s. They supported mass terror. Not the same thing. The Fenians won. They still came back for more. Birmingham and some dead horses show they did not go home. Terrorists always win against the West. They are likely to continue to do so. They do not win against anyone willing to deploy enough Death Squads. Something to think about.

    “Perhaps, to concentrate the spooks’ minds and make them a bit careful how they snoop on the general public, the solution is something like the old Army Act.”

    Seems sensible.

    Except every voting public has voted for more security against terrorism. The Terrorists killed the Israeli Labour Party for instance. And the Israeli Left in general. Our voters will do the same. We can have civil liberties or we can have a vibrant multicultural society filled with people who hate us.

  23. So Much for Subtlety

    Bloke in Germany – “Some kind of surveillance, targeted one hopes at known (and to a lesser extent potential) wrong-uns is also tolerable, mass surveillance rather less so absent an imminent and severe internal threat, but we had some of that too before the internet.”

    How do you know if they are wrong-uns if you don’t look at which websites they have been visiting? The first sign of the 7-7 bombers being extremists (as opposed to run of the mill Islamists) was when they blew themselves up on the Tube.

    This is just the Chemical warfare problem. It is not that it is inhumane. It is just new and so must be banned. Of all the modern limits on our freedoms, mass surveillance is about the least dangerous and the least intrusive of all. The centralisation of NHS records is much worse.

  24. @Mr Ecks
    “–what do you think the state is. Over here they play little games with which idiot gets in but they all support thieving and lording regardless.”

    The question is one of scale – a democratic leader is always better (even if not alway that much better) than the first post-anarchy leader, and can be fired more easily.

    “Their bungling is getting close to undermining 2 centuries of market-created prosperity”

    Absolutely, but note under which system of government said 2 centuries of prosperity was accumulated. It wasn’t anarchy. Granted it also wasn’t the current confiscatory democracy.

    “How do you know if they are wrong-uns if you don’t look at which websites they have been visiting? The first sign of the 7-7 bombers being extremists (as opposed to run of the mill Islamists) was when they blew themselves up on the Tube.”

    You don’t. And they are the ones that got through as a result. The security services weren’t able to identify those individuals as a threat with the resources they then had at their disposal, it’s unlikely they would have done so with more resources either.

    This idea that we could have some minarchist/anarchist utopia simply isn’t well thought-through. Or how it might be compatible with sufficient surveillance to stop every once-a-decade set of nutcase suicide terrorists. Well apparently we will all carry guns for that (with no side effects such as toddlers shooting their siblings). And that’s assuming you can use a gun quickly enough on someone going Allahu Akbar on the tube.

  25. So Much for Subtlety

    Bloke in Germany – “You don’t. And they are the ones that got through as a result. The security services weren’t able to identify those individuals as a threat with the resources they then had at their disposal, it’s unlikely they would have done so with more resources either.”

    You are mis-citing something I wrote as if Mr Ecks wrote it.

    The security services were complacent at the time. They thought they had done a deal with the Islamists to confine their terrorism offshore. They may have been able to detect that group if they had been looking but they were not looking.

    So we don’t know what they would have done. What we know is that a lot of plots have been detected since. So something seems to be working.

    “Or how it might be compatible with sufficient surveillance to stop every once-a-decade set of nutcase suicide terrorists.”

    As I have not suggested that it would, you need to make it more clear to whom you are responding.

    There is no reason to think they are a once in a decade event. As Israel found out.

    “Well apparently we will all carry guns for that (with no side effects such as toddlers shooting their siblings). And that’s assuming you can use a gun quickly enough on someone going Allahu Akbar on the tube.”

    True. But without the State getting in the way, we could build big fences and keep Muslims out. At least out of middle class areas. The State has failed by bringing these nutters to the UK and then they prevent us from defending ourselves. The State is a large part of the problem.

  26. SMFS,

    What we know is that a lot of plots have been detected since.

    In the UK all we the people know is that **, *** and *** were stopped and we know the plots that haven’t been stopped. In the US, where they are a bit more open, we know that someone was caught wiring $6000 to an alleged extremist group overseas (out of 54 alleged plots). It’s a matter of trust or faith, not ‘knowledge’.

  27. @SMFS,

    We’ve every reason to suspect they are a once-in-a-decade event in Britain as they haven’t really done anything in Britain for a decade. That is, admittedly, in part because some intervening intents/plots and so on have been halted in their tracks. You really think the situation in Israel is even remotely comparable?

  28. So Much for Subtlety

    Bloke in Germany – “You really think the situation in Israel is even remotely comparable?”

    Their Muslim community is larger than ours. But not by that much. Ours will catch up in a generation or two.

    I would expect we will have as much suicide bombing as they did before the Fence around that time.

  29. There really is nothing stopping someone from uploading to YouTube a video of himself saying he hates the West for this and that and then going out to murder strangers in public places. It very, very, very rarely happens in the UK because there is an infinitesimal number of people who feel like doing it, not because of ***, *** or *** the security services are doing absent oversight or because some magic threshold hasn’t been reached in terms of the Muslim proportion of the population.

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