Letters: Mass surveillance will not protect us

These letters appear in the July 12 edition of The Independent

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We have sleep-walked into an Orwellian state (report, 11 July) and the beneficiaries are not the people themselves but the security apparatus.

I have no doubt the security services have a difficult job but legally extending blanket surveillance harms all of us.  Because there will always be those, across all industries, who will abuse their powers. 

Bush introduced the Patriot Act after 9/11 to protect the US from terrorism. Instead, he created the terrorists who now frighten us into giving up our freedom and privacy. He gave the CIA and the NSA far-reaching powers – making them (along with our own security services) the new untouchables. Absolute power now resides with the spooks. 

Snowden shocked the world when he highlighted mass surveillance and now the UK has legally extended what the European Court ruled is a breach of our privacy and human rights. 

The Emergency Data Retention & Investigative Powers Bill was deliberately pushed through with no time for parliament to debate it against a backdrop of leaks designed to frighten our MPs into implementing it. 

No one argues that a suspect shouldn’t be subject to surveillance – though even that wasn’t enough to prevent Lee Rigby’s murder. It’s the old-fashioned surveillance of targeted individuals that will protect us – not a free-for-all to spy on everyone.

The most dangerous criminals and terrorists will never use the same phone twice. They will become experts in masking their digital identities. But the rest of us will suffer, along with democracy itself.

The modern Doreen Lawrences and John Stalkers; the whistleblowers striving to inform us; the journalists trying to break unpalatable news about the state – these are the people we risk silencing in this scary, brave new world.

Stefan Wickham

Hove, East Sussex


It’s a classic example of what is meant by the term “the establishment”. A key component of the deep state, the security services, cracked the whip to those politicians who are most sympathetic to them; the party leaders were summoned, and an announcement was made that legislation will be pushed through. A few  MPs will be defiant but most will follow their leaders, and the people who really rule will get their way.

And there will be more. The desire for control is  in the DNA of officialdom and enough is never enough for long.

Roger Schafir

London N21


Historical parallels in Israel’s situation

Robert Fisk (10 July) displays a woeful ignorance of British history when he asserts that Canada did not push its original inhabitants out.

In 1857, Queen Victoria selected Ottawa to serve as the capital of the colony. The aboriginal inhabitants were removed to reservations, their land seized and the city built. Aboriginal reservations were ruled by brutal laws intended to assure aboriginal people could never assert their rights.

Ignoring British imperial history suggests that Israel is without parallel and therefore to be judged by standards unlike any other nation. No one demands Canadian settler populations restore the land to its original inhabitants who remain subject to appalling conditions on reserves.

Ignoring complex histories will not allow Israelis or Canadians to confront the legacy of injustice.

Dr Pamela J Walker

Professor of History

Carleton University Ottawa, Canada


Robert Fisk “forgets” that in November 1947 the Palestinian Jewish community accepted the UN partition plan which called for the establishment of two states in Mandatory Palestine. The Arabs not only rejected the UN plan, they started a war; they objected to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, regardless of its size. In spite of the help they got from the regular armies of the Arab states, they lost and brought nothing but disaster to the Palestinian Arabs.

Had the Arabs accepted the partition, their state would be 66 years old now; there would have been no refugees and the lives of thousands, on both sides, would have been spared.

What is more, Hamas is not fighting to end the occupation, but to end Israel’s existence. That is why thousands of rockets have been fired from Gaza at Israeli towns and villages. In many places the residents have only 15 seconds to reach a shelter after the alarm sounds. No country can be expected to tolerate such attacks on its citizens. Israel may be criticised for the intensity of its military actions in Gaza, but would the UK respond any differently if hundreds of missiles were fired on its cities by terrorists?

Dr Jacob Amir

Jerusalem, Israel


Israel is being blamed for the current escalation in the Middle East (11 July), although it is Hamas that started the conflict.

The Arab world is in turmoil, but the engine that drives it is powered not by the Israel-Palestine dispute, but by Sunni-Shiite sectarianism. What better way to shift the focus to Israel than to attack her with rockets, thereby forcing her to respond?

Israel, however, instead of escalating, should channel its rage towards finding a peaceful solution, whose framework has now existed for several years. This involves land swap, whereby the Palestinians cede their claims to the larger Israeli settlements in return for which Israel would surrender territory in predominantly Arab areas.

It is a pity that although this proposal has been on the table for many years, President Mahmoud Abbas, instead of signing the proposal, chose to build bridges with Hamas, thereby sowing the seeds for the current conflict.

Randhir Singh Bains

Gants Hill, Essex


The Netanyahu brigade are warming up for another war. As Israeli peace activist Miko Peled has said, each war is provoked or started by the Zionists. At the peace talks John Kerry, Joe Biden and Barack Obama all blamed the breakdown on the Netanyahu cabinet, not the rest of the Israelis.

With the Caliphate gaining ground on the back of Saudi money and Wahhabi fanaticism, how long before the Islamists appear in Palestine? Then woe betide not only the Jews, but the Palestinian Muslims and Christians too.

We in the West owe the Palestinians our support. But it is needed now.

Peter Downey



The rights and wrongs of strikes

Julie Partridge (letter, 11 July) seems to think it would be inconsistent to require at least 50 per cent of union members to vote for strike action while allowing many MPs to take their seats on a turnout of under 50 per cent. This accusation of hypocrisy has been heard across all media in recent days but the comparison is a spurious one. In a general, local or mayoral election, everyone who will be directly affected by the outcome is given the opportunity to vote. This is clearly not the case with unions deciding to strike – as everyone affected by Thursday’s industrial action will have noticed!

Keith Gilmour



My advice to any striking fool: if you can get a better deal elsewhere, take it. However, if you can’t, shut up and be glad you have a job at all! If you still want to strike, don’t block access to work to others... and expect to be fired for stupidity and for damaging the very person or company that employs you!

Further – people who get paid by taxpayers should not be allowed to strike at all, because the public purse is not a bottomless pit from which they can extort money at whim.

Fred Nicholson

Westcliff, Essex


Talk of ‘france’s woes’ smacks of jealousy

Hamish McRae may crow on about meaningless growth figures (“Britain and France have very different strengths, but only one of their economies is thriving”, 9 July), but he forgets completely that France has a state pension worthy of its name, a health service which still works, education which is free, laic and open to all, doesn’t have hordes of people without proper homes to go to and doesn’t massage employment figures with zero-hours contracts and “McJobs”.

Moreover the railways are efficient and effective, traffic jams are relatively rare, as are bacchanalian orgies on Friday nights. I’ve chosen where I prefer to live and can only see these constant references to “France’s woes” as a kind of jealousy when it is seen how much better life is on the other side of the tunnel.

Terence Hollingworth

Blagnac, France


One hundred more moments, please

Today marks the end of The Independent’s “Great War in a Hundred Moments”, a superb, insightful series that seems to have gone over the top a bit early, over before even the lamps have gone out all over Europe.

The 1914-18 War lasted about 1,500 days, so lots of time please for several more “100 Great Moments”.

Jeff Wright

Broughton, Hampshire


Taking sides on Scottish vote

I have been impressed by the number of articles about the Scottish referendum this week. But are you not sending subliminal messages in support of the Yes vote with the title of this newspaper?

Rob Davidson