As Snoopers’ Charter becomes law, our message to the Government: see you in court

Posted by Silkie Carlo on 17 November 2016

The passage of the Investigatory Powers Bill through Parliament is a sad day for British liberty – but the fight does not end here.

On 6 June 2013, when the Guardian reported that the NSA was practising mass surveillance of its citizens, I, like you, knew the world had changed.

The revelations that followed – that GCHQ was building profiles of all internet users, using webcams to spy on innocent people in the privacy of their own homes, sifting billions of our emails, logging our location data, monitoring our calls and texts – remain profoundly chilling. 

Industrial-scale spying

No democratic state had ever secretly deployed suspicionless surveillance powers against its citizens, and remained a rights-respecting democracy. Surely, the Snowden revelations were the breaking point for this dangerous trajectory? 

We thought this industrial-scale spying was the result of a failure of the democratic process, exercised without the knowledge of Parliament. With thanks to the extraordinary courage of Edward Snowden, Parliament and the public would finally have the opportunity to scrutinise the powers revealed and bring the state back into check.

I, perhaps like you, thought 6 June 2013 was the beginning of the end for mass surveillance. 

Attack on civil liberties

But in November 2015, the Government presented an Investigatory Powers Bill that would not only legalise the extraordinary spying powers revealed by Snowden – it actually extended them to permit hacking, big data profiling, and total internet surveillance.

Liberty and its members fought from the day the Bill was published to the moment it was passed to educate parliamentarians on the extraordinary technical, democratic and legal risks it poses – and warning of the attack it constitutes to our civil liberties in the modern world.

But under the guise of counter-terrorism, and in an environment of devastatingly poor political opposition, the Government has now won the ability to spy on the entire population – a ‘world-leading’ precedent.

Our fight is not over

A narrative of fear, suspicion and hostility is threatening our fundamental freedoms, and all human rights defenders must strive to embed civil liberties at the heart of our society if we are to defend human rights at the core of our laws and constitution.

And I am optimistic. As both a member and staff member of Liberty, it is emboldening to be part of the campaign against state-sanctioned spying with such a diverse, skilled and committed membership as Liberty’s.    

Our fight is not over. Perhaps November 2016 is the beginning of the end for mass surveillance. The new Investigatory Powers Act is overtly incompatible with human rights law and ripe for challenge.

Our message to the Government: see you in Court.


Our small team of expert staff have their work cut out – challenging surveillance in the courts, campaigning for change in Parliament, raising awareness in the media and online.

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