THE revelation by Sky News of the ‘Stingray’ programme, where fake mobile phone towers are set up to capture people’s mobile calls without their knowledge, and that the same process can be used to plant material on their phones without their permission, is yet another confirmation that the UK is an out-of-control police state.
Here the ruling class feels so insecure that there are no limits on its spying and repressive actions against ordinary people, carried out under the guise of combatting the ‘toleration’ of terrorism, extremism and crime that Cameron and May are alleging.
In fact, this secret police state spying is a criminal activity that is being carried out by the capitalist state on behalf of a frightened ruling class against the working class and the middle class, the majority of the people.
Asked directly about the use of Stingrays, Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met Police Commissioner, said: ‘We’re not going to talk about it, because the only people who benefit are the other side, and I see no reason in giving away that sort of thing.’ The ‘other side’ are the millions who are being spied on. Workers will reject his arrogant, outside the law, rationalisations.
Keith Bristow, the director-general of the National Crime Agency, said: ‘Frankly, some of what we need to do is intrusive, it is uncomfortable, and the important thing is we set that out openly and recognise there are difficult choices to be made.’ He wants the state to have the right to spy on who it likes, as it likes, when it likes, without being brought to account.
The fake mobile phone towers, IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) catchers (Stingrays), mimic mobile phone masts with the aim of tricking phones into logging on so that they can be used in any way that the state wishes. ‘With IMSI catchers, it’s very difficult for them to be used in a targeted manner,’ Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, commented. ‘In an urban space, thousands of people’s mobile phones would be swept up in the dragnet. What they do with that data, we don’t know.’
‘In November, The Times reported that the Metropolitan Police Service, the UK’s largest police force, was using Stingray technology, citing anonymous sources. According to The Guardian, the Metropolitan Police paid £143,455 for the surveillance equipment in 2009. Despite repeated Freedom of Information requests, the Met police will neither confirm nor deny that the force uses IMSI catchers.
Tim Johnston, a barrister who specialises in the law of surveillance at Brick Court Chambers, told Sky News: ‘We don’t know how they’re being overseen. There are a whole suite of commissioners that oversee communications, that oversee surveillance, and because we don’t know the statutory basis that’s being relied on, as a consequence we don’t know who – if anyone – is overseeing that use.’
The capitalist state is now able to remove an individual’s passport, to keep them out of the country, on the basis of ‘suspicion’. It is also able to relocate suspects to different parts of the country, a form of internment, on the basis of ‘suspicion’.
The same state is now putting questionnaires in front of Muslim schoolchildren, full of trick questions, to see if they qualify as ‘potential terrorists’ and, under the slogan that the UK is ‘too tolerant’, developing the capacity to spy on everybody, and jail people, after secret trials based on the state’s suspicions and ‘secret’ evidence that will never be made public.
With anti-union laws and strike bans ahead, along with an endless list of austerity measures, those who need watching as potential enemies of the state will number many millions. This will include a government, if Osborne has his way, and brings in new legislation, that makes deficit budgeting illegal.
However, the more that the state’s open dictatorship is built up, the greater will be the explosion of popular anger. There is only one way to deal with the capitalist state dictatorship, and that is to break it up and smash it with a socialist revolution, that gets rid of capitalism and its ruling class, and brings in socialism.