(The Guardian, Sunday, April 20, 2014)
"Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law," responded Vladimir Putin to a question from Edward Snowden live on Russia Today. He added: "We don't have a mass system of such interception, and according to our law, it cannot exist." The Russian president may as well have been reading from a UK script. Earlier this month, David Cameron welcomed a new report by the UK's lickspittle surveillance watchdog assuring us that our surveillance laws remain fit for purpose, contrary to Snowden's disclosures. The report, by the interceptions of communications commissioner, Sir Anthony May, says UK agencies do not "engage in random mass intrusion into the public affairs of law abiding UK citizens", noting that "it would be comprehensively illegal if they did". The report exemplifies the ways in which the UK response to the Snowden revelations is providing a worrying precedent for Putin and other autocrats, and has been incommensurate to the scope and scale of the problem at hand.