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Monday, December 16, 2013 

We don't need no damn facts here boy.

Facts are great.  You can prove anything with facts.  But you know what's better?  Debates based around complete and total ignorance.  Yeah!  You know the ones, the kind we have when the great British public think 15% of 15-year-old girls get pregnant every year, or that 31% of the population are immigrants.  These debates are the best for the obvious reason that you can say absolutely anything, and because we simply don't have even the slightest inkling of what the reality is, everyone wins.  Did you know that 90% of 18-24 year-olds now have tattoos?  Actually, that's bullshit, the figure is closer to 25%. I don't think that's right.  Yeah, well, you're the one who's wrong, idiot.  What did you call me?*

And so on.  Much of politics does of course revolve around ignorance, whether it be from the politicians themselves, such as over internet safety/pornography, or indeed dealing with the fallout from the public's own perception of the nation, itself fuelled by the nation's finest newspapers and broadcasters.  It's surely come to something though when we have politicians at an evidence committee agreeing that we don't need any damn facts in order to have a debate.  Both Ian Austin, clearly one of Labour's finest, and Theresa May concurred that we could have just as good an in-depth and informed discussion on GCHQ and state surveillance without the Guardian having published so much as a single document from Edward Snowden.

To be fair, this is at least an improvement on the government's previous position.  First they told the Guardian that they'd had their debate and it was time to hand over all the documents; now we can have a debate for as long as we like, it's just they'd really rather like it if we didn't know GCHQ was busy mastering the internet, or failing to crack Tor, or being funded by the NSA, or has the capabilities they were demanding in the data communications bill and so we instead mainly talked of how wonderful the security services are at keeping us safe.

Theresa May is certain then that terrorists have been helped thanks to Snowden and the Graun.  She doesn't have evidence that they have, as she repeatedly failed to say whether MI5 had let her in on how the various al-Qaida nasties have been rubbing their heads with glee as revelation has followed revelation.  Merely, she was convinced by what she had "seen and heard" that national security had been damaged.  In other words, as with others who have gone before her, May seems to be suggesting that anything with the potential to help terrorists, regardless of how slight or how ridiculous it is for say the location of Faslane to remain secret should remain that way just in case someone with a beard and a backpack should turn up in the vicinity.  Thankfully, other officials with slightly more sense than our politicians decreed a few years back that not identifying army bases on maps was really fantastically stupid, and the same principle applies here.  Anyone planning on launching an attack would have to be really quite daft not to think the potential was there for either the police or MI5 to be listening in.

The predictable nonsense out of the way, the rest of the session was a bit more illuminating, and an improvement on the appearance of the chief spooks themselves.  Without saying so, May more or less made clear that only the ISC will be allowed to question our friends in the intelligence agencies, despite Parker having seemingly agreed to appear before Keith Vaz and friends.  She also doesn't think that members of the ISC should be elected, rather than chosen by the prime minister, hence why such first rate minds as Hazel Blears are on the committee rather than say anyone with a healthy scepticism of the executive.  Nor do we know if the spooks have been so much as consulted over how it was Snowden managed to get hold of hundreds of thousands of documents, or whether the access regime has been changed, as May only said she was sure they would have been consulted.  Considering the NSA still hasn't managed to work out exactly what Snowden took, you have to doubt quite how seriously they will have taken our concerns.  

May also said that 9 of the 10 people currently on TPIMs are British, whereas all of those who had been under control orders were foreign nationals.  In other words, and as Phil pointed out in the comments last month, we now have a system only slightly removed from control orders that mainly targets British citizens rather than those who couldn't be deported, and yet no one seems to be asking why it is these people can't be prosecuted as opposed to partially deprived of their liberty on the basis of secret evidence.

See, dangerous things those facts.  They cause problems, and start campaigns.  Far better that we have a monopoly on them, or better yet, dispense with them altogether.  Something they're already doing at Michael Gove's free schools.  Bad-ba-dum tsk.

*I have no clue what the real percentage is, and I also don't care.

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