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UK Law May Criminalize IT Pros 514

An anonymous reader writes "More worrying news from the UK. This time, a bill meant to fight cybercrime may make it illegal to use or make available network security tools available, just because they could be used by hackers." From the article: "Clayton cited the Perl scripting language, created by Larry Wall in 1987, as an example of a useful technology that could fall foul of the law. 'Perl is almost universally used on a daily basis to permit the Internet to function,' said Clayton. 'I doubt if there is a sysadmin on the planet who hasn't written a Perl program at some time or another. Equally, almost every hacker who commits an offense under section 1 or section 3 of the CMA will use Perl as part of their toolkit. Unless Larry is especially stupid, and there is very little evidence for that, he will form the opinion that hackers are likely to use his Perl system. Locking Larry up is surely not desirable.'" A note that this is equally confusing but separate from yesterday's story about the UK government wanting private encryption keys.
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UK Law May Criminalize IT Pros

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  • by alx5000 ( 896642 ) <alx5000@alx 5 0> on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:40PM (#15368108) Homepage

    From the country that criminalized privacy []:

    Let's convict Perl users.

    I also heard that something called TPC or TCP is widely used by hax0rs to pwn remote servers. Wait till the UK Government can get their hands on it...

    • No shit. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AoT ( 107216 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:43PM (#15368129) Homepage Journal
      And I thought it was getting bad here in the U.S.

      I guess a written constitution does have some utility.

      • Oh, yeah, our Constitution has been working really WELL lately...

        Now if we could get our President to read it once in a while...

        Face it, folks, the US will go the way Britain is going - it's only a matter of time. ALL states end up in the same place - fascist dictatorships. As long as the public are gutless wimps - like this fool I've been arguing with over the NSA wiretaps yesterday - it is inevitable.

        • Re:No shit. (Score:2, Interesting)

          "Face it, folks, the US will go the way Britain is going"

          Actually, I can't decide if the UK is going on the way the US is going, or the other way around and that fact itself is quite scary.
    • So basically IT security experts can't test their own networks? I'm sure that will go a long way towards making the Internet more secure! Yeah I see a pattern, it's called ineffective and ignorant legislation... it seems to be quite popular these days.
    • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @04:00PM (#15368258)
      > From the country that criminalized privacy:
      >Let's convict Perl users.

      First they came for the COBOL programmers, and I was silent,
      They they came for the BASIC programmers, and I was silent,
      Because I considered GOTO harmful,
      Then they came for the C++ programmers, and I was silent,
      Because I could still write FORTRAN in any language,
      Then they came for the Perl programmers, and now the only way I can win an obfuscated programming contest is to write it in APL.

      (First they ignore you, then they fight you, then they mock you, then they come for the Brainf*ck programmers and their heads explode.)

      • Applause.

        Though frankly, the parallel between the story of Rev. Martin Niemoller and the direction where El Presidente de partida Laborista Antonio Bliar leads the country scares the daylight s**t out of me. And not just me.

        It has reached the point when I take the books written by another Blair (Eric Arthtur) in another time and put them back on the shelf. As one of my friends said recently: "Not funny mate, this is not a comedy, it is a documentary".
      • And then they came for the guys who didn't close their <TT> tags, and
        NO CARRIER
      • That's it - I totally have to write a BF virus now! I knew the time I spent learning that would eventually come in handy :D


    • I wonder what they think of 'Subversion?'

      This is similar to banning fertilizer after Oklahoma City, or nail clippers after 9/11. These people are only shrill little Cassandras who fret about the great cruel world out there. People should be thrown into little pink padded cells, where they will be safe.

  • by yagu ( 721525 ) * <> on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:42PM (#15368125) Journal

    Just as these tools are useful diagnostic tools they are also handy tools for commiting crimes as described under this proposed law. That's the nature of networks and tools to manage them. To deem these tools and availability of such a crime because they could be used to commit a crime is insane.

    This is akin to the recent proposal that all encryption key owners make their keys available to law enforcement. The expected eventual end result will be cautious users relinquishing valuable resources with criminals holding the trump card. This too is insane.

    So, when an administrator gets the call to investigate what appears to be suspicious behavior, where do they go to troubleshoot the problem? Heck, peel away all the layers of this onion and it wouldn't be surprising to find hackers are behind this... get the government to suspend priveleges using FUD, and run rampant over the network infrastructure.

    There is a hint of sanity from the article:

    People who distribute networking vulnerability scanning tools such as nmap or Nessus could also be caught up in part (b), Clayton warned.

    "The effect will be that people will stop offering these tools on their sites. Why should the only place to fetch Perl and nmap be from hacker sites in Eastern Europe, where the risk is that they carry Trojans? This makes the Internet less safe," argued Clayton.

    I only hope the government will listen to that reasoning.

    • I only hope the government will listen to that reasoning.

      You obviously have not had any experience of the UK government. "Listening" and "reason" are not concepts governments in general are familiar with, and especially not the present UK government.

    • It's like outlawing chainsaws because they can hurt people, or forks and knives, etcetera. Some countries/areas already outlaw certain knives while allowing other, potentially just as deadly knives (chef's knives) to be carried around.

      That's not to say, certain items should never be outlawed (nuclear/radioactive material), but with a proposed banning the legitimate uses have to be considered along with the illegitimate uses -- would a ban be more effective than simply punishing the specific people who harm
      • Some countries/areas already outlaw certain knives while allowing other, potentially just as deadly knives (chef's knives) to be carried around.

        This is easy to break down. It's all about one thing - the next election. Perception is huge, and instead of governing for the common good, people govern for the incumbant good.

        Take knives for example. Giant chef knives have the perception of being used to cook yummy food. Crazy blade shape dragon jewel encrusted lock blade half-the-size-of-chef-knives type knives carry the perception of being used only to harm others.

        So lawmaker X decides to latch on to that perception and propose a bill that outlaws the greater of the two perceived evils and then brag about how he is a champion of the people come next election cycle.

        This is one thing term limits are meant to stay off... to whatever effectiveness. Point is, outlawing "hacking" tools like this is simply a grab for the spotlight. Who cares if the details are ironed out. See, the likelyhood is it won't make it out of committe, but come election time, Mr. X can say "I proposed a bill that would have made it safer to surf the internet, but my opponent Mr. Y (a former network admin, but we won't mention that) STOOD AGAINST this potentially LIFE SAVING measure!!"

        Politics, pure and simple.

    • This is akin to the recent proposal that all encryption key owners make their keys available to law enforcement.

      It's also akin to the insistence that everyone cut off their feet, because feet can be used by criminals to move into and out of areas in order to commit crimes, and then escape from justice.

      I hereby proclaim that in order to be safe from those who would do us harm, we must all cut off our own feet, and turn them in to the authorities immediately. Except for people who can't walk. They'll have t
    • by Jazzer_Techie ( 800432 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @04:09PM (#15368334)
      I think the issue is that Perl code can be classified as a form of encryption.
    • by Khomar ( 529552 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @04:32PM (#15368508) Journal

      If you replace the software with guns, you will begin to understand the position of those who want the right to bear arms (modifications have been made).

      This is akin to the recent proposal that all gun owners give their guns to law enforcement. The expected eventual end result will be cautious users relinquishing valuable resources with criminals holding the trump card. This too is insane.

      Can guns kill people? Sure they can, but so can many other things that the typical person owns (knives, drills, cars). Guns are also tools, and used well they can be of great help. Many families in my area (Montana) rely upon guns for hunting to support their families (cheap meat). Unfortunately, hunting rifles fall into the category of a "sniper rifle" which comes under attack as an unnecessary weapon. And do not underestimate the value of having a weapon for self defense.

    • by malsdavis ( 542216 ) * on Friday May 19, 2006 @05:27PM (#15368975)
      This story is ridiculous! It is implying something totally different from what the law actually states in order to attract horrified readers. I bet the website is getting massive amounts of hits at the moment, but lets look at what the bill actually says:

      "A person is guilty of an offence if he makes, adapts, supplies or offers to supply any article --
      (a) intending it to be used to commit, or to assist in the commission of, an offence under section 1 or 3 [of the Computer Misuse Act]; or
      (b) believing that it is likely to be so used."

      This is a common-sense sense law which recognises software for what it is: a tool. It looks almost identical to the law which applies to other tools capable of being used to commit offences, i.e. knifes, hammers, axes, pieces of wood etc.. You don't see the police arresting people who use these, unless they use them to commit (or attempt to commit) a crime, so why would they suddenly arrest anyone who writes a pearl script?

      I think it is good to see a government finally recognising software like the useful tool it is, but one which (like most tools) can be intentially misused to cause harm.

      • The problem is part b. As TFS said, Larry has to know that evil h4xx0rZ are likely to use Perl as part of their attacks. Therefore, he's guilty under part b of the proposed law.
  • ...I say just make bits illegal and get it over with.

    The world will be SO much safer without all those nasty bits and bytes floating around on the internets

    OUCH! That pesky little bit just bit me. Take that and THAT you pesky bit! *smack*.

    • ...I say just make bits illegal and get it over with.

      As Claude Shannon rolls in his grave...

    • We can't get rid of all the bits! Are you mad??

      I say we just outlaw those hideously dangerous 1's, and let us keep the safe, agreeable, non-pointy 0's.

    • In fact, we here on Slashdot are partly to blame. I mean, we've known about the Evil Bit* for years and what have we done? Nothing. Actually worse than nothing -- we laughed about it.

      Well, after a few hax0rs are locked up in jail I can't wait to ask them "who's laughing now, funny guy?"

      (And just between you and me, word has it that **electricity** is involved in 100% of computer hacking cases. I say it's time to dig up Edison and Tesla and try them for conspiracy!)

      Evil Bit info: []
  • by Geldon ( 444090 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:44PM (#15368142)
    ... Or at least forcing someone to debug it should
    • ... Or at least forcing someone to debug it should

      I thought PERL would be illegal in England because nobody has a decryption key available to give to the government!
    • by Darby ( 84953 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @04:51PM (#15368658)
      Come on now, that joke is getting really stale.

      Seriously, who can't tell at a glance what this does just isn't paying attention:

                          ,24   +0)
                         ;@C=( 49,24
                       +9)         ;@_
                      =(@X,       $/)x(
                     25);$_[     $A[1*1]
                    *50   +$A   [0]   ]=q
                   /./;+ $_[$B [1*1] *1*50
                 +$C                     [0]
                ]="."                   ;@X=(
               $C[0*0]                 ,$C [1]
              );1   *1*               1*1   *1;
             while (394>             (join $",@_
            )=~y/.//){do{           $R=3*rand;@X=
           (((         int         (($         {(A
          ,B,C)       [$R]}       [0*0]       +$X[0
         ])/2+.5     )),int(     (${(A,B     ,C)[$R]
        }[1   *1]   +$X   [1]   )/2   +.5   +0)   ))}
      while $_[$Z =$X[1 ]*50+ $X[0] +0]=~ /\./; $_[$Z
      ]=".";+system$^O=~/[wW]in/?"cls":"clear";pr int@_}

  • Well then... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eosp ( 885380 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:44PM (#15368143) Homepage
    Let's ban the English language because you can discuss crimes with it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:45PM (#15368155)
    This sort of news is great for nations like India, Singapore and Malaysia. The more the Western world places completely unnecessary and unjustifiable limits on its use of such technology, the better off the non-Western nations are.

    A strong economy, and the higher quality of life it may bring, depends heavily on innovation and progress. That is clearly being hindered by those who support such legislation. Companies won't be able to take advantage of the productivity gains one gets from using the technology that may be restricted.

    In the end, it comes down to a matter of freedom. Those nations who are now free to innovate will do so, and will eventually prosper. Those who seek restrictive legislation over free innovation will see their wealth and standard of living decline rapidly.

  • So, how long before compilers and debuggers are made illegal? Especially the open source ones.
  • by gmiley ( 975720 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:46PM (#15368169)
    To compare this to another industry:

    Person 1: Hi, I make hammers, would you like to buy one? You can use them to "hammer" nails into things, really quite nice for building houses and such.

    Person 2: Wow, this is nice. I'll take one!

    Law: Woah woah woah! Hold on right here... This "hammer" you got here... yeah well that can be used to bash someone in the head, so... it's now illegal, you'll have to come with me now. That's right, hands behind your back.

    I've never understood the idea that because a tool can be used to commit a crime, that it inherantly makes the tool evil.
    • Just for fun to play devil's advocate...

      Gas Chamber
    • I've never understood the idea that because a tool can be used to commit a crime, that it inherantly makes the tool evil.

      Welcome, fellow NRA member.
      • Sweet irony, isn't it.
      • Welcome, fellow NRA member.

        The express purpose of guns, with the exception of hunting rifles, is to shoot people. (Hint: you don't use handguns or automatic weapons to hunt deer.) Many people buy these guns for their ability to shoot people, even if they *never* intend to use it in that capacity.

        Now suppose there was a magical way to prevent guns from shooting people. I predict that the NRA would, for the most part, lose interest in guns. And demand for them in general would drop off sharply as all the "sel
        • "The express purpose of guns, with the exception of hunting rifles, is to shoot people."

          There are three incorrect assumptions here:

          1) Historically, all guns were developed as a result of warfare. Most of the long range hunting rifles owe some of their development to military history. Guns were a followup development of previous projectile launching weapons used in war, when gun powder was made available. It probably wasn't too long after that some rich king or general decided that he could use it for the hu
    • I've never understood the idea that because a tool can be used to commit a crime, that it inherantly makes the tool evil.

      Maybe not evil, but overly dangerous. I bet most NRA members would agree that owning a tank, bunker-buster or bazooka should be illegal. How about ricin? They're all 'tools', but put to the wrong use (hard to use some of them any other way), their effects on society are too nasty to allow general ownership.

      Having established that, we've established that there's no absolute "all tools a
  • A person is guilty of an offence if he makes, adapts, supplies or offers to supply any article... believing that it is likely to be so used... to commit, or to assist in the commission of, an offence under section 1 or 3 of the Computer Misuse Act

    "Article" sounds pretty broad to me. It can mean object. I may be able to commit computer offense with a hammer, for chrissakes.
  • Illegal Tools (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pjwhite ( 18503 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:47PM (#15368172) Homepage
    I suppose crowbars and hammers should be outlawed, too, since they can be used for burglary.
  • Shitty Government. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ckwop ( 707653 ) * <> on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:53PM (#15368213) Homepage

    This is more sensationalist shit like the story about the RIPA. The law isn't very effective because the police can't force you to hand over keys that are used only to ensure the integrity of messages. This basically means that stuff like SSL, SSH and Zimmerman's Zphone are safe against seizure.

    I submitted a story on this but obviously the Slashdot editors care more about exciting headlines than the sober truth. I wrote an essay in 2003 and you can read it here [].

    I've not read the act but I can already guess how useless it will be. The short and long of it is that it is very tough indeed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that someone that you put the software there. Believe me I know, I was a witness in a Child Porn case. The defence won because when we found the content we didn't follow CPS guidelines in the data recovery method.

    Even worse, a hackers machine can look very much like a hacked machine. Hackers, after all, use one machine to get to the next. How are you going to prove they aren't the innocent bystander - BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT.

    Yet more time wasted by an incompetent government that can't even deport convicted foreign criminals.


  • by 9mm Censor ( 705379 ) * on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:55PM (#15368219) Homepage
    Computer hackers tend to use computers to commit computer hacker crimes. The link between hackers and computer systems is enhertiently intrinsic, therefore banning the use and ownership of computer systems would greatly reduce computer crime!
  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @04:02PM (#15368281)
    Leftist leaders even more than right wing leaders tend to have a hard time accepting the fact that you can do bad things with different tools. They also have a hard time blaming the person for their use of it. Conservatives do it with drugs by blaming the drugs for the armed robbery to feed the habit. Leftists do it with weapons. It's easy to blame a drug, a gun or a scripting language for a crime. It allows you to not be "judgemental" toward a person who is just an asshole. Neither side likes to admit that these things are totally the person's fault, derived from some inner flaw in the person's character that causes them to get high and rob, shoot to murder someone or hack to steal a person's money.
    • You're right, it's the current "politically correct" culture we live in. You don't want to be judgmental, you don't want to "discriminate", don't want to hurt anyone's feelings you know.

      Sorry, but I'll call a spade a spade. If you're a jerk, then you are, and trying to shift blame onto your childhood/current circumstances doesn't fly with me. You had a choice. You made a bad decision. Tough cookies. Grow up and be responsible.

  • Bans Nmap Too (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fv ( 95460 ) * <> on Friday May 19, 2006 @04:02PM (#15368286) Homepage

    TFA also states that "People who distribute networking vulnerability scanning tools such as Nmap or Nessus could also be caught up in part (b), Clayton warned.". A quick reading of section 41 [] seems to bear that out. As author and maintainer of the Nmap Security Scanner [], I am more than a little concerned.

    I'm certainly not going to let anything as silly as some U.K. law stop me from distributing Nmap, but I also don't want to become like Dmitry Skylarov [] the next time I give a presentation in England. And even if (as I would expect) the rest of the world ignores this, it could have a chilling effect on important security tools and research from U.K. citizens. Think of all the good research and tools that David Litchfield from London (NGS Software []) has brought us. And my London friend Hoobie brought us the free Brutus password cracker [], which appears to be prohibited by this bill.

    The good news is that this is just a proposal. So I would join the chorus in urging our British friends to make their voice heard against this silly bill.

    Insecure.Org []

    • TFA also states that "People who distribute networking vulnerability scanning tools such as Nmap or Nessus could also be caught up in part (b), Clayton warned.". A quick reading of section 41 seems to bear that out. As author and maintainer of the Nmap Security Scanner, I am more than a little concerned.

      I think that was the plan...but the really stupid thing and obvious thing that people seem to be missing is that tools like nmap, nessus and ethereal serve legimate and necessary purposes.

      I have no idea how
    • Re:Bans Nmap Too (Score:5, Informative)

      by Handpaper ( 566373 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @04:35PM (#15368539)
      It's not just a proposal. It's more than halfway into law:

      It was passed by the House of Commons earlier this month, and will be considered by the House Of Lords over the next couple of months

      Once again we must rely on the Lords to stop the knee-jerk stupidity of the Commons foisting more draconian laws upon us. Let's hope they continue to do their job.

  • This is the 3rd case that we heard of such idiotic law proposition in some place in u.s. or in europe.

    When will this folly end ? I have typed such comment as before, and i am doing it again before a month passes from the last time i did it.

    I repeat - representatives should not be allowed to propose laws for fields they do not know nothing about.

    It is DEFINITE that the people in question have no information on how internet functions, even though they might hold doctorate on information technology -
  • Well... they might as well make owning cars illegal because bank robbers will typically be using them to escape.

    They should also consider forbidding the sale of nylon socks since a lot of criminal do use them to hide their face.

    That's pretty sad that they ready to forbid everyone to use something because hackers uses them. Because in the end....hackers already have these tools and will still find a way to get their hands on it which will make the situation globally unchanged.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know a lot of Americans are confused by the British political system, so I'd like to explain it to them.

    First of all, the Labour Party has very little to do with the general, working-class labourers of the UK. So don't think of them as being liberal, or supportive of workers rights.

    In the US political system, they're most like the Republicans. Basically, they're neo-conservatives. That means that they threw out what might have been the most beneficial of conservative ideals, and instead replaced them with
  • This will only lead to a net decrease in computer security.

    Many network administrators like myself use these same tools to detect vulnerabilities. Obviously criminals aren't going to respect any laws relating to disclosure or tool creation, so preventing only law abiding administrators from access to them will only prevent system administrators from knowing about vulnerabilities in a timely manner.
  • Is it just me or are legislators and government officials all nuts.

    While they're at it, why not just criminalize the use of ANYTHING that could be used for less than honest purposes...

    Let's start with any programming language that is used to write the tools that are available to the bad guys. hmmm... that would potentially be all of them... so we may as well just ban computers in general... and cell phones, PDAs and anything with microchips... There goes my new toaster... Can't let the bad guys get my t
  • Action? (Score:2, Informative)

    by fandog ( 900111 )
    I sure hope if you're from the UK and posting here that you're also voicing your complaints to your gov't officials who are proposing and voting on this stuff...

    Let them know it's horsecrap before businesses have to start moving out of the UK to survive.(!)

  • by ChristTrekker ( 91442 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @04:26PM (#15368455)

    Criminalizing the mere possession of something just because it could potentially be used in a crime is pretty stupid. Until you do something that actually harms someone, where's the crime? "Innocent until proven guilty" remember? Just because someone has means, and could find opportunity, doesn't mean he has motive to commit a crime. Don't you need all three? Mens rea, anyone? All these sorts of laws do is make criminals out of normal, honest, otherwise-law-abiding people.

    Until you stab someone, your knife is just a useful cutting tool. Until you shoot someone, your gun is just a useful self-defense and hunting tool. Until you crack something, your network analysis software is just another tool. There is nothing inherently bad/evil about them. Merely possessing them does not twist a normal person into a psychopathic criminal.

    Anyone else think we'd have better lawmakers if we plucked some names at random from the phone book?

    • Sorry innocent until proven guilty is obsolete.

      They found it was inconvenient to prove someone did something before punishing them.
      Much easier to simply accuse and punish, how else can they prosecute thought crime.

      Seizure and liquidation of the property of people accused but never convicted of a crime does happen, and has for a long time.

      Criminal justice reform is unlikely to happen because people see this as soft on crime, they just want to punish someone there is little political incentive to work on maki
  • I guess ZFone [] is right out then. Dynamic encryption key set up by using Diffie-Helman on a call by call basis with an unknown peer using no pre-shared key (PSK). A dynamic way to make VOIP untappable. Even with the incredible tools [] that the NSA uses from Narus Networks [] and optical splitters to assemble profiles on every conversation and protocol used by a given source IP address. (The Narus tools used by the NSA can decode all major codecs). Assume your Vonage calls are on a hard drive somewhere.
  • I'm not sure if I always agree with this statement, but it seems particular apt in this case. Guns don't kill people; people kill people.

    There are any number of examples out there of a tool, or technology, having multiple uses. Many are legitimate, and some are illegal. Should we ban the use of knives everywhere, essntial tools of every chef on the planet, because they can be used to injure or kill people?

    There are many cases where a double-edged (no pun intended) tool or technology requires lice
  • Goverments should be afraid of hackers.
  • Read this [] and realize the USA is a party to this as well.
  • A person is guilty of an offence if he makes, adapts, supplies or offers to supply any article --
    (a) intending it to be used to commit, or to assist in the commission of, an offence under section 1 or 3 [of the Computer Misuse Act]; or
    (b) believing that it is likely to be so used.

    Given their well known and frequently abused security issues, doesn't this outlaw the distribution of Windows along with Outlook, I.E. and various other of their products?

    A person is guilty of an offence if he makes, or offers to
  • They should outlaw the use of English in all communication. It is used in an activity called "planning" of almost all major crimes, cyber or real world. Very dangerous language. Ban it!

    Or, as others might say "Guns don't kill people. People with guns kill people." Perl is not your enemy.
  • Yay (Score:2, Funny)

    by Rorian ( 88503 )
    This makes me feel so much better about moving to the UK as an IT professional..

    Why must they always pick on the good, honest guys while the criminals just dodge by their "preventative measures" every time?
  • I propose that we expand this to people in general. Almost every robery involves a gun, or knife, or some type of weapon. So, lets ban weapons completely. This includes law enforcement and military. Lets see how they do without their guns, knight sticks, finger nail clippers.....
  • will have coding tools.

    You can have my networking tools when you pry my cold, dead fingers off the keyboard!

  • by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @05:01PM (#15368736) Homepage Journal
    I'm a United States citizen. While I am horrified about what's been going on currently in the US, it doesn't really suprise me, given our history as the self-appointed Savior of Europe after WWII, defender against communism, the Vietnam war, etc.

    With our two-party political system, both parties have to pander to their base, which, to simplify a lot, is socialists for the Democrats and facists for the Republicans. Now that the republicans are in ascendancy, I'm not surprised that corporate power is going unchecked, and those who don't believe in government are unable to govern competently. After 9/11 burst our bubble that oceans would protect us from what's going on in the rest of the world, and the fact that we're waging a 'war on terror' that will never end, I'm not surprised that people would become fanatical and fall in line behind a militaristic administration.

    However, what the hell is going on in Great Britain that gives political cover for this radical infringement into the rights and privacy of the people? Didn't the U.K. defeat Facism that threatened to overrun the country? Hasn't the UK been fighting terrorism from Ireland relatively sanely for decades? Doesn't the parliamentary system give *some* power to other policital groups which are somewhat left-leaning?
    • by mickwd ( 196449 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @07:04PM (#15369560)
      This may sound a little partisan and controversial, but the problem is basically Tony Blair.

      Since coming to power, he's increasingly become a control freak.

      He's emasculated the house of lords, under cover of "reform", while seemingly trying to block the option (favoured by many MPs) of a largely-elected house of lords (because a largely-elected second chamber would be a legitimate "check and balance" on his authority, as compared to a set of nominated place-men). (See for example here []).

      He's also marginalised parliament - his government carries out the minimum of "debate" there now, merely using it as the place to anounce previously-decided policies. There was a big fuss recently, little reported, about the government trying to pass a law allowing them to change legislation at will, without any debate at all, under cover of "reducing red tape" (see here [].

      Even within the cabinet, he seems to fire anyone who seems remotely a threat or who disagrees with him in any way (with the exception of Gordon Brown, the chancellor (and probably the next Labour leader), who is powerful enough to be left alone).

      Since he's been prime minister, there have been dozens of crime bills, making hundreds of new criminal offences (e.g. see here [].

      He's increasingly making noises about the criminal justice system being "out of touch" (i.e. not automatically just doing what he says), in a seeming bid to further curtail their powers. For what he's already achieved, see, for example, here [].

      He himself is becoming increasingly irrational and out-of-touch to the extent where his party are starting to think of him as a liability, let alone what the country now thinks of him. The more out of touch he gets, the determined to get his own way he becomes. He's done a lot or damage to this country's constitutional processes, a lot of damage to its reputation (via Iraq), and the sooner he goes, the better.
    • from the UK (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ElephanTS ( 624421 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @07:09PM (#15369581)
      I grew up in the 70s in London when the IRA were fairly routinely blowing stuff up. At no stage did anyone suggest compulsory ID to deal with this. Mainly the bins were taken off the trains and eventually a 'ring-of-steel' (meaning police checkpoints at increased presence) around the City Of London (our Wall St). Then somehow by the end of nineties we had become the most surveilled people on Earth.

      Post 911 the talk of terrorism never went away. And then 7/7 came along and the paranoia and suspicion just went sky-high. Now we too lived in a country where any change of law could be carried off with the mere mention of the T-word. (Either that or the other one, the P-word, the Glitter-crime). This year Blair has is own little version of the Patriot act coming into force, one where he can issue laws without recourse to Parliament as long as they don't include tax increases or a prison penalty greater than 24 months.

      Electronic sniffers are be trialed on a few parts of the underground smelling for explosive traces and there is a scheme in planning for a countrywide network of number plate recognition cameras recording all vehicles on a gigantic DB. Most London Transport users use RFID (oyster) in replacement for the old tickets and all this data is recorded. We will have RFID national ID soon at a cost of around £90 per person, compulsory. I could go on but here's a link or two to go on with. [] []

      So, as Orwell (real name: Eric Blair) predicted, we really are heading for a BB state. It's obvious that the UK is the USs puppy dog and we are in the 'endless' war just as long as you are. Really the UK is just another state of the USA. Maybe even quite a powerful and important one at that.

      There is a saying in England "Watch America that's what here will be like in 10 years time" - now it seems we've just about caught up or even exceeded what's going on in the US.
  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @05:04PM (#15368776) both Britain and the US, laws phrased the way this is are usually construed such that, in order to commit an offense, the person making, distributing, etc., an article would have to have the intent or belief that that particular instance would or was likely to be used for criminal purposes. It wouldn't outlaw, e.g., making a software tool with the belief (or even near-certain statistical knowledge) that, among all the users, some number of them would use it illegally.

    That's not to say its not still overly broad, unnecessary, chilling, etc., even so, but the idea that it amounts, if enforced across the board, to a ban on Perl on the basis that the creator knows that someone, somewhere is likely to end up using them illegally is probably greatly overstated. At least, as I understand things.

  • Seems to me... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eth1 ( 94901 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @05:10PM (#15368823)
    ...that a good way to fight this would be for every single government IT worker to follow this law TO THE LETTER! "Sorry boss... can't do that anymore... here's why." When the lawmakers can't get their email and have their security breached because their own people didn't have the tools to do the job, maybe they'll see some sense. And, of course, if they fire you because you wouldn't do something illegal, that's probably a big settlement coming your way...

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