Against Universal State Surveillance (2015), by Sean Gabb

Against Universal State Surveillance
by Sean Gabb
4th November 2015

The British Government is promising a Bill to make Internet service providers and telephone companies store details of our communications and to make these available to the authorities. Sean Gabb discusses this on BBC Radio Hereford and Worcester. He says:

  • The powers demanded are disproportionate. The Sinn Fein/IRA insurrection led to 3,500 deaths and was aimed and breaking up the United Kingdom. This insurrection was stopped without universal state surveillance. The threat from radical Islam is petty by comparison.
  • The powers demanded are unlikely to stop terrorism. Terrorists do not plan their attacks by sending e-mails to each other. Besides, there are over two billion e-mails sent every day in the United Kingdom alone. How are these to be sifted through in any effective manner?
  • The powers demanded are dangerous. When the State is able to access our communications, none of us is safe. The claim “Those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear” is worthless. We all have something to hide. Even if our lives are completely blameless by present standards, these standards may change in unexpected and unwelcome ways. To think nothing bad of the powers claimed is to make a bet with the future that may be lost.
  • As for the need to stop young men from going off to fight in Syria – why, let them go. But then cancel their passports and stop them from coming back. That will probably be very effective to stop recrutiment to the Islamic State.
  • By all means, let warrants be issued to intercept communications between people reasonably suspected of planning a crime. But let us have none of this projected universal surveillance.


  1. The threat from radical Islam is not petty compared to that which was posed by the IRA/Sinn Féin. Radical Islam is on the rise everywhere, with more jihadists being recruited every day. The perversity lies in the fact that the government is making no serious effort to reduce or even contain the problem by stopping Muslim immigration, or by removing the British military presence from Muslim countries. There is a Muslim population that’s growing faster than the indigenous one, boosted still further by uncontrolled immigration. Instead, the government is turning the UK into one vast Panopticon in the hope of keeping track of the growing number of people who feel no loyalty to it and who regard white British people as infidel dogs.

    In its own way, there’s a logic to the course of action the government is taking. In a fragmented society where there’s no trust and where a large number of people want to overthrow and replace the government, the only way of limiting the damage is by subjecting the population to as much surveillance as possible, so that at least some atrocities can be thwarted or mitigated. The hope of a libertarian society with the old freedoms that were guaranteed by English Common Law is now impossible.

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