Friday, November 21, 2008

BEATS: ORWELLANDIA

Daily Mail, UK - More than half of town halls admit using anti-terror laws to spy on families suspected of putting their rubbish out on the wrong day. Their tactics include putting secret cameras in tin cans, on lamp posts and even in the homes of 'friendly' residents. The local authorities admitted that one of their main aims was to catch householders who put their bins out early.

The shocking way in which the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act - an anti-terror law - is being used was revealed through freedom of information requests made by the Daily Mail. MPs and civil liberties groups last night accused councils of using the draconian powers for trivial reasons.

Tory communities spokesman Eric Pickles said: 'Under Labor, the rights and liberties of law-abiding citizens are being eroded through plans for ID cards, sinister microchip spies in bins and abuse of anti-terror laws by councils.

The Mail requested information from all of the 474 councils in England. Of the 151 which replied, some 77 - more than half - said they had used the legislation in the last three years for suspected 'domestic waste, littering or fly-tipping offences'.

The revelations have raised fresh concerns about the Home Office's plans to create a 'Big Brother' database of every citizen's e-mail and internet records. Ministers say that councils will not have access to the information.

But critics point out that RIPA, which was passed as anti-terror legislation, is now being routinely used by town halls - and the same could happen with the database.

Phil Booth, of the NO2ID campaign, said that public bodies were 'assembling the tools of a totalitarian state'. He added: 'We are no longer living in what most would recognise as a free society. This is not justifiable or proportionate.'

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