Monday, November 04, 2013

The fourth branch of government?

And while we're on the topic of leaks and contempt for democracy; Stephen Sedley, in the London Review of Books, highlights the increasingly troublesome place of spies in the UK's constitutional structure, in that secrecy and the obedience of Ministers have effectively made them a fourth branch of government:

One result has been a statutory surveillance regime shrouded in secrecy, part of a growing constitutional model which has led some of us to wonder whether the tripartite separation of powers – legislature, judiciary, executive – conventionally derived from Locke, Montesquieu and Madison still holds good. The security apparatus is today able in many democracies to exert a measure of power over the other limbs of the state that approaches autonomy: procuring legislation which prioritises its own interests over individual rights, dominating executive decision-making, locking its antagonists out of judicial processes and operating almost free of public scrutiny. The arbitrary use of sweeping powers of detention, search and interrogation created by the (pre-9/11) Terrorism Act, which recently made headlines with the detention of David Miranda at Heathrow, illustrates a long-term shift both in what is constitutionally permissible and in what is constitutionally acceptable. The former may be a matter for Parliament, but the latter is still a matter for the rest of us.

Though for how long, when any attempt to change things will be classed as "terrorism" (because spies "protect us", and therefore any limit to their powers "endangers lives", and votes and public opinion are "undue compulsion" on government)?

And again, we see this trend here: the procurement of favourable legislation, the subservience of Ministers to whatever ridiculous bullshit the spies whisper in their ears, the increasing use of (human rights violating) "special advocate" or "closed procedure" provisions to allow spies to present "evidence" in secret and without effective right of challenge, the ongoing immunity to OIA and Parliamentary scrutiny. It is reaching the stage where you can credibly wonder who is really ruling the country: the elected government, or the unelected securocrats at GCSB, SIS and DPMC.

Rather than protecting our constitution, our spies are a threat to it. They must be tamed, or destroyed. It is that simple.