In May 2000, a court order was issued to the Guardian and
the Observer demanding they hand over any notes and emails
exchanged with Shayler ‘in the public interest’.
The judiciary was exercising its wide discretionary powers
to satisfy the demands of the police, and intelligence agencies.
Two months later, the Guardian and Observer won the right
not to release the information. Information gleaned by interception
is inadmissible as court evidence, but useful for covert investigations.
From now on the police would have to demonstrate ‘compelling
evidence’ for information to be thus obtained.
But that was before 9/11. At the moment data sharing is still
protected by law and subject to the common law duty of confidentiality
and consent. However, our government is preparing to overturn
the fundamental principle of data protection, giving government
bodies the freedom to share a citizens’ personal data
with other arms of the state without legal justification,
provided it is in the public interest. The functional separation
that exists between government departments is an important
aspect of justice and accountability, and this is about to
be lost. “We are not a democracy, and certainly not
a representative democracy”, Shayler says. “We
have no written constitution, no Bill of Rights. We live with
the illusion of democracy.”
It’s not the carrying of an ID card that Shayler objects
to, but the power of the database that is chipped within it.
Like Shayler, I have also entertained the ID card idea through
to its science-fiction conclusions – to a nation state
where humans are compulsorily chipped subcutaneously, where
refuseniks are forcibly chipped.