Data retention question

Ian Batten igb at
Thu Jul 17 13:57:59 BST 2014

On 17 Jul 2014, at 13:37, Brian Morrison <bdm at> wrote:

> On Wed, 16 Jul 2014 22:20:43 +0100
> Roland Perry wrote:
>> In article <20140716184157.0000286b at>, Brian 
>> Morrison <bdm at> writes
>>>> This is also why people attempting to mock the Parliamentary system
>>>> by posting photos of a handful of members in the chamber are
>>>> attempting to leverage a falsehood.
>>> Except that in this case they had so little time to read the Bill
>>> that the extra time spent listening to the debate (spaf!) might well
>>> have focused their thoughts on what it was they were voting on.
>> Not really, it's a very short bill and they've had several days.
> Amazing that so few voted against then.

They don't want to be thought to be soft on terror, or soft on child abuse, or something.

Here's my theory on terrorism.

There are two sorts of terrorists.  There are tossers who fantasise about
blowing up their political enemies (let's, for the purpose at hand, say
"undergraduates Trots of the 1980s fantasising about killing Thatcher").
They don't have access to any munitions, they wouldn't know what to do
with those munitions if they were delivered to them on a plate, they don't
know where their target is, they have no viable plan to fix any of these
problems and in any event, their discussion is mere bravado.

Then there's Patrick McGee, an experienced and competent bomb maker able
to obtain travel plans for Thatcher, construct a viable weapon that is
difficult to detect, equipped it with an effective trigger with an appropriate
delay, obtain documents that allow him to visit the room a month in advance,
install the weapon without being detected and get away with it when the
large explosion almost achieves its aim.

Intercept (etc) appears very good at catching the first category.  They 
have no operational security, because they're tossers, but they can be
arrested these days on the basis of thinking bad thoughts and trumpeted
as a triumph of modern policing.

Intercept appears almost completely useless at catching the second category,
who are rare, clever and extremely dangerous.  McGee got a PhD while in jail.

Yes, it's not as simple as this polar split, and in reality there's a continuum.
There might, possibly, be a tiny overlap between "competent and resourced
enough to present a real risk" and "stupid enough to get caught talking
about it on Facebook".  But all the people who have so far been arrested
for terrorist offences have been pretty much in the first category, and 
luckily the genuinely competent are thin on the ground and (as compared
to the very effective IRA) rather keen on getting killed in the process, which
limits their ability to learn from their mistakes.

The same appears to apply, mutatis mutandis, to the other horsemen of the 
modern apocalypse.  It seems quite easy to arrest people for downloading
child porn, and in the sense that they create a market for hideous abuse
quite right too.  On the other hand, it seems a great deal harder to actually
arrest people for actually abusing children, because presumably they're aware
enough of how seriously their crime is treated to take some operational 
precautions.  I'm not for a second minimising the issue of child pornography,
but beyond the creating a market argument I suspect that the vast majority
of those arrested as part of network-based child pornography operations 
present little actual threat.

In both cases, it's easier to arrest rather pathetic individuals who 
present little physical risk, but fantasise about being harder than they
actually are, than it is to find and arrest the genuinely dangerous who 
present a real risk.  So long as the distinction isn't made, law enforcement
can claim to be waging an effective war on bad stuff, using a vital crime
fighting tool, when in fact they're using a weapon mostly effective against
idiots to arrest idiots.


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