It is already permissible with an order signed by the home secretary to have a phone tap placed, but the contents of the tap cannot be used in court?
It is said by some that it may not be safe, since it often relies upon a known party being in the call to get the information out of the person on the end of the line. Well in that case, you probably wouldn't want to use it anyway.
But what about the case where an intercept has been made that is between two people who don't know they are being recorded. However the individuals concerned come to the attention of the authorities, if they suspect that something could be illegal and they have a phone tap placed, why can't that conversation be used?It would always be supported by other evidence. I'd hate to be arrested for rehearsing a play about the assonating of the US President with someone over the phone that was 'taped' somehow. (That brings about another possible discussion into do government agencies really have such a system that monitors all our calls and picks out the keywords of the day. Or does that technology really live in the realms of spy films and Hollywood).
But if there are suspected terrorists who are being monitored and their phone calls being recorded, why can't that information itself be used in court? Obviously, they won't use all the people from tapping, since it gives up a source of information. But when the time comes to shut down a group, or a person they still can't use the information.
You can bet your life that the phones of the four guys just back from prison have their phones tapped right now, but they could discuss terror plots to their hearts contents over the phone and nothing could be done about it, unless the authorities had other evidence as well. (That is assuming that they would even do such a thing. In light of the lack of evidence, we have to assume they are innocent depsite what ever we read in the papers, but again, that issue alone is worthy of another entire post).
As a threat to my civil liberty? I've always considered the protection from people committing illegal activities a violation of my rights, more so than to be monitored secretly, or carry an id card, or to have my DNA stored in some super database.
Just think how little crime there would be if at birth each persons DNA had been recorded. How can protecting me from non-law abiding citizens be an abuse of my rights? If I have nothing to hide, I should have nothing to fear.
Posted by Chris Wright at February 6, 2005 5:04 AM