Ordinary people have nothing to fear from Prism

Relying on stupidity, foreign secretary William Hague told the House of Commons that “ordinary people” have nothing to fear from US snooping.

William Hague told parliament that if ordinary citizens have done nothing wrong then they have nothing to fear from the recently outed US Prism spy scheme. He said that adequate safeguards are available to protect the privacy of ordinary people.

The line is that only terrorists, criminals and spies should fear secret activities of the British and US intelligence agencies.

In an ideal world, he might be right. However, the US National Security Agency’s scheme, codenamed Prism, has given people worldwide a lot to fear.

As Sir Terry Prachett has pointed out, everyone has done something, and few people have things that they do not wish to hide.

In an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Hague refused to say whether the British government knew of the existence of Prism. If he didn’t then MI6, MI5 and the Ministry of Defence should have been sacked for incompetence. However, Hague felt that he should obscure that fairly obvious question with a remark which indicated that he has Boris Johnson writing his press statements.

“I can’t confirm or deny in public what Britain knows about and what Britain doesn’t, for obvious reasons,” he said. However, he insisted that the news had not taken him by surprise.

Prism generated some 197 intelligence reports in the last year for British intelligence.

He said that GCHQ was not working out how to circumvent a UK law by using another agency in another country – and that idea is fanciful.

To prove that the UK government had little excuse for its antics he added the old line that law abiding citizens had “nothing to fear” from intelligence agencies’ activities.

This is arrogant and stupid. Prism means governments can call up information on you on a whim. True, MI5 is going to be too busy to look at you if you are ordinary, but the problem is that ordinary people have a habit of becoming very interesting very quickly.

What is scary is that it is the ordinary people who are apparently beating a path to the government’s door demanding protection from such rogue attacks such as the Woolwich beheading.

Sophie Veld, a Dutch MEP and vice chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, warned that laws in EU member countries were “over-ruled systematically” by the US. She told the Independent that the Prism affair could finally “wake people up” to data protection security.

The real risk is that the US could use Prism data to prosecute a European or call for extradition.