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Nothing to worry about?

Byline: Mike Kelly ? email mike.kelly@ncjmedia.co.uk AN EYE ON THE NEWS Sunday Sun FEBRUARY 9, 2020 29

IT'S often the defence of those who advocate stricter surveillance of British citizens that if people do nothing wrong they've got nothing to worry about.

The problem with that is, who decides if you've done something wrong? When last month our newspaper group asked people to #Do1thing to help the climate, I said it was a great idea and jokingly wondered if it would see us end up on a government watchlist of extremist organisations.

I asked because only a couple of days previously a report came out that Counter Terrorism Policing's National Operations Centre (CTPNOC) had in a document from November 2019 labelled XR (Extinction Rebellion) as extremist.

Further to that, CTP documents from June 2019 came to light, titled "Signs and Symbols", which listed XR and other peaceful groups such as Greenpeace and Peta, alongside banned terrorists and extremists.

Who, I wondered, decided they had done something wrong? While it caused anger and claims from activists that freedom of protest and thought were being threatened, Home Secretary Priti Patel lived up to her 'hang em high' image by, effectively, wondering what the fuss was about, saying it was important to look at a range of security risks.

The theme continued last week when Police Scotland confirmed that counter-terrorism officers there had sent out a guide listing XR and Greenpeace alongside neo-Nazi groups within the past few weeks, including several banned for terrorist violence.

They were sent across the public sector - including to medical staff in the NHS by a detective inspector in Police Scotland's counter-terrorism unit in Edinburgh - as part of the UK-wide counter-terrorism Prevent strategy. The officer invited recipients to distribute it widely within their organisations.

Britain is often portrayed as a security-obsessed Big Brother state and these incidents help bolster the image.

According to a report I recently read, there are six million surveillance cameras in the UK, more per citizen than any other country in the world, except China.

In this country, biometric photos are taken and stored of people whose faces match with criminals, even if the match is incorrect.

Last year a man was fined PS90 by police for disorderly conduct after he covered his face when passing facial recognition cameras in east London.

Going back to my original point, what did he do wrong? To my mind it proves it's not correct to say you have nothing to worry about if you've done nothing wrong.

Yet, the powers-that-be aren't always so revealing when it comes to national security matters.

The Intelligence and Security Committee submitted a report to Prime Minister Boris Johnson into Russia's interference in the British political system last October.

By convention Downing Street had about 10 days to raise objections to publication.

Nearly four months on, there's still no sign of it.

Whose face is being hidden rather than revealed here, I wonder. And will we ever find out?

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Author:Mike Kelly ? email mike.kelly@ncjmedia.co.uk AN EYE ON THE NEWS Sunday Sun FEBRUARY 9, 2020 29
Publication:Sunday Sun (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 9, 2020
Words:506
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