Say NO to the Sleep Act!
In recent years, more and more legislation has been introduced that seriously threatens our freedom in the short, but certainly also in the long term. Each time, this is done from the fear card and by abusing citizens' trust in the rule of law and government. Politics and government are now far removed from citizens and are terrified that citizens will really participate in the democratic system. A current example of this is the new Intelligence and Security Services Act (Wiv 2017) and the upcoming referendum on this so-called Sleep Act.
In my view, the growing gap between citizens and governance is mainly caused by an excess of professional politicians. The word professional politician says it all: first and foremost defending the job and profession and only then standing up for the citizen as a politician. Citizen representation is further undermined by the abolition of participatory options, with the referendum being the first. Instead of a thorough investigation into possibilities of citizen participation, referendums and applications at the different levels of decision-making, the "ignorant and stupid" citizen who would not be able to deal with "complex" matters and is better left to the so-called "specialists" is talked about with great dedain. However, the and/and possibility to investigate is not discussed and studiously avoided.
Incident-driven political delusion of the day
Another cause of the growing gap is the poor or inadequate implementation of already introduced legislation or policies by politicians and government. A resulting trend is incident-driven, political frenzied decision-making. Because of failing implementation and support, incidents are magnified in the publicity and an immediate 'solution' must be found. Facts and numbers then no longer count and emotion dominates. Incidents are also used to accelerate - in our view - incorrect and ill-considered legislation, combined with the fear card.
Reversal of legal principles
All this happens with the inversion of basic legal principles: rather than the exception or incident confirming the rule, seems to be the guiding adage for some time now: 'the rule confirms the exception'. Whether it is freedom of expression in various areas or depriving citizens of their rights, each time the picture is the same: the incident is at the top, then comes a debate for legislation to be changed and new technology is seen as the golden calf from centralisation and control introduced. The lucrative contracts for lobbying from the IT sector are mostly left out of the picture.
As chairman of Privacy First, I have reported it many times before: the 'street terrorist' is explosive and gets a lot of attention and combat budget, the corresponding 'state terrorist', however, is like a sniper. Changing legislation at the expense of our freedom and privacy is relatively easy and meets with relatively little resistance from the public trust present. Through all kinds of detours in Brussels, The Hague and public-private collaborations, people lobby for more and further control of our society. Politicians and officials who knowingly and unknowingly introduce wrong legislation for lack of knowledge and tight scrutiny of our Constitution are, in my opinion, state terrorists and should be fired from office. After all, government representation is there for the citizens and not the other way around. This lest citizens wake up tomorrow in an electronic and democratic-looking prison.
In our opinion, the new Intelligence and Security Services Act is a bad law. Indeed, this law assumes:
1) Profiling based dragnet operation through large-scale collection and storage of data of innocent citizens.
2) As a result, the government is appropriating an unprecedented intrusion into citizens' privacy, private communications and private movements, real-time.
3) To make matters worse, the information gathered is also shared unfiltered with foreign services.
It seems like a Korsakov effect has occurred in the legislature and the history of recent years has been completely obliterated in politics. Echelon, Carnivore, Snowden, large-scale data breaches: examples of what nightmares are about to unfold in the future with the collection and sharing of this information. With a citizen enjoying freedom now, but increasingly cornered and in a suffocating chilling effect ends up. Where a neutral opinion is suddenly seen as controversial and citizens go underground to still be heard and thus radicalise; examples are the current polarisation on the internet and the 'fake news' discussions. The 'terrorists' of tomorrow will therefore, in my view, be current normal citizens who have nowhere to go with their one hundred per cent controlled opinion and freedom of movement.
ABC against the Sleep Act
Privacy First, in addition to the three main issues, which I have mentioned above, from our alphabet-based views, also has additional arguments AGAINST this law. We are in favour of a well-functioning government and security services, but guaranteed from the basic principles of our rule of law, the Constitution and taking citizens seriously. The current law will therefore have to be fundamentally amended on a large number of points, including in its implementation that offers a number of vague definitions and escapes for abuse. After all, the rule cannot confirm the exception, with all citizens under continuous suspicion. Privacy First therefore recommends a no vote in the referendum on the current Sleep Act, followed by thorough modification of that law. Failing this, Privacy First and supporters will enforce it in court, for a permanently free and secure future of ourselves and our children!
chairman Privacy First Foundation