STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Private Investigators Targeted in Britain
By Staff News & Analysis - September 21, 2012

Private detectives are out of control in Britain … He may be looking at you – and you can't stop him … The reputation of the private investigation industry has taken another turn for the worse this week. News that the detective firm Southern Investigations had placed the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner Lord Stevens under surveillance has been greeted, quite rightly, with indignation. The notion that the most powerful police chief in the land can be spied upon by private eyes – and remain completely unaware that this was happening – throws into stark relief the sheer audacity of private detectives in Britain. By Jake Wallis Simons Society/UK Telegraph

Dominant Social Theme: Police don't need to be scrutinized because they enforce the law.

Free-Market Analysis: Jake Simons, a Telegraph writer, has penned a column expressing indignation that a former top law enforcement official was privately investigated.

This is surely part of a larger British trend toward lawlessness. We use the word in a different context, though. For us, the investigations into the press, the use of the law to convict homeowners defending themselves and the general effort to make officials above the law is lawless.

This is what is going on in Britain now. The full weight of authority has been brought against the British press for phone hacking but the largest offender in this regard is British officialdom.

Ordinarily, we're no fans of Wikipedia (even though we find it convenient to quote from). But we recently came across reports that Jimmy Wales intended to fight back against the latest outrageous legislation being contemplated in Britain. Here, from an article over at the Huffington Post:

Jimmy Wales: Wikipedia Will Encrypt UK Users' Web History If 'Snooper's Charter' Passed … Wikipedia will encrypt all connections with Britain if new laws to track internet, text and email communications are implemented.

Jimmy Wales, founder of the online encyclopedia, said that the "snooper's charter" would be a disaster for British communications. He likened the law to measures more usually taken in restrictive regimes such as China or Iran, and said that if UK ISPs are forced to keep track of users' movements Wikipedia will encrypt their connections.

There seems to be a lot of resistance to this bill but one has to remember it is only a single brick in a wall of oppression built by British upper classes and the larger Money Power.

The idea always is to expand government and then use it to advance the private interests of the most powerful. Britain and the British upper classes are extensively experienced at this. Here's some more from the UK Telegraph article:

Last July I presented a Radio 4 documentary called Crouching Low, Hidden Camera, about the shadowy world of private investigators. Over a period of some months I intensively researched the industry, speaking to detectives both on and off the record, and even joining a team from an agency called Answers Investigation on a surveillance operation. What I discovered was rather shocking. In Britain, there is no regulatory system for private detectives. Yes, you read that right. Private eyes are free to do as they please.

This creates an odd scenario in which police are required to go through a Byzantine process of admin and legal wrangling before they set up a surveillance operation, while private investigators can snoop around at will. In some cases, police forces are happy to liaise with private detectives, since they can get results in a far cheaper and easier way,

Some detectives told me that they are often called in by victims of crime to re-open cases that the police have kicked into the long grass. James Harrison-Griffiths of Aitch-Gee Investigations, an ex-policeman who went private some years ago, has even investigated suspected murders that the police, squeezed by limited resources, have hastily ascribed to suicide. He has also investigated mid-level corporate fraud and missing persons, both of which are low priority for the police. Another detective I interviewed, Charley Hill, specialises in art crime and has helped recover paintings worth many millions of pounds; another, Cliff Knuckey, focuses on money laundering and counter terrorism financing.

We can see from this assessment that people are using detectives to fill in for the police, where the police have been either unproductive or unwilling.

And this is not unusual for civilian police forces. Officers of the law often have little incentive to pursue certain cases. They are time consuming, unproductive or provide little in the way of revenue.

One could argue, in fact, that modern policing is employed for two purposes: one, to keep the modern power structure intact and free from rebellion and, two, to raise revenues that enable the first purpose.

If this is the real agenda of the police, then what's taking place makes sense. Here's where the UK (indeed the West) is headed, courtesy of a report compiled on the orders of the UK's Information Commissioner back in 2007:

UK 2017: under surveillance by Neil Mackay/Herald Scotland … It is a chilling, dystopian account of what Britain will look like 10 years from now: a world in which Fortress Britain uses fleets of tiny spy-planes to watch its citizens, of Minority Report-style pre-emptive justice, of an underclass trapped in sink-estate ghettos under constant state surveillance, of worker drones forced to take on the lifestyle and values of the mega-corporation they work for, and of the super-rich hiding out in gated communities constantly monitored by cameras and private security guards.

This Orwellian vision of the future was compiled on the orders of the UK's information commissioner – the independent watchdog meant to guard against government and private companies invading the privacy of British citizens and exploiting the masses of information currently held on each and every one of us – by the Surveillance Studies Network, a group of academics.

On Friday, this study, entitled A Report on the Surveillance Society, was picked over by a select group of government mandarins, politicians, police officers and academics in Edinburgh. It is unequivocal in its findings, with its first sentence reading simply: "We live in a surveillance society." The information commissioner, Richard Thomas, endorses the report. He says: "Today, I fear that we are, in fact, waking up to a surveillance society that is already all around us."

The academics who compiled the study based their vision of the future not on wild hypotheses but on existing technology, statements made about the intentions of government and private companies and studies by other think tanks, regulators, professional bodies and academics.

The report authors say that they believe the key theme of the future will be "pervasive surveillance" aimed at tracking and controlling people and pre-empting behaviour. The authors also say that their glimpse of the future is "fairly conservative. The future spelled out in the report is nowhere near as dystopian and authoritarian as it could be."

Since this report was issued, Britain can be seen to be on track toward this sort of society. Nothing has changed. The trends are not only evident but on track. Private investigations, whether in good taste or not, are prosecuted while the larger British invasion of rights goes unchecked.

Part of what combats oppression is the ability of people to keep tabs on those in public life who supposedly represent them. But even the British phone-hacking scandal pales in comparison to the kinds of tracking of citizens that the British government does every day.

The Telegraph article ends with the observation that "it cannot be right that any member of the public can buy a pair of binoculars and a listening device, design a website, and set themselves up as a private eye with no prior experience or qualification. Think about it. If somebody is watching you now, there is no way of knowing, and nothing you can do about it. It's high time this state of affairs was addressed."

After Thoughts

But the British law enforcement apparatus does this all the time. There are more public cameras in Britain than anywhere else in the world, apparently. The snooping is distinctly one-sided. And it's getting worse. Here's to more snooping by the public, not less!

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