Saturday, June 20, 2015

Justification and criticism for lawful access legislation like #BillC51 two sides of same coin.

The justification for Lawful Access sounds like:

  • There is some small percentage of people within Canada who might commit [bad behavior], so we must more closely monitor Canadians to find those outliers and stop [bad behavior].
The critique many of us have against most Lawful Access implementations sounds like:
  • There is some small percentage of people within government agencies who might commit [bad behavior] with the help of additional powers granted to those agencies, so we must more closely monitor government agencies to find those outliers and stop [bad behavior].
The specific [bad behavior] doesn't really matter, and has changed over the years as the politics of the day changes. Some years it is generically "crime", sometimes "child pornography", sometimes "hate crimes", and these days the most widely abused is "terrorism".

Fundamentally, I believe legislation that add more power for government agencies to monitor citizens that doesn't come with additional monitoring of those government agencies can never be claimed to be anti-[bad behavior].  Granting the regular human beings who work for these government agencies more inadequately monitored powers makes it more likely that [bad behavior] will occur, just this behavior will be within rather than outside government agencies.

I am not suggesting people who work for the government are bad people, only that they are real-life people and not academic theories.  People don't become some sort of different species simply because they train for and are accepted into a specific profession.  It might be easy for some eggheads to speak of theoretical government, law enforcement and intelligence workers, but some of us live in the real world.  As only a few examples I have a cousin married to an police sergeant, the uncle of my god-children is in the RCMP protecting the Prime Minister, and this month I went to a cottage with the family where the husband works at the "spy palace" here in Ottawa.  These are great folks, great parents where I have watched their children grow up, but they are clearly not some different species from other Canadians.

I have many friends who believe that agency workers will be targeted by those who want to corrupt them to access the additional powers they have at their disposal.  After all, these are regular human beings who can be tempted by money or swayed by threats against their family and friends.  I don't believe we need to take this reality into consideration to recognize the flaws of legislation like Bill C-51, although it would be appropriate to consider when eventually drafting laws to protect Canadians. Having inadequate scrutiny of agency workers puts their and their families lives at risk, while if anyone who might otherwise want to corrupt these workers knew the power couldn't be abused they wouldn't have any reason to threaten these people.

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