| LONDON, April 25
LONDON, April 25 Britain's deputy prime minister
on Thursday ruled out plans to allow police and spy agencies
access to details of people's Internet use, dubbed a "snoopers
charter", threatening division in the coalition government over
security and civil liberties.
Senior police and security chiefs argue that unless they are
given new powers to monitor online activities, militants and
crooks will exploit advances in communication technology such as
Facebook and Skype.
Critics say the plans, closely watched by other countries
facing the same dilemma, represent an attempt to secure the
West's most far-reaching surveillance powers and are a gross
infringement of privacy.
Nick Clegg, leader of the centre-left Liberal Democrats, the
junior partner in the coalition government, said the proposed
Communications Data Bill, which had been expected before
parliament next month, would now "not happen".
"I'm afraid I think that it is not necessarily workable nor
proportionate," said Clegg, who newspapers reported had been
coming under pressure from activists within his own party, with
its traditional focus on civil liberty.
His opposition will anger some senior figures in Prime
Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, not least Home
Secretary Theresa May who has been a vociferous advocate of the
new powers which she argues is vital.
It also comes with the Conservatives, traditionally viewed
as strong supporters of law and order, and Liberal Democrats
appeared at odds over attempts to deport Abu Qatada, a radical
Islamist cleric deemed a national security risk.
"NOT GOING TO HAPPEN"
"What people have dubbed the snoopers' charter ... that's
not going to happen," Clegg said on his weekly phone-in on the
LBC radio station.
"The idea that the government pass a law which means that
there would be a record kept of every website you visit, who you
communicate with on social media sites, that's not going to
happen, it's certainly not going to happen with Liberal
Democrats in government."
A spokesman for Cameron said police and security agencies
had to be able respond to technological change and discussions
would continue as progress on the issue was important.
Currently, British mobile and landline telephone providers
must retain records for 12 months, in line with an EU directive.
Requests by authorities for details of a person's phone
contacts can be approved by a senior police or intelligence
officer without the need for a warrant.
The proposals would have expanded these powers to force the
retention of data about online activities, such as which web
sites individuals looked at and who they were talking to on
social networks, although the authorities insisted they were not
interested in the actual content.
Senior counter-terrorism and spy figures have warned their
work will suffer unless action is taken.
On Wednesday, Charles Farr, Director General of Britain's
Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, said advances in
communications was making "terrorism easier to conduct and safer
"Legislation and some degree of technology is required to
enable us to level the playing field," he said.
($1 = 0.6550 British pounds)
(Editing by Toby Chopra)