The proposed plan to store in a central database every cell call, text message and email in the United Kingdom reminds me of a line from Bill Atwood’s song "USSR," from his album 3:25 A.M.:
…and everything I do they see; there’s always somebody near.
He also sings about "across the sea, where men are free." Presumably that’s the North Sea (since Atwood was British,) but the freedom is slipping away.
Sometimes the loss of freedom goes both ways, however, as Lord Rees-Mogg comments in Bring Back the Prima Facie Test:
British businessmen do not trust American criminal law because of plea bargaining, in which the horrors of some American prisons are used as a threat to impel people to plead guilty in return for an agreed sentence. The difference between a possible fifty years in a violent prison and two years in a country camp can be a very compelling argument.
The U.S. is put at a disadvantage, since this makes businessmen reluctant to trade with the United States when there is the faintest chance of any party to a negotiation – such as Enron was in the Natwest case – being accused of illegal conduct, under the very wide U.S. laws which cover conspiracy. Counter terrorist laws, and laws against organised crime can apply to ordinary businessmen, and frame the judgment of business transactions.
The U.S. puts way too much stock in incarceration as the method of choice to enforce social policy, and passes way too many complicated laws to micromanage that policy. Americans take this kind of thing for granted, but others don’t. And frankly I don’t see why they should.