UK Liberty

Tough on terror, tough on truth

Posted in control orders, law and order, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on June 8, 2007

The BBC:

Home Secretary John Reid has outlined proposals to toughen counter terror laws – including reviewing the 28-day limit on pre-charge detention.

He said he wanted cross-party agreement on the measures, which also include a law change to allow terrorist suspects to be questioned after being charged.

Plans also include a sex offender-style terrorist register, and a review into courts using intercept evidence.

But MPs were told “stop and question” powers were not among current plans.

Apparently John is a bit annoyed because Peter Hain’s Northern Ireland department briefed journalists on the stop-and-question ‘proposal’ and then Peter said they risked creating “the domestic equivalent of Guantanamo Bay”. Then again that could all be a fairy-tale… who knows? We’re dealing with pathological liars here.

The measures are in a consultation document rather than a draft bill as Mr Reid has said he wants cross-party support before announcing more concrete measures in a counter-terrorism bill later this year.


  • Detention without charge beyond 28 days

Well, they tried 90 days and 60 days and failed. Second time lucky?

  • Questioning after charge
  • Allowing intercept information in court

Allowing intercept is something the Labour Government has always been against, while the LibDems, Tories and even civil liberties organisations such as Liberty have been broadly in favour of it.

I wonder now if they will propose to allow only the prosecution and judge to see the evidence. The problem for the security services is if the defence is allowed to see it. Of course it is a problem for civil liberties if the defence isn’t allowed to see it.

  • Register of convicted terrorists

Wouldn’t they already be on the PNC?

  • Entry and search powers for police to enforce control orders

That’s wierd, because the police already have entry and search powers to enforce control orders. As you can see from pages 3-5 of Lord Carlile’s Second Report (216Kb PDF), all control orders issued so far have among their conditions the obligation to “permit entry to police officers and persons authorised by the Secretary of State”.

The judgement JJ, gives us some more detail on what this means in practice: “Obligation 7 permits searches by the authorities at any time. In each case there has been a number of searches, and normally the searches “take place at irregular hours so that the controlled person cannot anticipate the time of the visit”.”

  • Increased security at key gas sites
  • Set out in law data sharing powers for intelligence and security agencies
  • Seizure of terrorist’s assets (currently only seized if a person is convicted of terrorist finance offence)

He said he, Prime Minister Tony Blair and the next prime minister Gordon Brown all believed that 28-day detention in terrorist cases was not enough.

The reason they failed before is that they couldn’t demonstrate that more than 28 days was necessary.

He did not say whether there would be a fresh attempt to extend the limit as far as 90 days, which was the issue that led to Mr Blair’s first Commons defeat as prime minister.

Ok let’s make it 29!

For dog’s sake, let’s stop having a pissing contest with numbers. What do we need and why?! Let’s see some evidence. Let’s see some supported assertions for a change.

But he said action was needed given that suspects had “unconstrained intent… to murder people in their thousands, or potentially, millions”.

“One way might be to legislate now to extend the current limit but to make it clear that there would be extra further judicial and Parliamentary oversight if such measures were ever implemented.”

He said he would encourage opposition parties to contribute further ideas and said police, civil liberty groups, the judiciary and community groups would also be consulted.

The government’s independent reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation, Lib Dem peer Lord Carlile, reiterated his support for extending detention without charge beyond 28 days.

He said there may be cases “in which the need to protect evidence, to discover what the evidence is, to de-encrypt computers, to find people may not be achieved within 28 days”.

With decent encryption you might, for practical purposes, never be able to decrypt evidence. What then? Detain people indefinitely?

BTW there is a very interesting article on SpyBlog regarding the supposed urgency of 28 days.

Mr Reid has blamed the courts and opposition parties for opposing previous attempts to introduce “tougher” anti-terrorism laws.

“Not my fault”, he whined.

But Conservative Party chairman Francis Maude later told BBC One’s Question Time that opposition to extending the 28-day limit was not about party politics.

“If there’s a compelling case that can be presented… then no reasonable politicians are going to resist that on purely dogmatic grounds,” he added.

But he said he did not believe the case had not been made to extend the limit, and that it might not be necessary if phone tap evidence and post-charge questioning of suspects were allowed.

Mr Reid, who will step down as home secretary in less than three weeks when Mr Blair leaves Downing Street, came under fire last month over terror suspects absconding when under control orders.

He told MPs he was now proposing new measures to toughen control orders relating to fingerprinting, DNA and police powers of entry.

But he was criticised after it emerged that police do not take fingerprints or DNA samples from suspects on control orders.

For the Lib Dems, Nick Clegg said: “This astonishing revelation merely underlines the profound flaws in the whole control order regime.”

It is not only astonishing but wholly bizarre. Indeed I cannot believe it.

Mr Reid also appeared to talk down the possibility of opting out of parts of European human rights laws, favouring instead an overall rethink of them.

Mr Beelzebub appeared to talk down the possibility of opting out of parts of the Ten Commandments, favouring instead an overall rethink of them.

And he announced that a committee of privy counsellors would review the ban on using telephone intercept evidence in court, but he said he had not been persuaded that it should be allowed.

Wierd. The one thing that, if properly used, could secure convictions, without offending civil liberties advocates.

A proposal to enter the data sharing powers of the security services into legislation, in order to “remove barriers” to individuals and organisations sharing information with them, was also announced.

On stop and question powers for police, Mr Reid prompted laughter from opposition MPs who have read of ministerial opposition to the plan, when he said it was subject to further internal government consultation.

Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said the Conservatives supported some of the proposals, but opposed extending the 28-day limit, which he said was already a “draconian” measure.

“Our priority must be to prosecute and convict terrorists, nothing less,” he said.

“It is the only way a liberal democracy can ensure terrorists remain locked up until they no longer threaten public safety. It does not require this House to undermine the ancient rights that millions died defending.”

Well said.

Mr Clegg added that his party would co-operate with the other parties, but “not at any cost”.

He insisted that maintaining a balance between “customary British liberties” and the new measures was essential and said he would not back an extension of the 28-day detention period.

I’m beginning to hate the word ‘balance’.


On taking (or not) DNA and fingerprints from controlees: I’m still not clear on this, so I would appreciate more information.

Reid said in his statement to the House that he wanted to put “the police’s counter-terrorist DNA database on a similar statutory footing to the national DNA database.”

I wish I knew what it all meant.


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