UK Liberty


Posted in detention without charge, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on June 1, 2008

The BBC:

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Lord Goldsmith said passing the anti-terror bill would help destroy the “very basis of free society that our ancestors fought so hard to create”.

The Labour peer, who was attorney general when Tony Blair made a failed bid to increase the detention limit to 90 days, said: “There can be no mistake that extending the period suspects can be held without charge is a very serious incursion on our fundamental freedoms.”

His comments have been criticised by fellow Labour peer Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, who asked why he “sat on his hands” when Mr Blair tried to increase the limit.

Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, she said: “Isn’t it amazing how after office suddenly people discover what their values ought to be?”

But nevertheless good that he is speaking out these days.


The need for an enemy

Posted in politicians on liberty by ukliberty on June 1, 2008

Some good stuff from Simon Jenkins in the Times:

… Enemy starvation is a sign of weakness in a country. It suggests a loss of self-confidence, a collapse of political cohesion. To Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four enemies were necessary to a totalitarian state. When Tony Blair was in trouble he fell back on the same device, the politics of fear. “I feel passionately,” he said in 2004, “that we are in mortal danger of mistaking the nature of the new world in which we live.”

This doom-laden declaration contained all the messianic buzz phrases listed by the political theorist Ulrich Beck as “elixir to an ailing leader”: feeling, passion, mistaking nature, the new world and mortal danger. They summoned up a need for unity where democracy offered none and loyalty to the leader when it was disintegrating. …

The West has not curbed Al-Qaeda.

The movement has been honoured by Blair, the neocons and the military industrial complex as the global antithesis to the once-vaunted new world order. Never can so wretched an outfit have been awarded so vast a dignity. …

I have more faith in western democracy than the lily-livered neocons. I believe in the robustness of its institutions, its traditions and its liberal outlook. They beat the real threat of communist totalitarianism. Nothing on the present horizon is remotely comparable to that. I rather agree with the St Petersburg comrades. That some people need the emotional prop of a Great Satan does not make Satan any more real.

Is Brown preparing to bribe MPs in order to get 42 day detention without charge?

Posted in detention without charge, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on June 1, 2008

The Sunday Times:

Ministers are preparing to offer a £200m “bribe” to encourage a group of Northern Ireland MPs to back Gordon Brown in the critical Commons vote on plans to detain terror suspects for 42 days without charge.

Not sure why the word bribe is scare quotes – it seems to fit the definition.

According to the Democratic Unionist party (DUP), a proposal that the power-sharing government at Stormont instead of the Ministry of Defence in London might receive the proceeds of the sale of disused army bases as an enhanced “peace dividend” has been floated in private talks about the counter-terrorism bill.

The informal offer emerged after Geoff Hoon, Labour’s chief whip, warned Brown that more than 60 rebels from his own party were preparing to vote against the bill, which will be debated by MPs on June 11.

With the Tories and the Liberal Democrats opposing it, Brown could be facing his first defeat in the Commons since becoming prime minister. …

Extraordinary if true – after all the noble words about building consensus, they resort to bribery, just to save face.

What a bunch of obstinate authoritarian muppets.

Saturday Times – quite a bit on surveillance society

Posted in surveillance society by ukliberty on June 1, 2008

Terror law turns thousands of council officials into spies:

Thousands of middle managers in local councils are being authorised to spy on people suspected of petty offences using powers designed to prevent crime and terrorism.Even junior council officials are being allowed to initiate surveillance operations in what privacy campaigners likened to Eastern bloc police tactics.

The Home Office is expected to be urged by the Commons Home Affairs select committee to issue guidelines to councils on the type of operations in which surveillance can be used.

Amid increasing concern in Parliament that the UK is slowly becoming a surveillance society, the committee has looked at the operation of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which some MPs say is being misused to focus on petty crime rather than serious offending. …

Do we really need to use these powers to tackle dog fouling?

Human rights lawyers are increasingly alarmed that a piece of legislation that put state snooping on a legal basis has resulted in a huge expansion of the public sector’s ability to pry into private lives.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act was not one of those pieces of legislation to grab the public’s attention when it was passed. But in Whitehall and among civil liberties groups, its importance was never in doubt. …

Poole Council used terror law to spy on parents:

One council that firmly believes in using surveillance powers to the fullest is Poole, on the South Coast.

Officials authorisied spying operations to detemine whether fishermen were illegally gathering shellfish in the town’s harbour and to try to find out who had damaged a barrier.

Then the council decided that an Act of Parliament designed to defeat terrorism should be used to see if a couple had been cheating the school catchment system. Tim Joyce and Jenny Paton and their children were put under surveillance for more than two weeks before being asked by Poole Council to “come in for a chat”.

The council had launched the spying operation because they wrongly suspected that the couple had lied about living in the catchment area for Lilliput First School to get their child a place. …

Hearteningly most of the comments seem very concerned about these articles.

The interesting thing here is that people have to realise it is not just the threat of some dictator coming to power that civil liberties supporters are concerned about, it is also all these officials at lower levels misusing and abusing their myriad powers in oppressive yet entirely mundane ways.

By the way, there’s a great error in the Do we really need… article:

Parliament agreed a big list to justify such surveillance, ranging from the obvious prevention and detection of crime to preventing public safety or protecting public health.