UK Liberty

When is a terrorism law not a terrorism law?

Posted in law and order, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on November 12, 2008

Simple: if the specific measure doesn’t explicitly say it will only be used for terrorism, it isn’t a terrorism law.

John Band at Liberal Conspiracy:

The lie is that the assets of Icelandic companies and the Icelandic government were frozen under anti-terror laws. It’s a lie for three reasons:

* the assets of Icelandic companies were never frozen – the UK assets of one Icelandic company which was already in administration domestically were frozen;

* the assets of the Icelandic government were never frozen – whilst the government was named in the relevant order, this is very clearly and explicitly solely in its role as administrator of Landsbanki (an equivalent would be the Belgian government freezing assets controlled by PricewaterhouseCoopers in its role as administrator of Lehman Brothers, if Lehman owed billions of quid to Belgians – it would not affect PwC’s ability to carry out other business in Belgium);

* the order has absolutely nothing to do with antiterrorism. The relevant clause is “if [the Treasury believes] action to the detriment of the United Kingdom’s economy (or part of it) has been or is likely to be taken by a person or persons“, which is not terrorism in any sense of the word.

I’ve tried to trace the source of the bizarre myths suggesting otherwise – clearly, there are four main elements here: 1) the UK media, 2) the Icelandic media, 3) UK opposition parties (Tory and SNP [**]), and 4) the Icelandic government.

The source of the ‘lie’ is in fact David Blunkett, who first used the word terrorism in relation to the freezing measures in Part II of the ATCSA, seven years ago (took only two weeks to get through Parliament, three days debate in the Commons), when he was urging Parliament to support them.

 

[October 2001] With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement on the legislative steps necessary to counter the threat from international terrorism. … we do need specific and targeted measures, which is why I intend to introduce an emergency anti-terrorism Bill. I am determined to strike a balance between respecting our fundamental civil liberties and ensuring that they are not exploited. … Terrorists use organised crime and trade in human misery to finance their activities. The tough new financial controls in the emergency Bill will help us to staunch the flow of terrorist funding.

The emergency legislation will build on the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Bill to deal specifically with terrorist finance through monitoring and freezing the accounts of suspected terrorists.

[November 2001] Parts I and II complement the Proceeds of Crime Bill in stopping organised terrorism and crime being perpetrated through money laundering by organised finance—a subject that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer considered in Ottawa. We are seeking the ability to freeze assets …

The Government contends that the ATCSA contains many provisions and they rightly say they are not all about terrorism (indeed there is no mention of terrorism in Part II of the Act). But that was not what Parliament was led to believe about Part II.

Well, as John later added,

The point is, if you assume that any law means anything other than what it actually says, then you’re unwise.

In real life, whenever any “anti-terrorism” law is passed, it’ll actually be used for whatever the wording of the law says it can be used for (see also “anti-paedophile”). And you need to assume that’ll happen from the start, rather than getting outraged when the government does something which is entirely permitted under the law that you didn’t object to at the time…

Quite, but isn’t it sad that we have legislators who don’t seem to understand this?

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