Prime Minister Gordon Brown has a guest spot in the Times in which he continues to argue for 42-day detention without trial. Even the headings take your breath away.
42-day detention; a fair solution
The complexity of today’s terrorist plots means the Government needs more powers
“A fair solution”? I detect a new and specialist use of the word “fair.” It obviously isn’t going to be “fair” to any falsely accused suspects. So, it’s hard to see who is meant to benefit from this concern for even-handedness.
“Solution”? Solution to which problem, exactly? To the problem of detecting active terrorists? Clearly not, that is an intelligence and policing issue. How will these activities be made any more effective by capturing random people, when there is no evidence against them, and and waiting for them to crack? The text claims that it’s fair to the police because it takes ages to root through computer files.
Oh, ffs. Are terrorists really so stupid that they write all their plots down in Word documents and store them on their PCs. Let’s assume, for a moment, that is the case. It wouldn’t take a criminal mastermind to decide to stop doing that, the very first time such evidence got any of them arrested.
It certainly can’t be a “solution” to the problem of their being alienated groups of people with the will to commit terrorist acts. As far as I can see, it’s actually a quick way to manufacture terrorists. Every falsely detained person will mean more and more people become alienated from UK society.
“More powers”? That is, powers that go beyond ubiquitous video surveillance, monitoring every email message and phone call, ID cards and photographing almost every journey? Would it it even be possible to come up with many more “powers” short of plugging our brains into a national monitoring system and modelling policing on Minority Report?
Britain has lived with terrorist threats for decades. But I am under no illusion that today’s threats are different in their scale and nature from anything we have faced before. Today in Britain there are at least 2,000 terrorist suspects, 200 networks or cells and 30 active plots.
Yes, Britain has lived with terrorist threats for decades. Not just threats. Major terrorist actions. So, when Briown says, he is “under no illusion that today’s threats are different,” I first assume that he means that he realises that the current “TWAT” is not really different from the Irish bombing campaigns. (Which were addressed without a 1984-style social transformation. And were ended through concessions and negotiation. And provided the example of how internment served to consolidate support for PIRA… A lesson that the current government seems willfully determine don ignoring )
No such luck. He is really saying – in the face of English grammar – that he is under that very illusion.
Then the numbers. They really annoy me, these “30 active plots” and “200 terror networks”. I have mentioned these spurious statistics before. The very specific numbers have been going the rounds for the best part of a year.
Are we to assume, then, that our police are so stupid that they KNOW there are 30 active plots and they can’t do anything about them? They KNOW about 200 terror networks and they somehow can’t gather the evidence to stop them? What on earth would we be paying these people for?
This is not just nonsense. It insults both the competence of our police and the intelligence of the public.
This Times guest column appears as his response to an imminent Commons revolt that could put a stop to the 42-day detention plan. Brown has been criticised by friends of the increasingly repellent Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, for not supporting her on the issue.
He is trying to pull in the big guns – the fearful Great British Public – to put the fear into any members of the Parliamentary Labour Party who are going to do the decent thing in next week’s vote.
I say to those with legitimate concerns about civil liberties: look at these practical safeguards against arbitrary treatment. With these protections in place, I believe Parliament should take the right decision for national security.
This would be rather more convincing if there weren’t examples of exactly how well the “protections in place” work, such as in the cases of the student and university staff member and the forbidden manual downloaded from a US government site.