Well, we have talked about the evil madness policy that is the governments proposed 42 day detention without trial for people suspected of terrorism. It is wrong and no amount of fear-woo spreading will convince me otherwise, however there are those who are not so set in their views.
One of the major arguments “for” the 42 day detention is how we live in a “different world” than a few years ago when 28 days was enough. These people often opine how “we” don’t understand the threats the security apparatus face and how much “they” need this time to fight the evil terrorists. Wisely, the actual security organisations themselves have remained quiet on this and I have more than a little respect for that, although it makes it hard to counter the fear-woo.
Wonderfully, today the former head of the Security Service – the organisation charged with protecting the nation from terrorism – has made clear her (personal) opinion on the matter.
Lady Manningham-Buller, in her maiden speech to the House of Lords, said: “I don’t see, on a principled basis, as well as a practical one, that these proposals are in any way workable.”
Well, I couldn’t have put it better myself. Even better, this is not someone who has no idea about the threat. This is not someone who doesn’t understand the problems faced by the security apparatus. Baroness Manningham-Buller spent 33 years working for MI5 combating terrorism and espionage throughout the cold war, the IRA bombing campaign and headed up the organisation in the madness that followed the Jul 2005 bombings. This is not someone who can be dismissed as having “no idea,” she has lived it for almost all her adult life. If she thinks it is wrong, it may well be wrong…(*)
Sadly, I doubt the almost non-existent coverage of her statement will sway much of the UK population.
But it should. The more power we give to the state, the harder it becomes when things go wrong. And they do go wrong with a scary regularity. Also in today’s news was the armed response to a case of mistaken identity:
Three police forces are to be investigated after armed police ordered a man to lie face-down at a railway station in a case of mistaken identity.
Two Dorset Police officers arrested the 21-year-old at gunpoint after his train stopped at Bournemouth on Saturday. He was identified by British Transport Police after Hampshire police told them of an earlier incident in Basingstoke.
Now this is fairly harmless and the poor person in question was simply made to lie down. However the situation where an armed response was going in meant everything was very dangerous. Keep in mind, this is an innocent person. They have committed no crime. What if, for example, they were hard of hearing or simply confused by the instructions shouted by the armed officers? There was an example of what can happen when it goes wrong on the London Underground in 2005.
No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. These are so frequently used it is almost embarrassing to write it here, however it highlights a critical measure. We, as a society, should be aware that mistakes get made. Rather than holding continual, pointless, inquires after the act why not prepare for them by making sure that the damage caused by mistakes is minimal. I am not saying the measures taken by Dorset Police was wrong (although it does smell of the new offence of “being black on public transport”), as they do have a public safety issue to balance. However, the more we give them the ability to punish and detain innocent people, the greater the risk of a serious mistake – and the more power the state has, the harder it is to bring to account.
(*) Don’t think this means I agree with her on torture or the overall “war on terror” approach… It just means she isn’t always wrong… As soon as she reads this blog and realises I am always right the better… 🙂