Anti-terrorism review: 6 questions to judge the government by

With the publication of the government’s anti-terrorism review just about to happen, and likely to include a large number of details, what are the key points to look for in judging how the review has gone?

So far, we know one outcome – the reduction in the maximum period people can be held without charge from 28-days to 14-days (which is in line with the Liberal Democrat manifesto). Yet to be published are the plans on control orders (the abolition of which has been another key Liberal Democrat demand) and on a host of other anti-terrorism legislation.

What to look out for then in the plans?

First, the response of those with genuine experience of anti-terrorist work who have since been freed up to speak their mind. People such as Ken Macdonald, former Director of Public Prosecutions and now a Lib Dem peer, Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, and crossbench peer and another former head of MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller. From what Labour has already been saying about the 28-days decision, it’s safe to say that many Labour MPs may react to the plans claiming they put the country in danger. But the reaction of people such as this trio will be a far surer guide to whether or not they do.

London police. Photo courtesy of Louis Kreusel on FlickrSecond, what will happen on RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act)? This is the set of rules which allows councils to spy on people in order to investigate a very wide range of alleged offences and with, in some councils, only very little control over the use of the powers. The use of such powers in the most serious of cases is uncontroversial and some councils have put in place good safeguards and policies to ensure that is what they do. Will the review recommend further changes which guarantee this across the board?

Third, what will happen on Section 44 of the Terrorism Act and the very broad stop and search powers it granted the police? Section 44 has been widely cites in many cases of over-zealous policing, especially those involving people being stopped from taking benign photographs. Particularly with the Olympics coming next year, I would be very surprised if some form of extensive stop and search powers are not retained, but there is plenty of scope for the review to greatly restrict this.

Fourth, what will happen to the many other detailed powers that the review covers?

Fifth, what if any further moves are there to make it easier to bring terrorist suspects within the normal workings of the judicial system, such as over the use of intercept evidence (has a way been found to get round the legal problems talked up before Christmas?) and post-charge questioning?

And sixth – last but most certainly not least – what will happen to control orders? It looks fairly certain they will be scrapped and a different, less restrictive alternative solution used instead for the problem control orders tried (in their ineffective and very authoritarian way) to address. But how different?

In particular, how far will people subject to any future system be able to carry on legal activities as they wish – can they choose where to live, do they have to obey a curfew, are they allowed to use the internet and so on? A good overall clue will be whether or not the government thinks its plans meet the standards of European Convention on Human Rights.

Of the six questions, the first and the last are to me the most important, but all will help tell us whether or not the review combines effective action against terrorism with a preservation of those democratic and judicial standards that terrorists want to undermine.

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38 Comments

  • Agree with all bar point 1. “First, the response of those with genuine experience of anti-terrorist work who have since been freed up to speak their mind. ”

    The problem is that for every experienced viewpoint against the last set of measures there was another for them. We have been led to believe that the majority of the current inhabitants of senior SIS / MI5 / Police support fairly draconian measures. Perhaps there is the fear that major event shouldn’t happen on their watch, a fear that lessons in retirement with some.

    I think there is (and should be) a friction between those charged with defending us against terrorism and our elected politicians. The former only have one remit and will always seek the greatest powers possible. The latter have to balance this against other factors such as human rights, ethical standard and public opinion. Labour certainly forgot their place in the equation, let’s hope the coalition do better.

    I’m not hopeful on point six. I can already see the posts here saying it is more than the Tories would have done on their own, and hear Clegg saying that they (whatever they are to be called) are substantially different from control orders.

  • The actual commitment of a government to Civil Liberties can only ever be accurately determined following a terrorist atrocity or series of atrocities.

    I hope that the LibDems will be able to claim any lessening of powers as a victory for a long time as it will mean that we won’t have had limbless torsos scattered on our streets like rag dolls and for that blessing LibDems are welcome to any political victory they might claim.

  • Andrew Suffield 26th Jan '11 - 7:58am

    We have been led to believe that the majority of the current inhabitants of senior SIS / MI5 / Police support fairly draconian measures.

    We know that the senior parts of the SIS and MI5 have a very strong empire-building mentality: their main purpose is to accumulate funding and powers to their department, and their justification for this is nothing more than “We defend the nation so the best way to defend the nation is if we have more resources”. They won’t be working from a rational analysis of the needs of the country, because as far as they’re concerned what the country needs is for them to have unlimited power and funding, and they’re out to grab all they can get. That’s not necessarily wrong within the context of their job, but it must be understood that anything they say is on this basis, and that a person who always says “I want more” isn’t helpful when deciding how much to give them.

    Basically we should consider whatever evidence they can present (which is nothing, since they’re so secretive) but must discard their opinion because it doesn’t tell us anything.

  • Darren Reynolds 26th Jan '11 - 9:09am

    There are suggestions around that the Lib Dem pledge of ‘An End to Broken Promises’ has itself been broken.

    But people should remember that the Lib Dems came third. We lost the election. The ‘End to Broken Promises’ was a specifically Lib Dem policy, and in coalition, there have to be compromises.

    As it is, look at the number of Tory policies that have been implemented. Does anyone really think that so many Tory policies would have been implemented if it were not for the Lib Dem influence and the promise of ‘An End to Broken Promises’? The Tories would have been breaking pledges left, right and centre. Well, left and centre anyway. Instead, the Lib Dem commitment to ‘An End to Broken Promises’ has held the Tories to account and ensured the implementation of their promises.

    Naturally, as coalition partners, we have to break our fair share of pledges. To implement fully the Lib Dem policy of ‘An End to Broken Promises’ would require a Lib Dem government, and in the mean-time, we will have to continue to with control orders, increase tuition fees and let the bankers have their bonuses.

  • “Basically we should consider whatever evidence they can present (which is nothing, since they’re so secretive) but must discard their opinion because it doesn’t tell us anything.”

    Sorry but only a fool would discard the evidence and opinions of the intelligence community. It shouldn’t be the only determining factor but to ignore those charged with delivering anti-terro policy is not the answer. The Police (who have lost a significant amount of their responsibility and therefore ‘powerbase’ in this area) also generally concur with the intelligence heads.

    It’s a bit like any companies risk assessment process. In this, the safest option (removing the issue completely) is not always the best option. In industry it can prove counter productive for other processes and the general good of the company. It can also increase risk in other areas. In anti-terror terms the ‘safest’ option is also counter productive to UK plc. This does not mean that all options should not be considered before a decision is made….

    As to the evidence they can produce, they do provide this to certain levels within the Government and I believe the intelligence select committee. It is also worth considering whether access to this information is why Lord Carlisle has so often been in support of more draconian measures in contradiction with the rest of his party.

  • It is interesting that the authorities claim that it would cost too much to have those on control orders put under surveillance.
    While in another part of the empire they have been spending £250,000 pa to keep undercover police embedded as Clowns ( literally) for three or more years – see last nights C4 news.
    How many more of these undercover operations have been going on under the NPOIU while the lethal threats from real terrorists could not be followed up ?

    If the NPOIU is now incorporated unto Scotland Yard mainstream this will change , I hope.

  • @Andrew Suffield who states: ‘Basically we should consider whatever evidence they can present (which is nothing, since they’re so secretive) but must discard their opinion because it doesn’t tell us anything.’

    I am afraid that this statement displays a childish lack of understanding of the role of our secret services and also the working of Parliament in terms of the secret service. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I saw our secret service being dismissed because it is ‘so secretive’. All I can say is Thank God!

    Mr Suffield knows nothing about what information is held or the opinions given to Parliament. There are numerous ways in which this information is given to the government and indeed non-government MPs. Obviously the secret service have to give opinions on the information provided as it is seldom black and white but often isolated fragments from which inferences have to be drawn based on a number of factors. But questions are asked and the evidence and opinions tested by politicians who ultimately are responsible for the decisions taken on information supplied by the secret services.

    Obviously mistakes may be made in drawing those inferences and indeed some of the ‘evidence’ may be incorrect. There is also the problem where the security services, in every country, deliberately disseminate false and misleading information for good reason.

    So security service briefings are given to a wide range of people through: HoC and Cabinet committees, Prime Minister and Cabinet Members, and MPs. The scope and extent of the briefings varies as in say where an MP has a specific constituency issue it will deal with that. However if his constituent is part of an all-UK terrorist conspiracy there would be no detail of that given and nor should there be.

    So Andrew just because the secret services haven’t laid-out all their evidence to you and haven’t given you any of their opinions on it – don’t regard it as worthless or you might not be able to sleep at night worrying about all these ‘idiots’ in your opinion who are charged with keeping us safe and defending our freedoms.

  • @simonsez

    Apparently the changes to Control Orders being trailed, talk about a £20-30 million budget increase for increased surveillance. It’s reckoned that for every suspect it takes a team of 30 officers to conduct full-time surveillance.

  • Everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and any form of restriction or sanction placed on an individual without due process in a court of law has no place in this country. Any sentance must be the result of a trial by jury. As i understand it these people often are not even made fully aware of potential the evidence against them, a total outrage!

    Control orders are a disgrace in a country which prides itself on its so called freedoms.
    I doubt the government will go as far as we in the LibDems want and the British people deserve but i hope the review moves significantly in the right direction.

  • dave thawley 26th Jan '11 - 1:07pm

    There was a lovely prediction by Radio4 Today which was Cameron is going to Give Clegg just enough to allow him to put enough spin on the story to make some of us (lib-dems) think Clegg actually got something worth while – A bit like, well, a bit like every other policy Nick has ‘won’ for us so far.

  • I see no Iceberg 26th Jan '11 - 1:11pm

    Meet the new control orders, same as the old control orders but they have been “rebranded” TPIMS or something equally silly. And the old control orders are still going to be there for months.

    Another pledge met.

  • David Allen 26th Jan '11 - 1:20pm

    A bit of balance on control orders.

    During the last war, we interned large numbers of people without trial. We did it for no better reason than that we did not have the time and resources to check out suspicious foreigners in the middle of a war, even though many of them were in fact keen to help us. Whether or not this was a sensible policy, it had no long term repercussions on our civil liberties in peacetime.

    Now we are again facing an enemy. The phrase “war on terror” is in some respects dangerously misleading and unhelpful, but, most people would also feel that there was some truth in it.

    Michael Portillo makes the point that if control orders applied to large numbers of people they would be unacceptable, but, given that there are fewer than ten people, we can perhaps be less worried. Again, I am sure that most ordinary people would feel that this was a very strong point. Now, we politicians do know better about the slippery slope argument, and about processes and principles, and we would be justified in demanding that we set rules which are a whole lot more rigorous than “it doesn’t matter if it’s only a few guys”. Still, there has to be a balance struck between principles and practicality, between liberties and protection.

    The crucial question that people like William (above) should address is: Could you support any specific move towards increased civil liberties, if you knew that such a move would significantly increase the risk of terrorist carnage within the UK?

    My answer would be no. I hope that there will be a practicable relaxation of the control order regime, but, I would not support a relaxation that would substantially increase terrorist risks. I would be less concerned about simple added costs, even the £30M level suggested – those I would be willing to pay for the sake of liberties.

    The final point I would make is: Lib Dems have had the chance to stand and fight their corner in Coalition on a number of issues which the ordinary voters care about – tuition fees, cuts, NHS, etc. They have (with honourable exceptions) not fought. Now, the Lib Dems are clearly taking the chance to stand and fight their corner on a different issue. It is an issue which broadly leaves most ordinary voters cold, and which addresses the Lib Dems own concerns as political enthusiasts. Doesn’t this disparity of concern just make us look horribly self-centred?

  • Actually my answer would be yes in any situation where an individuals liberty is restricted without the individual having his day in court, plain and simple.

    If the liberties of British citizens are restricted because of terrorists then those terrorists have effectively achieved part of their objective, to change the way we live in Britain.

    The security services should be able to monitor those they feel are a threat without powers that are against civil liberties and justice.

  • Point 1
    “”In the circumstances I would regard the use of curfews and tags in this context to be disproportionate, unnecessary and objectionable. They would serve no useful purpose.”
    Lord Macdonald

    Point 6
    My low expectations have been met. This can be spun whichever way you like. Subjects will be tagged and required to spend up to 10 hours (as opposed to up to 16 hours) at a set address.

    A good job this was a red line in the coalition agreement (or was it now?)

    Lib Dem Ministers should expect a great deal of their previous word to start coming back to bite them with this “compromise”.

  • Shami Chakrabarti is reported on the BBC to have said:
    “Spin and semantics aside, control orders are retained and rebranded, if in a slightly lower-fat form,” she said.
    “As before, the innocent may be punished without a fair hearing and the guilty will escape the full force of criminal law.”

    She is 100% correct. The LibDem MP’s both in and out of cabinet should all come out and oppose this.

  • The changes are welcome but they do not seem to match the rhetoric. It is not a complete rescinding of the laws and, as commented previously, the basic principles of control orders that I opposed are still in place.

    As I have said on previous threads the decisions on security are fairly easy at them moment as the public focus is not on terrorism. The proof of where a Government stands is seen in the reaction to an attack. Labour’s misguided security laws were put in place as a reaction to attacks and I am not convinced that the same will not happen under the Tories. We already see that the 28 days can be restored quickly if necessary as needed – this is really no different to the status quo.

    In general positive but not enough, I am afraid, to make up for all the previous decisions of this Government. Remember Labour had some really good policies but there was also Iraq, control orders etc…..

  • Our MPs cannot oppose this. But I wish they would say ‘It’s not ideal, and if we were in govt alone, we would have gone further.’

  • Seems to be a lot of areas where the policy hasn’t been hammered out yet. I think that Cameron is trying to buy time in case of a terrorist atrocity – he would have been well-shaken by Moscow.

    The final policy could end up nearer the exising situation as the Tories will hate to be associated with giving mobile and internet acces to suspected terrorists and giving them increased freedom.

    Interesting that the LibDems will need to go through the lobby to vote for continuation of the existing Control Orders.

    Also interesting after the vote that Clegg and May seem to be defining the overnight residence spin as being vastly different. Clegg says the 8-10 hour curfew won’t apply across the board whereas May says it would be normal for the suspect to be in his home overnight for 8-10 years.

    As with so much this coalition does – the detail just isn’t there and when you’re dealing with National Security we can’t have this wooliness.

  • In the battle of the LibDem Lords, it looks as though Lord Carlisle has triumphed over Lord MacDonald. Being as MacDonald was/is Clegg’s man, this is his defeat also.

  • Thos is what I would have liked the Lib Dems to say

    “We went into the election committed to abolishing Control Orders. The other parties were committed to retaining them in some way. After lengthy discussions we have been unable to persuade our Conservative partners to agree to the outright abolition of Control Orders. However, the revised Control Orders do go some way to addressing the concerns we had with the arrangements introduced by Labour.

    The burden of proof required has been increased. The Home Secretary must now “believe” the individual is involved in terrorism rather than merely suspecting it.

    The new Control Orders will be limited to two years. The existing Orders have no time limit.

    Curfews are to be retained but they are limited to 8 to 10 hours rather than 16. This will allow individuals subject to a Control Order the freedom to work.

    The restrictions on communications are to be eased. There will no longer be a blanket ban on the use of the internet.

    The powers to force individuals to relocate are to be abolished.

    Liberal Democrats continue to oppose Control Orders. We continue to believe that they are an illiberal restriction of liberty. We are sorry that we are not able to announce the total abolition of Control Orders but have to accept that we finished third in the election behind two parties who favoured the retention of these Orders.”

    Unfortunately Nick Clegg’s determination to claim that Control Orders have been abolished altogether has clouded the issue. It makes a partial victory look like a humiliating climbdown.

  • This will allow individuals subject to a Control Order the freedom to work.

    Yes, that’s great, except I don’t think many would welcome the chance to work next to someone who was under a control order, or TPIMS.

  • See the phone hacking investigation has been removed from anti-terror squad to go to another department who will start a fresh investigation after cops receive significant new evidence – interesting times

  • I said: Also interesting after the vote that Clegg and May seem to be defining the overnight residence spin as being vastly different. Clegg says the 8-10 hour curfew won’t apply across the board whereas May says it would be normal for the suspect to be in his home overnight for 8-10 years.

    Obviously wishful thinking on my part but the 8-10 years should be hours 🙁

    On the NoW investigation being move the reason given was overwork at the Counter Terrorism Unit – not surprised by all the cuts they have suffered. Wonder how they’ll manage to do the extra surveillance from January next year when the new Control Orders come into existence in 2012.

    I was wondering whether the LibDems will actually go through the government lobby to vote the renewal of tghe existing Control Orders because if they don’t they would fall it would appear.

  • “So far, we know one outcome – the reduction in the maximum period people can be held without charge from 28-days to 14-days (which is in line with the Liberal Democrat manifesto). ”

    Not sure this is still true as May claimed it can still be 28 days in exceptional circumstances (which as we all know is not a particulalry helpful phrase). Looking at the actual use of these powers I would say it has always been the exception rather than the rule.

  • Having been campaigning on this issue for a while now I’m going to read through the review in detail before commenting fully. I’m glad about some of the measures which have been brought in which are overdue and very welcome. However it is extremely disappointing that there is still no opportunity for a subject to challenge the allegations made against him or her in court in anything other than a very cursory manner. That seems to me to be the crux of this. Either you believe in the rule of law, (meaning having effective procedures to challenge and test allegations in court) or you don’t.

  • @Steve Way

    Everything I’ve heard talks about no one being detained for more than 14 days in recent years although the 28 was in reserve.
    Seems legislation will come in to allow 28 days in exceptional circumstances but the main difference if I understand it is that it takes a vote in HoC to extend it beyond 14 days to a maximum of 28 for each individual time this happens.

    I really see this as unworkable and a smoke screen – I just can’t believe the security services or a responsible government are going to allow details to be released publicly to allow MPs to take a considered decision on an individual when a widespread active investigation is taking place into a terrorist cell as would be the case if 28 days was being sought.

    It’s a nonsense and won’t happen so it will be an executive power – so what’s different?

  • @Jo Shaw

    Clegg in the HoC today sat and nodded in complete agreement when May said there was some dangerous people who could not be brought to trial – nuff said.

    Civil Liberties IMHO opinion is not an absolute – I happen to believe that the civil liberties of the majority outweigh those of an individual who is intent on killing and maiming other people. When you decide that you are going to operate as a terrorist, outwith the rule of law, then don’t expect protection and the benefits of a democracy.

    All of the people currently on Control Orders have had their cases legally reviewed by senior judges and their decision was that these people require to be held under Control Orders. These judges have seen the security service evidence and I may have little time for a lot of politicians but generally I think our justiciary does show it is capable of independent thought and often takes decisions which damage the government of the day.

  • Far from being abolished, control orders which are currently ‘temporary’ measures subject to annual renewal by parliament will now be a permanent feature of our ‘justice’ system. All that has been achieved is to normalize and entrench Labour’s assault on our civil liberties.

  • @EcoJon

    I don’t have a problem with the 28 days if I’m honest. It operated much as the general rules the police use to extend standard suspects over the 72 hours limit. As such it had a decent level of oversight and was finite. It’s previous use certainly showed it was not routinely used let alone abused. It seems daft to me that control orders (or bontempi or whatever they decide to call them) are retained where there is less open oversight and the measure that still encourages the police / MI5 to reach a charge or release point is removed.

    I know 28 days is a long time, but having lost 11 colleagues to the IRA in 1989 I would say it seems balanced to me (I accept that may make me biased). Restricting the rights of someone for 2 years without telling them why, tagging them and making them be in the same place for 10 hours each night just seems wrong. Charge them or let them go, if the evidence cannot be used it isn’t evidence in the true sense of the word.

    As for spending £30 million on surveillance after telling people you’re going to watch them. It would be better to spend that having let them go without alerting them. If they’re guilty you might get some evidence then. I don’t expect the average suspect will be tempted to break the law with the police watching them and a tag showing their evry move.

    FYI the BBC have done the leg work on the use of 28 days. I’ve copied below..

    DETENTION WITHOUT CHARGE AS OF JANUARY 2011
    11 people held for over 14 days
    Nine arrested in the 2006 airlines bomb plot
    Six of 11 held for maximum 28 days
    Three of those charged
    Three released
    Last detention of more than 14 days was in 2007

  • Its great we managed to get rid of the night time curfew and replace it with a errm, a night time curfew. My I joint our opposition for a minute and LMFAO I thought we had moved from joke to patsy but I see we have moved back to being a joke

  • Is it just me that is wondering where the apologists are ?

    In many ways, this is the most significant day since the tuition fees vote, yet there is no one who apparently feels the Government has done a good job here.

    Perhaps Cameron was wrong about the train crash and all Lib Dems are happy with the outcome ?

  • From the Daily Mail and as it’s coming from civil liberties campaigners I thought their view might be of interest.

    Liberty, the civil liberties campaign group, said the announcement showed that ‘control orders will effectively be retained’.

    Shami Chakrabarti, the charity’s director, said: ‘We welcome movement on stop and search, 28-day detention and council snooping, but when it comes to ending punishment without trial, the Government appears to have bottled it.

    ‘Spin and semantics aside, control orders are retained and rebranded, if in a slightly lower-fat form.

    ‘As before, the innocent may be punished without a fair hearing and the guilty will escape the full force of criminal law. This leaves a familiar bitter taste.

    ‘Parliament must now decide whether the final flavour will be of progress, disappointment or downright betrayal.’

  • LabourLiberal 27th Jan '11 - 12:56am

    Jo Shaw is spot on here.

    As a Labour voter, civil liberties has been the issue I’ve most admired the Lib Dems on, and been most unhappy with Labour on; so first of all, well done to the Government on the 28 day scrapping (if it really is a scrapping), although 14 is still too many. But – when I say that I’ve long admired the Lib Dem stance on liberty, it’s not just because I support the policies, but because I feel civil liberty should be – has to be – a point of principle. This passage in the article proper worries me:

    “From what Labour has already been saying about the 28-days decision, it’s safe to say that many Labour MPs may react to the plans claiming they put the country in danger. But the reaction of people such as this trio will be a far surer guide to whether or not they do.”

    Frankly, it shouldn’t matter to the policy-makers whether they’re put the country in danger. It’ll just be a case of “slightly more” or “slightly less” danger anyway. If protecting us from harm was the only concern, we may as well lock up everyone for their own good and be done with it, then no-one’s in danger. The Government should be accepting that there are some lines the state cannot cross with regards to people’s personal rights. I’m not usually one for dogmatic argument, but it comes into its own here; once we start getting relative on rights and liberties, we can come up with potential threats to take us down all sorts of unsavoury roads; any control-freakery you like can be justified with a vivid imagination. I assumed the Lib Dem policy meant they agreed with me on this; I hope that when they were playing the civil liberties card they weren’t just relativists with a slightly different take on the evidence.

    Most of the comments on here only reinforce my concerns:

    “Michael Portillo makes the point that if control orders applied to large numbers of people they would be unacceptable, but, given that there are fewer than ten people, we can perhaps be less worried. Again, I am sure that most ordinary people would feel that this was a very strong point. Now, we politicians do know better about the slippery slope argument, and about processes and principles, and we would be justified in demanding that we set rules which are a whole lot more rigorous than “it doesn’t matter if it’s only a few guys”. Still, there has to be a balance struck between principles and practicality, between liberties and protection.”

    No, that’s not a very strong point, it’s a bloody dreadful one, and shows why Portillo was such a dreadful politician. The Government has, and must have, a responsibility to ALL its citizens EQUALLY. We just cannot have a situation where any state restrictions are decided or allowed on a “it’ll only be occasionally” basis. I’ve said that liberty is a point of principle, and in any nation worth its salt one of those principles is that all men are equal before a court of law. In a stroke, such a policy makes some men unequal, and denies them the court of law anyway. The balance is to be found by being as practical as you can, within the confines of those principles. Once you make an exception to them, they’re not principles any more.

    “Civil Liberties IMHO opinion is not an absolute – I happen to believe that the civil liberties of the majority outweigh those of an individual who is intent on killing and maiming other people. When you decide that you are going to operate as a terrorist, outwith the rule of law, then don’t expect protection and the benefits of a democracy.”

    Right conclusion, wrongheaded reasoning, I’m afraid. As I’ve said above, civil liberties is, and indeed has to be, an absolute. We need a clear, unmoving line which states exactly what the powers of the state over the individual are – if that line slides up and down depending on how “threatened” we are, or worse, starts to develop holes for individuals in our society to fall through, then the whole idea of liberty falls apart. I can be as seemingly “free” as anyone, but if my neighbour can conceivably be held, cornered, watched or otherwise herded around on “security grounds”, without the chance to refute or even see the reasons why, then I’m not living in a free society.
    There’s an important distinction to make here, between the power of the state in cases like these, where individuals have no rights and no escape, and the power of the state to legislate. By all means, the state should go after terrorists: but it should do so within the bounds of civil liberties. If you’ve found a terrorist, bring him to trial, give him a fair hearing and try to prosecute him; and if you don’t have grounds to prosecute him, make some more things illegal until you do. I’ll probably oppose too many restrictive laws, but at least people can be equally free within the bounds of your laws. Labour were wrong on many nanny-state policies – free-speech laws, “incitement to…” laws, various types of smoking bans and so on – but none of those did the same damage to liberty that control orders and their ilk can do. That was the genuine toxic legacy.

  • @LabourLiberal

    I really do believe that you haven’t grasped that we aren’t dealing with ‘ordinary’ criminals here. We are dealing with people who have an ideological hatred for the liberties we have in Britain – that is what they want to destroy.

    They will only stop trying to do this when they are dead or have won their fight. We cannot win this fight we can only contain it. It can only be won by the backers and supporters of these terrorists turning off the money tap and by the courage of Islamic religious leaders speaking out against them and educating the vast majority of Moslems as to how the terrorists have twisted the teachings of Prophet Mohammed to suit their own ends.

    This is going to take a helluva long time – for a recent parallel there’s Northern Ireland although this current situation is much bigger and potentially much more serious.

    And LabourLiberal do you really think that imposing a lot more draconian and restrictive lawys so we can catch these terrorists on something to lock them up really is the way to protect the civil liberties of the majority of people who would then be caught up in the same all-encompassing laws.

    Try and look at this from another angle – let’s take your mythical neighbour – the reason why he can’t be given the details against him is because it would reveal the state of the secret service intelligence not just on him but on his associates which means they could be warned and either disappear or escalate an attack.

    How can you give liberty to someone who is believed willing and capable of becoming a suicide bomber and has links to previous terrorist incidents or participants as some of the current Control Order people are – don’t the people that he may go on to butcher and maim have any ‘rights’. Are you prepared to see your nearest and dearest butchered to allow terrorists to have civil liberties.

    Well I’m not and that doesn’t make me a fascist – I believe in civil liberties but one thing I know from the lessons of history is that people seldom get given liberty on a point of principle – they get it and keep it ultimately by fighting for it and when they do it is usually for the good of the majority rather than an individual.

    In a strange way the terrrorists are fighting for their definition of liberty – either by the creation of a religious state ruled by sharia law or, failing that, by the liberation achieved through martyrdom and the rewards that await.

    I don’t think there’s anyone that has been shown the evidence on those held under Control Orders who doesn’t agree that there are some people who can’t be tried but can’t be allowed full civil liberties either. I place Clegg in that category and much as I dislike him for a variety of reasons I believe he has done the right thing here.

    He started off totally opposed but now he has to live with the nightmare knowledge of just how dangerous these people are.

    What civil liberties would we have if these people were in control – or doesn’t that matter as long as we let them have cilil liberties to destroy us and our way of life and our basic liberties which have been bought by our blood over the centuries.

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