The voice of young liberal democrats

Serious questions need to be asked of our security services by georgeinwashington
July 15, 2007, 4:42 pm
Filed under: Law and Order, Terrorism

One of the astonishing things about the somewhat farcical terror attack that occurred in Glasgow, and the failed one in London’s West End is just how much information journalists have been able to uncover about the men carrying out the attack, worryingly, it seems as these men were well known radicals. For example, Bilal Abudllah the only man arrested in connection with the attacks was described by his professor in Baghdad as one of the most radical students he had ever met He also seems to have been a member of a radical group in Cambridge.

If journalists knew so much about these people it begs the question as to how much our security services knew, several of the plotters were known to MI5 and the home office.;jsessionid=34DI4PBVRCP5LQFIQMFSFGGAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/news/2007/07/03/nterror104.xml

Worryingly the recent conviction of some of the 21/7 bombers has lead to the revallation that many of these failed bombers were also known to the security services. Muktar Said Ibrahim, the man who attempted to blow up a London bus, had been filmed by security services attending a terror camp and traveled to Pakistan to undertake more training.

Despite some of the serious questions that should be asked of the security services are being missed. The Conservatives are using these revelations to push their policies of a border police and the Liberals have fallen silent on the matter.

We should be seeking proper and thorough oversight of our security services, if for nothing else so that the public can be safe in the knowledge that all has been possibly done to protect them. In the United States the directors of the intelligence services have to appear regularly before Congress to testify. In the UK on the other hand our response to seemingly preventable acts of terror is to further curtail our civil liberties, as with the extension of the 28 day detention without charge law last week so perfectly demonstrated.


Before Introducing New Terror Laws, Try Using the Ones we Have by georgeinwashington
July 11, 2007, 3:52 am
Filed under: Law and Order, Terrorism

As the perceived threat of terror increases year on year, and every new attack, either realised or attempted brings further anti terror measures we seem to justify these further encroachments on  our civil liberties on the premise that what was in place before was insufficient. The British it would appear have a deep loyalty and respect for the security services, any terrorist attack is of course the fault of the law and not the fault of those enforcing it.

My Washington Post this morning told me that this assumption is wrong. For years it would seem that the British Police have been failing to check people against Interpol’s database of seven million stolen passports, a measure that would help prevent criminals and terrorists entering the country. Secretary General of Interpol Richard Noble went further in the same interview and said that there has generally been a lack of cooperation by the UK police with Interpol, the international police organisation which coordinates the efforts of the worlds police forces in combating international crime, and that the UK’s counter terrorism efforts were in the “wrong century”. The full report can be found here.

Passing new laws that encroach on our civil rights should only ever be used as a last resort, when we can be certain that without these extra measures there would be serious consequences for public safety. Before we get to this point politicians need to make absolutely certain that we are doing the best we can under the current system.

The reasons for this are obvious, firstly it prevents unnecessary encroachments into our personal liberties, and second of all no amount of new laws will help protect anyone from terrorism if the police do not use tools already available. Further anti terror legislation will simply widen the scope of possible abuse without providing any extra security.

However as politicians need to be seen to be doing something, and admitting errors will inevitably reflect poorly on themselves, the easy option is always to enact more legislation. Instead we should be asking tough questions of our security services, ensuring that they are doing their job, and that we can remain safe, without the need to give up the liberties that we have fought so hard to enjoy.

The Assault on Liberty by georgeinwashington
June 1, 2007, 7:57 pm
Filed under: Law and Order

In the United States a fascinating new book has just been Published by the former vice president Al  Gore called “The Assault on Reason”. In it Gore asks the simple question, how was the US persuaded to go to war and that Saddam was responsible for the 9/11 attacks when any reasonable person looking at the facts would have concluded otherwise.

His answer is of course specific to the US, for those interested he blames the fact that political discourse has largely migrated to thirty second campaign ads that do not allow the viewer to enter into any dialogue with the facts.

In Britain of course we do not have the obscene amount of money floating around the political system that they do in the US and campaign adverts are strictly regulated, however I think on a general point Gore has some insights that are useful for Britain, because here too we are seeing a similar phenomenon.

There was of course cooked books on intelligence in the UK also, but I would like to ask a different question, how, in the UK, a country that in many ways defines itself by the adherence to individual liberty, did we allow ourselves to rescind many of our rights with barley any debate. After all the right to trial by jury and habeas corpus, two things that terror legislation is eating away at were once called “the rights of Englishmen”. They were indeed the vary things that set us apart from the rest of the world.

Here Gore’s wider point about the way we communicate in the political sphere is revealing because despite the lack of 30 second campaign commercials, the TV news and media is moving away from facts to soundbite reporting. The thought occurred to me when listening to the news covering the terror legislation where Blair has repeatedly said that he sees the need to ballance increased police powers with a protection of civil liberties. Whilst giving the impression that civil liberties are being looked after we are never actually told what this means, what concrete steps are being taken to stop repeats of the many abuses of the law that we have seen, such as when a man in his 80’s was held under the prevention of terrorism act for heckling Straw at the Labour Party conference. The impression given is enough to reassure the public that something is being done whilst we sleepwalk into a police state.

Gore sees the Internet as a potential saviour of modern democracy as it is a medium where people can actually engage and question the facts in order to come to reasoned conclusions and take action. 

This is already happening in the Blogosphere. In a recent interview with the LA times the founder of TPM memo, a popular centre left blog in the States said that the advantage of blogs like his is that they can engage and draw on the resources of the citizenry in a way that traditional media can not. His blog in fact broke the biggest political story in the US at the moment when he noticed his local federal attorney had been fired without any reason. He posted this on the blog asking if anyone else had had the same thing happen in their area, the response from the public revealed a programmatic campaign by the Department of Justice to fire attorneys who might have been pushing too hard on certain cases involving corrupt republicans. The story is currently engulfing the Whitehouse in shame.

And in the spirit of this I would like to start an experiment here, I would like anyone here reading this who has had an experience with new anti terror legislation being badly applied or a personal experience of their civil liberties being taken away in the UK to email their experience to and pass this around to as many people as you can. We can then document the erosion of civil liberties in our country and seek to hold those in government to account.