Suddenly Nick Cohen realises counter-terrorism laws can be abused


by Sunny
19th September, 2010 at 11:22 am    

Nick Cohen actually has a good article in the Observer today (no, I’m not joking!) about the so-called Twitter trial. Read the whole thing, though this bit caught my eye specifically:

Beyond the law lies the politics. The hounding of Paul Chambers stinks of Labour authoritarianism. The prosecuting authorities showed no respect for free speech. They could not take a joke. They carried on prosecuting Chambers even when they knew he was harmless. They turned a trifle into a crime because a conviction helped them hit performance targets. Inside their bureaucratic hierarchies, it was dangerous to speak out against a superior’s stupidity. Better to let an injustice take place than risk a black mark against your name.

What surprises me is that anyone thought it was going to turn out any other way.

I’ve opposed most anti-terrorism legislation precisely because it had the potential (and likelihood) of being abused to get anyone the police did not like. They used it to stop protests during the pro-Tibetan rally in London; they’ve used these laws against environmental protesters for years.

But Nick Cohen and his mates were adamant that Islamists represented the biggest threat to western civilisation ever, and so the extra vigilance was necessary.

This is the same Nick Cohen who said that terrorist suspects should be deported even if there was a chance they’d be tortured, remember?

The French, being French, don’t have taboos. They just do what’s in their national interest.

I’m pretty sure ‘national interest’ is invoked by the police when asking for these increasingly draconian anti-terror laws.

And here’s a more recent article where he says:

Most of the British do not behave as if they are at war. Every third-rate political pundit has ruled that we cannot say that we are in a “war on terror”. Meanwhile, politicians will not allow us to say that we are in a “war against radical Islam” because they have to pretend that religion does not motivate religious extremists.

We’re at war people. And what happens when we’re at war? Yes, the executive usually ask for extra powers and justify excessive force in the name of national security.

It’s quite amusing to see a columnist who helped in raising the temperature through his rhetoric is now lamenting that the anti-terror laws that came as a result are a bastard.


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  1. sunny hundal

    Blogged: : Suddenly Nick Cohen realises counter-terrorism laws can be abused http://bit.ly/cEWpOD


  2. Naadir Jeewa

    Reading: Suddenly Nick Cohen realises counter-terrorism laws can be abused: Nick Cohen actually has a good article… http://bit.ly/91p0VS


  3. Bob Connors

    #homeland Suddenly Nick Cohen realises counter-terrorism laws can be abused: … principles http://bit.ly/dgIwlRhttp://bit.ly/9WjbfW


  4. Graham Linehan

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Suddenly Nick Cohen realises counter-terrorism laws can be abused http://bit.ly/cEWpOD


  5. Teakster

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Suddenly Nick Cohen realises counter-terrorism laws can be abused http://bit.ly/cEWpOD


  6. Paul Jakma

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Suddenly Nick Cohen realises counter-terrorism laws can be abused http://bit.ly/cEWpOD


  7. Matthew Oakley

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Suddenly Nick Cohen realises counter-terrorism laws can be abused http://bit.ly/cEWpOD


  8. bobthomson70

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Suddenly Nick Cohen realises counter-terrorism laws can be abused http://bit.ly/cEWpOD


  9. Mitch Benn

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Suddenly Nick Cohen realises counter-terrorism laws can be abused http://bit.ly/cEWpOD


  10. Roger Thornhill

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Suddenly Nick Cohen realises counter-terrorism laws can be abused http://bit.ly/cEWpOD // THIS


  11. Peter Hill

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Suddenly Nick Cohen realises counter-terrorism laws can be abused http://bit.ly/cEWpOD


  12. Miles Weaver

    RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Suddenly Nick Cohen realises counter-terrorism laws can be abused http://bit.ly/cEWpOD


  13. Al Jahom

    As profoundly uncomfortable as it is, I agree with @sunny_hundal http://bit.ly/cEWpOD Cohen is a collaborator turned dissident.


  14. Kevin Ward

    Agree. For once! RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Suddenly Nick Cohen realises counter-terrorism laws can be abused http://bit.ly/cEWpOD




  1. Markby — on 19th September, 2010 at 2:43 pm  

    “It’s quite amusing to see a columnist who helped in raising the temperature through his rhetoric is now lamenting that the anti-terror laws that came as a result.”

    The anti-terror laws came as a result of terrorist attacks that murdered scores of people quite a bit more than as a result of Nick Cohen’s or any other journalist’s articles. It’s disingenous to leave the fact of actual terrorism out of the picture.

    And Cohen has always been strong on freedom of speech, so I would be interested if you can find actual material by him demanding more draconian laws, which you seem to be imputing to him. You may as well argue that someone who warns repeatedly about government overspending is therefore obviously and persistently demanding and responsible for massive cuts, jobs losses etc, or that if X doesn’t like Y, X wants Y dead.

  2. Justin — on 19th September, 2010 at 3:10 pm  

    And then he went and spoiled it all by saying something stupid like ‘politically correct jobsworths’.

  3. Sunny — on 19th September, 2010 at 3:40 pm  

    It’s disingenous to leave the fact of actual terrorism out of the picture.

    I’m not – but you’ll have a difficult case to make if you want to say that our laws in the past could not deal with terrorism.

    I remember Tony Blair saying something like: ‘this will not change our resolve to stand up for the values we hold dear’.. and then push for the most authoritarian legislation for decades.

  4. organic cheeseboard — on 20th September, 2010 at 8:30 am  

    yesterday’s article is more or less lifted directly from Jack of Kent.

    If the court condemns the CPS, I can guarantee that Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, will not fire or discipline the prosecutors involved. I doubt if he will even tell them they have undermined support for the anti-terrorist cause.

    I think that support was undermined some time ago through numerous botched raids and shootings by the police. of course up to this point those have mostly been directed at asian-looking people. and up to this point nick cohen was in full support of anti-terror laws and their use.

    =the article fails at the end:

    Labour must change the settled view of the majority of Britons that it is the party of politically correct jobsworths

    Even if this were true – and I think Nick is relying pretty much exclusively on a few glances at the Mail, along with his own prejudices – how exactly is labour meant to do that?

    and more to the point, what the hell does this case have to do with ‘political correctness’? police targets, maybe, though nick has no evidence that thiswas the reason for the arrest.

  5. Markby — on 20th September, 2010 at 10:35 am  

    “I’m not – but you’ll have a difficult case to make if you want to say that our laws in the past could not deal with terrorism.”

    I wasn’t trying to say that, I have no wish to say it, and I didn’t say anything like it.

    Now where’s the evidence to support YOUR implication that Cohen himself was spouting draconian rhetoric? That’s the main slant of your article. Please back it up, rather than trying to deflect with strawman arguments about those who challenge you on it.

  6. Markby — on 20th September, 2010 at 10:40 am  

    “of course up to this point those have mostly been directed at asian-looking people.”

    Of course most of the terrorism in Britain and round the world in the past decade has been carried out by ‘Asian-looking people’, and of course there have been numerous convictions in Britain based on due evidence against such people. What is surprising that most of the arrests have been from this demographic group, even if there have been mistakes? It hasn’t all been based on some random prejudice.

  7. douglas clark — on 20th September, 2010 at 11:02 am  

    Markby,

    Strange that we had to ‘up the ante’ after we had dealt with a mainland bombing campaign by the IRA. Dontcha think?

    Brazilian electricians are nervous.

  8. douglas clark — on 20th September, 2010 at 11:29 am  

    Markby,

    You say:

    and of course there have been numerous convictions in Britain based on due evidence against such people.

    I’m not too sure that that is true. Obviously the 7/7 killers were dead at the scene, and their copycats were caught. Likewise the Glasgow suicide morons. Which other murderous folk have you in mind?

    The CPS has this to say:

    http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/prosecution/violent_extremism.html

    few of whom are household names, Abu Hamza being the obvious exception.

    What of Ian and Nicky Davison, whose names hardly trip off the tongue?

  9. markby — on 20th September, 2010 at 1:36 pm  

    Hello Douglas,

    “Strange that we had to ‘up the ante’ after we had dealt with a mainland bombing campaign by the IRA. Dontcha think?”

    Not really. The IRA campaign was not dealt with easily, it took years and involved such mistakes and overreactions as internment. Wrong, yes, but ‘strange’, no. The recent draconian laws followed the worst mainland atrocity, 7/7 since the Birmingham bombings, i.e. the wrost in 30 years. No conspiracy, nothing inexplicable, however misjudged they may be.

    As for the cases you either can’t remember or are unaware of, here are the figures:

    “In the 10 years since the Terrorism Act came into force, 22 per cent of suspects arrested under its provisions were charged, and less than 13 per cent were subsequently convicted. The ratio fell further last year, according to the statistics compiled by the legal information service Sweet & Maxwell. In 2009 the number charged was 11 per cent and the conviction rate was down to less than 4 per cent.

    Sweet & Maxwell said there have been 1,817 arrests under the Terrorism Act which have led to 402 charges – a rate of 22 per cent that compares with 31 per cent for all indictable offences among adults.

    A total of 235 were found guilty of terrorism-related offences, a conviction rate of 12.9 per cent. There were 207 arrests in 2009, which led to 23 charges and eight convictions, although the latter rate could eventually increase because prosecutions are yet to come to court.”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/antiterrorism-law-arrests-fail-to-secure-convictions-2051336.html

    As the report stresses, that’s a low rate. But it’s not a low actual total. It’s 235, i.e. ‘numerous’. The CPS link you gave refers to some recent cases, not to all of them. And the fact that they are not household names is neither here nor there. The vast majority of ordinary murderers, burglars, rapists etc are not ‘household names’ either, but no one disputes there are numerous convictions for each offence.

    I don’t support draconian laws, and have given no indication of doing so, so you may as well leave that strawman alone. I have simply stated, correctly, that there have been plenty of proper convictions, so it is not as if the terrorist problem is actually negligible or limited to a few cases.

    And cases caught early on need to be treated just as seriously as ones that result in successful attacks, and not discarded from the overall picture. Thankfully they make up the majority of said picture, and I hope that that will always be the case. That doesn’t mean I’m happy with such a high rate of innocent people being arrested en route to achieve convictions. At the smae time, I don’t believe there will ever be a means of ensuring that only those who prove to be guilty or convictable ever get arrested. There needs to be a sense of proportion but also an acknowledgment of the scale of the problem and one of realism about what is achievable.

    I hope at least my position is clearer now, and that you will stop treating me as if I were answerable for draconian or inefficient aspects of the system. I’m no more answerable than you, because I no more support them than you do.

  10. Phil Hunt — on 20th September, 2010 at 2:33 pm  

    Indeed, any human being with any source of power is very easily influenced to abuse it. The Twitter case was blown a bit out of proportion and should make a lot of people question their ruling authorities.

  11. douglas clark — on 20th September, 2010 at 3:15 pm  

    markby,

    Okay, I think.

    Where can we see a breakdown of the figures you give @ 9.

    I am certainly pro nipping in the bud any terrorist activity. What I would like to know, and I suspect many readers of this blog would like to know too, is what proportion of successful convictions are actually about islamic extremists?

    You claim, correct me if I am wrong, is that there have been 1817 arrests, leading to 402 charges and 203 convictions. Would that be right?

    My point is merely to question whether or not these convictions could have been secured under pre-existing legislation, or not.

    To be honest, I doubt either of us can answer that.

  12. douglas clark — on 20th September, 2010 at 3:31 pm  

    Markby,

    Sorry, there is one other point, which is about ‘legislation creep’. That a law that is brought in for one purpose is (mis)used by prosecution lawyers, and sadly law enforcers, for other purposes entirely.

    I have no idea whether it is apocryphal or not, but it has been claimed that Prevention of Terrorism legislation has been used against photographers. Which makes Google Street Map a weapon of mass destruction.

  13. Raff — on 20th September, 2010 at 5:31 pm  

    I was always very amused that less of a fuss was made when HMG used anti-terror laws to freeze Icelandic money: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7662827.stm

  14. organic cheeseboard — on 20th September, 2010 at 6:07 pm  

    Of course most of the terrorism in Britain and round the world in the past decade has been carried out by ‘Asian-looking people’, and of course there have been numerous convictions in Britain based on due evidence against such people. What is surprising that most of the arrests have been from this demographic group, even if there have been mistakes? It hasn’t all been based on some random prejudice.

    maybe not. but it’s odd that Cohen should only start getting indignant about the misuse of terror laws, in far less serious cases (eg the shooting of a completely innocent man in North London), once it starts being non-Muslims who are the targets.

    I’m not suggesting Cohen is racist, by the way. What I’m suggesting is that his contortions to be ‘anti-PC’ have led him down a very weird road…

  15. Brownie — on 21st September, 2010 at 5:48 pm  

    maybe not. but it’s odd that Cohen should only start getting indignant about the misuse of terror laws, in far less serious cases (eg the shooting of a completely innocent man in North London), once it starts being non-Muslims who are the targets.

    To link the death of Jean Charles de Menezes to ‘anti-terror laws’ requires a bit of a stretch. It looked more like a good old-fashioned fuck-up – albeit at a time of almost unprecedented heightened tension for the police and security forces – than anything to do with specific bills passed by parliament.

    I’m not suggesting Cohen is racist, by the way.

    Well of course you’re not. When A remarks on the fact that B only becomes exercised when *non-Muslims* start to suffer as a result of X, it would be illogical to conclude that A is implying B is some kind of bigot; especially when A explicitly mentions the fact that s/he is not implying B is some kind of bigot, but is in fact referring only to “very weird roads” down which B has travelled.

    I’m sure Nick ‘Not a bigot’ Cohen would agree.

  16. Sunny — on 21st September, 2010 at 8:38 pm  

    ^^ Think he meant the Forest Gate raid.

  17. douglas clark — on 22nd September, 2010 at 2:40 am  

    Brownie,

    The idea that the Police should be armed on a regular basis is a fairly recent innovation. The idea that they should adopt and adapt Israeli and Sri Lankan policing methods to the streets of the UK, under the acronym Kratos, is, well crass, frankly.

    We loose a heck of lot of our freedoms, when the assumption – one we were taught to understand by your ‘so-called’ fuck up over Jean Charles de Menezes – is that we should all live in fear of cops.

    For I do not believe there has been accountability. Would it be true to say that no-one in the Met has had their collar felt? Indeed, I seem to recall some promotions on the back of this.

    That is what we have been taught, is it not? The Police, under the blanket of anti-terrorism, can do what the fuck they like?

    Fuck up or not, don’t carry a chair leg through the Streets of London, or anywhere else, lest the Police stick a bullet or six in you. And walk away scot free.

    ———————————–

    Jolly good, Brownie, carry on…..

  18. organic cheeseboard — on 22nd September, 2010 at 9:46 am  

    To link the death of Jean Charles de Menezes to ‘anti-terror laws’ requires a bit of a stretch

    i was talking about forest gate. hence NORTH London.

    and to reiterate, i don’t tihnk nick cohen is racist. but i do find his expansion at the end of this piece weird.

    What exactly has this case got to do with political correctness? and why didn’t nick pen a piece over the much more serious case of police abusing anti-terror laws in forest gate – where they not only shot a completely innocent man but they then smeared him and his family repeatedly in the press? At the time, instead of condemning the police, he said:

    we need to get real and accept that there will be many more baseless scare stories and fruitless raids.

  19. douglas clark — on 22nd September, 2010 at 10:06 am  

    organic cheeseboard @ 18

    I don’t think Nick Cohen is racist either. I just think he has some sort of continuous loop running in his head that says:

    “I am right, I am right, and so on ad infinitum”

    When he has, pretty clearly, completely lost the plot.

    Why is it that the words ‘bankrupt’ and ‘idea’ come together in my head whenever Nick Cohen or Brownie raise their joint and several opinions on – well anything – really?

    If Brownie told me that potatoes were cheaper in Asda, I’d check it out before I’d believe it.

    That is how they come across to me, a couple of people that will say anything, twist anything, for their perception of the greater good.

    I can, usually, see the other persons point of view.

    Why is it that Brownie, a proxy for Nick, can’t actually comprehend about what you were saying?

    I can only assume it is because he doesn’t want to, and he prefers to play the idiot savant wherever he goes.

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