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  • Technorati: graph / links

    MI5: Government ‘exploited terrorism fears’


    by Sunny
    17th February, 2009 at 9:00 am    

    The Independent reports:

    Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has accused the Government of exploiting public fear of terrorism to restrict civil liberties. Her comments came on the same day as a report published by international jurists suggested that Britain and America have led other countries in “actively undermining” the rule of law and “threatening civil liberties” in the guise of fighting terrorism.

    “It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism: that we live in fear and under a police state.”

    Well, talk about stating the obvious but when the former head of the MI5 says it then suddenly it takes a whole new meaning. But there’s no point really just blaming the government. Since 9/11 and 7/7 we’ve seen a whole industry of bloggers, national journalists (Melanie Phillips, obviously, but plenty of others too) and think-tankers (Policy Exchange) and general wingnuts (Douglas Murray) who have become obsessed with finding ‘Islamists Under The Bed’.

    Now, some of those concerns may have been real but they weren’t the only ones raising them. The difference is that this whole industry wanted to push as far as they could, even arguing at times (wave to Martin Amis!) that Muslims could - possibly, maybe, just having a thought experiment you know - singled out for further curtailment of their civil liberties. All those people who cheered on the neoconservatives in the US as they used and abused surveillance powers, as stood by New Labour while they talked up ID cards - they are also to blame. The fact that it has become illegal to even take a picture of a police constable is not just the fault of New Labour, it’s also the fault of the apologists on the left and right who went along with that agenda. Dame Remington’s comments must come as a stinging slap. How does that make you feeeeeeeel?


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    Filed in: Civil liberties,Party politics,Terrorism






    11 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs


    1. Rumbold — on 17th February, 2009 at 9:38 am  

      Good piece.

    2. Ravi Naik — on 17th February, 2009 at 9:49 am  

      All those people who cheered on the neoconservatives in the US as they used and abused surveillance powers, as stood by New Labour while they talked up ID cards - they are also to blame. The fact that it has become illegal to even take a picture of a police constable is not just the fault of New Labour, it’s also the fault of the apologists on the left and right who went along with that agenda. Dame Remington’s comments must come as a stinging slap. How does that make you feeeeeeeel?

      Dame Stella Rimington seems to be ok with ID cards.

      Anyway, I think you are overestimating the effect of bloggers and writers who confess their urges (like Martis Amis). Bush’s policies were not crafted by bloggers - they were made by the neocons. Tony Blair just followed them.

      Nobody has explained to me what is wrong with ID cards. It is extremely convenient way to identify yourself, here and when you go abroad.

    3. Letters From A Tory — on 17th February, 2009 at 9:49 am  

      So nice to hear someone within the security services and close to the government making this point loud and clear.

      Not that it will have any impact on our authoritarian overlords, but still….

    4. Shamit — on 17th February, 2009 at 10:08 am  

      Sunny

      This is a very good post. I am especially concerned with the Coroner’s Bill and it is not the secret inquest that bothers me. What really is scary is the ubiquitious data sharing ability including confidential medical records this bill gives to all government bodies.

      While the laws are brought in to counter terrorism, as we all know they have been used and abused by local authorities as well as individuals within police, DWP, and others, who had a grudge against others. There have been at least 15 disciplinary actions against Government employees in the last 3 months for unauthorised access of individual data.

      I know of at least 3 challenges that are being prepared because these new legislations do not meet the requirements of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the MPs (including Labour MPs) are planning a wholesale rebellion.

      By the way, Sunny, Policy Exchange has never supported curbing of individual rights. The Tories are against it and so are the Lib Dems, it is the Labour Party’s higher echelons especially the Brown cabal which is now pushing it. I wonder why the Fabian Society or Compass does not come out and say anything because these laws would unduly affect those with less resources and connections.

      Maybe challenging them to do something like so many others are such as British Computer society, BMA etc etc could be a good starting point.

    5. munir — on 17th February, 2009 at 10:10 am  

      “Anyway, I think you are overestimating the effect of bloggers and writers who confess their urges (like Martis Amis). Bush’s policies were not crafted by bloggers - they were made by the neocons. Tony Blair just followed them.”

      Amis’ remarks arent dangerous because they have effected Bush policies. They are dangerous because they are a well known intellectual and writer supporting an assault on a minority. Similiar anti-semitic comments from respected writers helped pave the way for the holocaust or at least make persecution seem more palatable.

      “Nobody has explained to me what is wrong with ID cards. It is extremely convenient way to identify yourself, here and when you go abroad.”

      Surely the onus in on those who support ID cards to prove compelling reasons for them. Why should you have to identify yourself? There are many reasons against them.

      1) We have never had to identify ourselves in this country walking down the street. It is an end to a fundamental British freedom.
      2) It gives too much power to the police
      3) It gives too much power to the authorites- in the hands of a nasty BNP type goverenmnt such information would be disastrous
      4) Given the numerous security lapses with data how could we trust the governemnt with our data
      5) It doesnt stop crime- criminals would just forge them
      6) It doesnt stop terrorism - Spain had ID cards and it didnt stop the Madris bombings. It wont stop people willing to blow themselves up.
      7)It is expensive
      8 ) It could be used by police to target ethnic minorities as happens in France.

    6. Shamit — on 17th February, 2009 at 10:15 am  

      Ravi

      There is no full proof technology yet — and I doubt there ever will be. One of the biggest threats to our economy and national security is identity fraud which has cost Britain an average of over £100 billion per fiscal year.

      Putting all this information in a database, without empowering the individual and the Information Commissioner could be dangerous. For example, a closet BNP police officer who has a grudge against someone who is brown skinned. Further, there has been proposals made to the Government to empower the ICO like the audit commission, which would enable them to do sudden audits and prosecute people in departments, which have been rejected.

      Finally, unless the individual is empowered to operate his/her own identity and check who has gone in and why like your own bank account then ID cards and the obvious database that comes with it causes grave concerns for individual liberty.

    7. platinum786 — on 17th February, 2009 at 1:49 pm  

      Why is it when someone who writes for a paper tells you something you beleive them, but if I told you the government was making too much of a big deal about it all, you never beleive me?

    8. Riz Din — on 17th February, 2009 at 3:02 pm  

      platinum, I can think of two reasons:
      1) the written word has great power….’I read it in a book’ has a lot more authority than ‘I heard’. A book, damn it!
      2) I find that if people have known you for a long time, they may dismiss your talk as your usual ramblings and spoutings, possibly biasing their opinion of your words by what else they know about your character. When it’s someone else saying the same stuff, well, that’s some how different.

    9. Riz Din — on 17th February, 2009 at 3:10 pm  

      - Dear Stella Rimington, I do not live in fear of a police state…perhaps I should change my mind. Afterall, you did run the intelligence show for many years and know a lot more about what’s really happening.

      - I wish policy makers did a bit of contingency thinking when they put policies together or passed laws…otherwise, it’s just like an insurance policy that doesn’t pay out when you need it most (i.e. pointless).

      - The idea that our liberties have been curtailed through exploiting public fear carries across to much policy making in general. Dealing with pressing issues such as NHS reform, education etc is all very boring. If you are a senior politician, it is much more interesting and self-serving to create and feed the fire of a new fear which you know you can combat and produce a relatively quick turnaround. You are a hero in the altered minds of the public. Oh, how I hate politicians.

    10. ukliberty — on 17th February, 2009 at 3:51 pm  

      Ravi,

      Dame Stella Rimington seems to be ok with ID cards.

      I’m not sure why you think that, given the article you linked to.

      Nobody has explained to me what is wrong with ID cards. It is extremely convenient way to identify yourself, here and when you go abroad.

      Identify yourself to whom, and for what purpose?

      Disregarding for now the point of principle that it alters the relationship between state and the individual - the state assigns him an identity, which it and others can use, abuse or withdraw, rather than him choosing one or more himself - there is a pragmatic point, and that is that the proponents of ID cards conflate (or even confuse) identification with entitlement, which can lead to problems.

      Then of course there are the issues with any given system relating to what is stored, who has access to it, and the risks this introduces.

    11. platinum786 — on 17th February, 2009 at 4:37 pm  

      LOL…. I wasn’t expecting a serious answer.

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