Civil Liberties are in the interest of National Security

Tom Harris MP said something on Twitter this morning that I have serious issues with:

"Just read the Telegraph's splash. Any minister who puts civil liberties ahead of security should be in student politics, not government." (Source

This statement misses the point. We've had control orders and detention without charge under Labour's last government, but they didn't protect me or anyone else. In fact they put people at risk, because these powers can be misused, and can allow people to be detained who disagree with the government in power. Am I being melodramatic? Perhaps, but no totalitarian state can disappear people without such powers being in place first; while they might not necessarily be abused, laws stay in place beyond the tenure of a single government, and it is always harder to repeal legislation than to pass it.

A vision of how this might come about can be found in Cory Doctorow's political novel "Little Brother". It is a work of fiction and inevitably dramatic, but the idea of a terrorist event triggering an effective lockdown on people's freedoms isn't that far-fetched.

I'm not against intelligence gathering and intercept evidence being used in a court of law. But imprisonment must be decided in court, following due process, after the evidence has been gathered and charges made by police. Terrorists are just criminals, and should be treated in the same manner as any other criminal. And it's worth noting that just last year, police in the UK stopped and searched over 100 thousand people under anti-terror legislation; but only 506 were arrested, and none resulted in terror charges. (Source: BBC)

Our civil liberties are the greatest form of National Security we have. They are part of the fabric of our society and promote values of tolerance and understanding. We should always put our liberties first. If we cage ourselves in fear and liberty-curbing legislation, we don't need terrorism to change our way of life; we'll have done it ourselves.

This was originally posted on my own blog on 8/11/10



Re: Civil Liberties are in the interest of National Security
Posted by Anonymous (86.128.xx.xx) on Tue 9 Nov 2010 at 18:31
There is an additional and simple argument against Tom's line of thinking - all the 'security' in the world will not prevent a determined attacker from attempting to kill and maim. They will *always* find a way.

Much of it is security theatre that relies on prevention by chance rather than prevention by intelligence. How many more hundreds of thousands of people will need to be stopped before the Government can crow about having caught an actual terrorist?

We should be more pragmatic. Terrorists cannot kill us all, only the State has the power to do that...
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