Monday, 26 August 2013

Freedom,David Miranda and the new totalitarians

The Home Secretary is a woman whose rank hypocrisy oozes from every pore.  About the only civil libertarian act undertaken by the Coalition has been the abandonment of Labour's plans for identity cards, more by default in terms of cost-cutting rather than as a consequence of any desire to protect the liberty of the citizen (or subject, as the police and Tories style us).  Over the last week, the abuse of the Terrorism Act by the UK border staff and police is becoming clearer - any legislation that permits detention without representation, evidence or requirement for pre- or post-hoc justification is an abomination that should be struck from the statute book.

The embarrassment that the US and UK governments are feeling over electronic surveillance is A Good Thing.  Any rational being accepts that there may be occasions that require curtailments of individual liberty for the greater good - a simple utilitarian concept - but that the balance of evidence has to be that there is both a proximate threat to the general security and that there is no either legitimate means of securing the desired outcome.  The hysterical reaction by the Bush and Blair administrations has soured freedoms over the last decade; the extent to which "security" can be used as a fig-leaf for actions that would not have looked out of place under Stalin or Hitler - the whole gamut of enabling legislation and the presumption that any objector is a traitor are the kind of mid-20th century totalitarianism that demonstrates a complete lack of confidence in the ability of the law enforcement agencies to achieve their goals without stepping over the line of repression.

Tories have always been authoritarian and dictatorial - it is instructive to watch the re-run of Thatcher: the Downing Street Years to see the roots of this swivel-eyed contempt for the masses - and they have always played the law and order card to appeal to their narrow-minded suburban power base.  The police, in their narrative, and by extension other uniformed half-witted agents of the state, are capable of exercising judgements and decisions that should be scrutinised by the courts and the legislature.  As an argument for a written constitution, Bill of Rights and automatic legal scrutiny it cannot be bettered.

Amusingly, "Lord" Ian Blair, a spectacularly uninspiring Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, has been banging the drum for all-encompassing anti-leaking legislation.  The delicious irony of a former boss of an organisation which has several of its scions facing prosecution for corrupt practices with respect to the tabloid press, not confined to the odious Murdoch rags, calling for official privacy to trump both a free press and proper scrutiny of the agencies of state, should not be lost.  Leaking, according to Blair, is aiding terrorism.  There's nothing like a foolish Establishment to raise suspicions.

Detaining the partner of a journalist demonstrates both paranoia and idiocy.  The symbolic smashing of hard drives to satisfy the technically-illiterate state machinery, alongside the suggestion that government intrusion is a price worth paying, demonstrates security services and government in cahoots of new incompetence.  If the investigation into David Miranda's detention, and his lawsuits, results in the government being given a good kicking, then it would be reasonable to expect resignations and policy reviews.  I shall not be holding my breath.

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