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 Liberty Watch

 2001

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24th December

  United Brothers

Every person in the world would be fingerprinted and registered under a universal identification scheme to fight illegal immigration and people smuggling outlined at a United Nations recently.

The plan was put forward by Pascal Smet, the head of Belgium's independent asylum review board, at a roundtable meeting with ministers including Australian Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock this afternoon.

Smet said the European Union was already considering a Europe-wide system, using either fingerprints or eye scanning technology, to identify citizens. But he said the plan could be extended worldwide. " There are no technical problems. It is only a question of will and investment. If you look to our societies, we are already registered from birth until death. Our governments know who we are and what we are. But one of the basic problems is the numbers of people in the world who are not registered, who do not have a set identity, and when these people move with real or fake passports, you cannot identify them.

Smet said the scheme would give people dignity by giving them an identity if their papers had been lost or destroyed. And he said it would allow countries to open their borders to genuine travellers or asylum seekers, because they would be able to prove the identity of any over-stayers and deport them without argument from their home country.

Philip Ruddock appeared unconvinced by the merits of the plan. In principle we would be supportive of a system which would crack down on multiple asylum claims, but a universal identification system would be taking it too far, he said through a spokeswoman.

 

 

16th December

  Blunkett Flunked It

Based on an article in The Guardian

The government last night salvaged its emergency anti-terror bill but thankfully had to climb down over its controversial plans for a criminal offence of inciting religious hatred.

David Blunkett, the home secretary, told the Commons just before 10pm of his decision after peers again rejected the religious incitement measure by a margin of 234 votes to 121. It was the second time peers had thrown out the measure and the largest defeat the government has experienced in the reformed Lords.

Blunkett angrily attacked those who blocked the religious incitement measure, accusing his opponents of triumphalism. We have lost on it, but it is not a matter for anyone to rejoice , he said. Defending his anger and the consequences for the Muslim community, he said: If anyone blows a raspberry in your ear, you are liable to blow your mouth organ a little louder.

His spokesman said the measure would not be reintroduced in this parliament, even though the Tories and Liberal Democrats offered to cooperate on a bill at a later stage.

Despite the setbacks, the terror bill, including new police powers to demand disclosure of files, phone calls and emails, will be placed on the statute book this morning. The bill will also give the security services powers to detain suspected foreign terrorists who cannot currently be prosecuted or deported. They are expected to move swiftly to pick up a handful of suspected terrorists in Britain.

 

25th November

  Inciting Political Hatred

According to the Telegraph

Brother Blunkett is preparing to drop planned laws against inciting religious hatred in a major concession to critics tomorrow.

With the controversial measure facing a likely defeat if it goes to the Lords, the Home Secretary wants to focus his energies on defending the rest of his emergency anti-terror legislation. Blunkett will "take the temperature" among Labour backbenchers when the Bill goes before the Commons again tomorrow and has signalled in advance that he is prepared to drop the clause on religious hatred. A Home Office insider said: It is not the most important part of the Bill and we can live without it. David Blunkett will listen to what Labour MPs say on Monday and is prepared to drop it if that is their wish.

The Bill is being targeted by Tory and Liberal Democrats for a vote in the Lords. A few Labour rebels oppose it on the grounds that it could inhibit free speech.

In its current form, the Bill would make it a criminal offence to use language likely to incite hatred or violence against religious communities, with a maximum penalty of seven years' imprisonment.

Critics say the law would be unworkable because it requires a subjective test and that it would create a grey area over what is or is not acceptable criticism of religious practices.

(A good job too. It is just the sort of crap law that will probably never do the job intended but will certainly be twisted, exploited and abused when it suits the authorities or those with rich lawyers).

 

 

11th November

  Internment with Blunkett

I nternment is always a measure that carries a heavy cost as shown in Northern Ireland. From the domestic perspective, we are chipping away at the values that make Britain a place worth defending. From the enemy viewpoint we are justifying the accusations of oppression that underpin the reason for the war in the first place. I hope the politicians are up to the job of weighing the costs against the benefits.

Anyway from the Telegraph :

Emergency powers to imprison suspected international terrorists indefinitely, using special courts closed to the public and press, will be announced this week. The wartime measure, which will require an exemption from human rights legislation, will be used to round up about 20 suspects hiding in Britain and beyond the reach of existing laws.

A High Court judge will conduct trials which will be held in camera and those found to be involved in terrorism will be sent to high-security prisons. Evidence will be given in private by officers of the security and intelligence services and there will be no jury.

The powers of detention are aimed at terrorists who have committed no crime in Britain but are wanted for acts committed overseas. Most are believed to have sought haven in the UK knowing that human rights laws mean that they cannot be extradited. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, will announce the move on Tuesday when he publishes the Emergency Anti-Terrorism Bill containing a series of tough security measures drawn up in response to the attacks of September 11.

The Bill is to be rushed through the Commons in a week and will become law before Christmas. Britain will declare "a state of public emergency" tomorrow, a legal formality which does not mean that there is any imminent terrorist threat. It is required before the Government can seek a temporary exemption from article five of the European Convention on Human Rights which prevents detention without trial.

Blunkett's plans will partly meet concerns expressed by civil liberties campaigners who feared that a form of internment would be used to round up suspected Islamic terrorists. The proposal is significantly different to internment, where individuals are detained without trial and which was judged to have caused severe tensions when used in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. The trials will be classed as special immigration appeals.

Suspects will be given legal representation and will be allowed to appeal against decisions. They will be blocked, however, from seeking judicial review which has been exploited as a device to string out extradition cases over many years. Rather than being sentenced to a fixed prison term, the terrorists will be held in prison until they can convince a court that they are not a potential threat.

They will then be released if they can identify a safe country which is willing to accept them, after which they would be deported. There are about 20 individuals in Britain identified by MI6 and MI5 as being involved in terrorism overseas. Most are wanted for specific crimes but cannot be sent for trial because British human rights laws forbid extradition to countries which use torture or impose the death penalty.

Blunkett will also speed up the lengthy process for deporting dozens of terrorists and their supporters harboured in Britain.

Other measures to be published in the Bill include:

  • Laws to stop supporters in Britain conspiring with terrorists abroad or providing them with funds or goods.

  • Requirements on airlines and shipping companies to provide information on passengers and freight.

  • Tighter security at airports and on aircraft.
  • Extending laws against inciting racial hatred to include religious hatred. Maximum penalty raised from two to seven years

 

22nd October

  Brother Straw: I Told You So

From the BBC

UK Foreign Secretary Brother Straw says "naive" campaigners against stronger internet surveillance laws have hurt the anti-terror fight.

He suggested that with stronger powers, the security services might have detected some of the 11 suicide hijackers who are now known to have passed through the UK on their way to the US. He said he had tried, through the recent Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, to allow the security services to de-encrypt commercially encrypted e-mails.

What happened? Large parts of the industry, backed by some people who I think will now recognise they were very naive in retrospect, said: 'You mustn't do that'. The pressure was so great that we and the United States... had to back down a bit. Now, I hear people saying 'why were these terrorists here' - well, the answer is not because of any lapse by the intelligence or security services or the police, but because people have had a two-dimensional view of civil liberties. The most fundamental civil liberty is the right to life and preserving that and sustaining that must come before others."

John Wadham, director of civil liberties group Liberty, warned that any curtailing of freedoms "for no good reason" would be a victory for those behind the 11 September attacks.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said If the government think that a law only just on the statute book needs changing literally a few months later, then they must come back with the argument and evidence

Meanwhile the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, has warned any new anti-terror measures must take the Human Rights Act into account. We are a country governed by the law and we mustn't allow the stresses and tensions, which are understandable, to deflect us from that.

 

 

21st October

  Snoop & Destroy

Congress Rejects RIAA Additions to   Anti-Terrorism Bill

From Wired

An amendment to anti-terrorism legislation proposed by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) that would have given the recording industry the authority to snoop on users' computers and delete pirated files has been defeated, Wired News reported on Monday. A draft of the bill stated that the RIAA and other copyright holders would not be held liable for any other files that may have been accidentally deleted in the process of sniffing out infringers. The RIAA said that the current bill, without its amendment, could interfere with their efforts to stem copyright infringement online. We might try and block somebody, RIAA lobbyist Mitch Glazier told Wired News. If we know someone is operating a server, a pirated music facility, we could try to take measures to try and prevent them from uploading or transmitting pirated documents. Glazier said the RIAA has abandoned this amendment in favor of a more moderate stance.

 

23rd September 

  Brother Blunkett

From the BBC . Also note that a MORI poll for the News of the World suggested that 85% of Brits would like to see the introduction of ID.

Home Secretary David Blunkett has revealed compulsory identity cards are being considered "very seriously indeed" as a measure to tackle terrorism. But Blunkett also says he will not be rushed into making a "snap announcement" on cards or any other anti-terror measures.

The home secretary indicated on BBC One's On the Record programme that his personal view was that a voluntary scheme would be pointless. He said: I'm giving it a fairly high priority in terms of the discussions and the consideration behind the scenes. There are much broader issues about entitlement and citizenship and not merely security in terms of some form of identity card which we are looking at very seriously indeed.

He also maintained that improvements in electronic thumb or fingerprint technology or even "iris-prints" meant the threat of forgery would not make the system redundant.

The Liberal Democrats have warned against hurried, badly-drafted security legislation which could harm civil liberties.  Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy said: Rushed legislation, particularly if it's got all party agreement, history teaches, is usually bad legislation.

He said drafting and discussion would take time as was appropriate in a democracy. Nobody need talk about recalling Parliament in this week or in the next two weeks to pass legislation. But the home secretary admitted the "balance" between the Human Rights Act and anti-terror provisions may need to change. He said : There will be tensions between the ECHR [European Court of Human Rights] and the Human Rights Act and the necessary protection that we seek. It is possible that we will have to change the balance ."

The Conservatives have said they will support whatever steps are needed to fight terrorism.  Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said the country always had to be careful about curtailing freedoms.  But he said the party would look at any proposal for identity cards or any other measure to fight terrorism.

 

27th July

  Hats Off to Big Brother

Not being a great wearer of hats I was unaware of this modern phemomena so I thought it well worth while making people a little bit more aware of the depths that the surveillance society is willing to sink to.

Several high street shops are so insistant that all customers are photographed that if the computer imaging system fails to register a face it causes a carefully placed beeper to issue a distracting noise. The victim then looks around towards the source of the noise so that the co-located camera can have another crack at recognising the person now full face on. This was pointed out to me by someone who habitually likes to wear hats which may obscure the face on entry into the shop.

I would like to compile a list of the shit shops that employ such intrusive technology so if you get bleeped please let me know I will add the offending shop to the Big Brothers List of Shit Shops. (rolls off the tongue eh!)

 

27th July

  Hot Pants

If you are going on holiday to the United States on holiday, beware.  It's now illegal to wear aluminium underwear in Colorado. The reason?  Shoplifters have worked out that anti-theft scanners can't see through the aluminium so they have been sneaking out the goods in their metal briefs. This is serious business, says State Senator Stephanie Takis who sponsored the bill. We have laws against using crowbars as theft devices, but if you were lining your underwear with aluminium foil that was not a crime. Thoughtfully, the Senator makes an exception for those who wear aluminium for "personal amusement".