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Ken MacDonald, the outgoing chief prosecutor of England and Wales, has warned against paranoid fears over terrorism being used to justify giving the government ever more “sweeping powers”, the BBC reports.
“We need to take very great care not to fall into a way of life in which freedom’s back is broken by the relentless pressure of a security state”, he said in his final speech.
Following the heavy defeat of government proposals to allow itself to detain people for 42 days without charge, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has announced plans to create a giant database to monitor the telephone, email and internet usage of everyone in the UK – ostensibly on the basis that this will help to fight terrorism. Opposition parties have described the plan as “Orwellian”.
In his speech, Ken Macdonald urged resistance to what he called the “paraphernalia of paranoia”:
“Of course, you can have the Guantanamo model. You can have the model which says that we cannot afford to give people their rights, that rights are too expensive because of the nature of the threats we are facing.
“Or you can say, as I prefer to, that our rights are priceless. That the best way to face down those threats is to strengthen our institutions, rather than to degrade them.
“We would do well not to insult ourselves and all of our institutions and our processes of law in the face of these medieval delusions.”
In “Don’t Get Fooled Again” I look at the strange nexus between journalists who whip up public fears over terrorism in order to sell more newspapers, and politicians who exaggerate the threat so as to justify their demands for ‘sweeping powers’ to invade our privacy, evade public scrutiny, and control our behaviour.
UK government plans blanket monitoring of emails, phone calls, and web browsing – while insisting that “no formal decision” has yet been taken
The Times reports that the UK government is considering plans for a £12 billion database to monitor and store the emails, phone calls and web browsing records of everyone in the country. While the Home Office is reportedly at pains to insist – echoing the rhetoric in the run-up to the Iraq war – that “no formal decision” has yet been taken to go ahead, The Times says that the government has already committed up to £1 billion to the project.
In “Don’t Get Fooled Again“, I look at the arguments used by politicians to grant themselves “sweeping new powers”, and the unintended consequences that result when checks on government power are undermined.