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21. Nov 2007

Terrorlovgivning: 'The blithe trust in the benign power of the state is astonishing'

Jeg skrev forleden om de ekstremt vidtgående nye initiativer, som den britiske regering nu lancerer terrorbekæmpelsen, og talte spøgefuldt om "østeuropæiske tilstande".

Der er også folk i England, der kan se den totalitære fare i den antagelse, at staten af natur kun er god og ønsker at beskytte, hvorfor der aldrig er problemer i at give den flere beføjelser: Der er rigeligt at være bange for, hvad overvågning og udvidede beføjelser til staten angår – også selv om man ikke har noget at skjule, skriver Jenni Russell i dagens Guardian (mine fremhævelser):
It is the cheerful acquiescence of the vast majority that shocks me. A government that so admires liberty now proposes to restrict it still further. In future, we won't be able to leave the country without answering 53 questions on everything from our travel plans and companions' itineraries to our frequent-flyer information and history of no-shows. One item on the government's list is headed: "Anything else the travel agent finds of interest". Another has the catch-all category: "Any other biographical information". Anyone seen as potentially suspicious could be refused permission to board trains or planes, without right of appeal.

250 principal railway stations are to introduce airline-style security; cinemas, shopping centres and other public places are to be protected by concrete bollards and fortified barriers; no new underground car parks are to be built; and dropping passengers off outside shopping centres is to be banned. Meanwhile the government is attempting to double the maximum period of detention without charge to 56 days.

The people who support these changes are on the whole indifferent to the argument that these plans are an insane overreaction, a waste of public money, and the equivalent of building a dam with porous bricks. It is in vain to point out that you can scan passengers at King's Cross all you like, but that a bomber will still be free to blow himself up in a Cambridge market, on a Highlands bus, or at Fortnum's while having tea. These people are not susceptible to the argument that, with a million possible targets in Britain, the ostentatious protection of a few does nothing to make us generally safer. Nor do they mind that the immediate consequence of travel questionnaires is likely to be the disruption of thousands of innocent plans, caught out by human or systemic error, while terrorists have the foresight to plan around them.
Indlægget er værd at læse i sin helhed, men et vigtigt spørgsmål, som de her tiltag rejser, er hvad en regering dog ønsker at opnå ved i den grad at opskræmme sin egen befolkning – og det endda over en trussel, der skønt alvorlig nok må forekomme at være i alle henseender overskuelig?

Og, som Russell siger: Hvilken uendelig tillid til staten, til dens oprigtige ønske om at beskytte borgerne og til, at de nye beføjelser aldrig, aldrig vil blive misbrugt, må en befolkning ikke have for at finde sig i sådanne tiltag.

En tillid, som efter alt at dømme er ganske uberettiget:
Last April, six peaceful protesters (including a GP) against the widening of the M1 were arrested before they arrived at the motorway. They had never done anything more remarkable than hang banners from motorway bridges. They were held for 14 hours; their houses were broken into although the police had their keys; and they had computers, diaries, bicycles and notebooks seized. They were bailed on condition they had no contact with one another, although two are partners, and two share a house. Seven months on they have neither been charged nor had their possessions returned. Yet peaceful civil protest is supposed to be permissible in Britain.

Perhaps most alarming is the evidence of the Independent Police Complaints Commission into the De Menezes shooting. Leave aside the fact that an innocent man was shot. Look at what the eight police officers did when they realised a mistake had been made. After advice from lawyers, the eight composed their statements together. All eight claimed that before shooting, there had been several warning shouts of "Armed police". Remarkably, not one of the 17 witnesses in the tube carriage heard any such thing. Does this fact give you confidence in the veracity of the police, or other agents of the state, should your evidence ever be in conflict with theirs?
Englænderne er for alvor ved at falde til patten, og givet, at det er et land med stolte friheds- og især oprørstraditioner, er det et trist syn.

Link til hele Jenni Russells kommentar.