Dr Eamonn Butler writes on the Adam Smith Institute Blog:
Soon after 9/11, Britain introduced draconian anti-terrorist legislation that included the power to imprison suspected terrorists without trial. It required an abrogation of human rights laws, and was a denial of habeas corpus: but the argument was that in some cases, producing evidence in a trial might expose secret sources or prejudice the lives and safety of the security services and their informers.
Not surprisingly, the High Court objected. So last week, Britain’s Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, replied that instead of detaining suspects in prison, he would keep them under house arrest, bar them using the internet and mobile phones, and so on.
Home Office ministers said we shouldn’t worry about this, because nice Mr Clarke would keep all such detentions under constant review. And because it only applies to international terrorists. But then other ministers said it might apply to animal rights campaigners too, since they were pretty dangerous characters. Err…where is this going to end?
Sure, a liberal order must protect itself from those who would destroy liberalism itself. And maybe, at times, you have to act illiberally to do that. But you should still act according to the rule of law. If there is evidence, it should be produced in court. If the evidence is too sensitive to be made public, then it should be heard in private before qualified judges. At the moment we are jailing people, and soon we will be imprisoning them in their homes, on the say-so of a politician. That is scary.