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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

“The Times” and identity cards

James Hammerton’s Blog has a sound fisking of two pro-ID card articles published in the Times yesterday.

Michael Gove, author of one of the Times articles argues that given the changed circumstances of the 21st century we may need to reexamine this prejudice [prejudice against the state exercising arbitrary authority] where, in the west at least, the main threat to individuals comes not from state power as it did in the 20th century, but from terrorists who have the will and may get the means to carry out slaughter on a horrendous scale.

James spots the consistency in the Home Secretary’s policies:

To take the last part of that first, I’d respond that Blunkett has not merely “rethought” civil liberites, he (and Straw before him and Howard before him) has set out to dismantle them plain and simple. A “rethinking” would not have attacked every single protection across the board. The right to a jury trial, the presumption of innocence, the right to security of property, freedom of expression, freedom of association, doctor-patient confidentiality, lawyer-client confidentiality, freedom from arbitrary surveillance, the right to protest, all of these have been sytematically eroded. Every year since 1999 (before 9/11!), the government has produced bills with swingeing attacks on civil liberties. Only a small proportion of them could possibly be justified on the grounds they may help protect us from terrorism. Even where such measures can protect us from terrorism they’ve often been applied broadly weakening protections when the authorities are investigating crime in general rather than just terrorism.

He concludes with the point that cannot be repeated laudly and often enough:

Thus the state incompetence or inability to actually control would be terrorists and criminals and the odd clever civil libertarian via the system does not transfer to the state’s ability to control the law abiding majority with the system. The cynical might suggest that controlling the majority is the whole point, whilst crime fighting and dealing with terrorism are just the sales packaging.

Read the whole thing, as they say

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