The threat from terrorism does not justify slicing away our freedoms by Timothy Garton Ash

Britain is now one of the world’s most spied-upon societies, where such ancient rights as habeas corpus are hacked to bitsSmiley swirled the last of the brandy in his balloon glass and muttered: “We’ve given up far too many freedoms in order to be free. Now we’ve got to take them back.” That legendary spymaster’s warning about the over-intrusive, over-mighty national security states that we in the self-styled “free world” built up during the cold war was delivered in John le Carré’s novel of 1990, The Secret Pilgrim. But instead of taking those freedoms back, British people have lost more of them. Across the western world, vastly more personal information is held on individuals by states and private companies; ancient liberties are curbed, people detained without trial, free speech stifled.Shamingly, among the very worst offenders, the most careless with its citizens’ liberties, the most profligate in surveillance, is the British state. Once proud to style itself “mother of the free”, Britain has the most watched society in Europe. The country that invented habeas corpus now boasts one of the longest periods of detention without charge in the civilised world. And the guardians of national security want to make that even longer. Yet these same guardians cannot detect illegal immigrants working in their own offices (and even, in one case, reportedly helping to repair the prime minister’s top-security car), nor detain a terrorist suspect (who turned out to be a wholly innocent Brazilian) without shooting him in the head.,,2211061,00.html

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