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Saturday, June 14, 2008

U.K.’s David Davis: Assault on Freedoms "Must be Stopped"

In the last few days, there were several events that made me feel very positive about the freedom movement.

There was the settling effect of Ron Paul’s Phase II.

There was the amazing Irish NO vote yesterday against the European Union's Lisbon reform treaty.

And there was another politician taking a stand for freedom this week - in Britain - David Davis. And because it is so rare for politicians to give a damn about liberties, this event reminds me of the powerful film Amazing Grace about the British statesman and anti-slavery hero William Wilberforce.

David Davis, the Conservative Party’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Home Secretary could not stomach the June 11th passing of New Labour’s 42 day detention-without-trial law. Therefore he resigned from parliament, forcing a by-election on that issue along with a mass of British government attacks on civil liberties and privacy rights, which he comprehensively condemned:

"This Sunday is the anniversary of Magna Carta - the document that guarantees that most fundamental of British freedoms - habeas corpus - the right not to be imprisoned by the state without charge or reason.

"Yesterday this house decided to allow the state to lock up potentially innocent British citizens for up to six weeks without charge…

"… 42 days is just one - perhaps the most salient example - of the insidious, surreptitious and relentless erosion of fundamental British freedoms.

"And we will have shortly, the most intrusive identity card system in the world. A CCTV camera for every 14 citizens, a DNA database bigger than any dictatorship has, with 1000s of innocent children and a million innocent citizens on it.

"We have witnessed an assault on jury trials - that bulwark against bad law and its arbitrary use by the state. Short cuts with our justice system that make our system neither firm not fair.

"And the creation of a database state opening up our private lives to the prying eyes of official snoopers and exposing our personal data to careless civil servants and criminal hackers.

"The state has security powers to clamp down on peaceful protest and so-called hate laws that stifle legitimate debate - while those who incite violence get off scot free.

"This cannot go on, it must be stopped. And for that reason, I feel that today it’s incumbent on me to take a stand." 

The UK Libertarian Party’s Leader, Patrick Vessey, expressed his support:

"Should Mr. Davis find that the party of which he is currently a member does not share his grave and quite justified concerns about the continuing erosion of our precious civil liberties, he would be welcome to join the only British political party for which these issues are a matter of core principle, rather than purely the stuff of sound-bites."

The British Libertarian Alliance gave Davis its unconditional support, calling him a "brave and decent man". Libertarian Alliance Director, Dr Sean Gabb, expressed his contempt for the Labour government:

"We have been repeatedly told that suspects will only be detained for six weeks without trial in the gravest cases affecting national security. This is a lie. We were promised that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 would only be used in cases of national security. Instead, it is used by just about every local authority in the country to spy on ordinary people.

"The effect - and almost certainly the purpose - of this law will be to create a new weapon of administrative detention. It may be used against the occasional terrorist suspect. Much more often, though, dissidents and other ‘trouble-makers’ will be told to shut up or face arrest on suspicion of terrorist offences. They will be held without charge for six weeks, then released without charge. In the meantime, they will have lost their jobs and reputations; their lives will be in ruins. All this - and without the shadow of due process."

Statement by David Davis:

Tony Benn: "catastrophic attack on civil liberties"
Shami Chakrabarti: director of pressure group Liberty

Posted by Alan Mercer on June 14, 2008 in International Politics | Permalink


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Freedom and Liberty have existed since the first day Man asserted it.

Governments have been instituted as a form to protect that liberty and freedom. Should governments shirk their responsibility, and cause an affront to liberty and freedom, then those governments will begin their crumble. New governments and constitutions will be instituted to take their place.

In the end, Freedom and Liberty will be all that remains. To the last day, freedom and liberty will outlive any government that does not consider them sacred.

Posted by: Brad F | 2008-06-14 4:22:05 AM

Read 'Atlas Shrugged' by Ayn Rand!



Posted by: Mayberry | 2008-06-14 6:33:16 AM

Brad, I hope you are right. But I wonder if it is possible that governments were instituted or could ever be instituted to protect liberties. Governments by their nature infringe on liberties from act one on day one.

Posted by: TM | 2008-06-14 10:15:45 AM


Posted by: Agha Ali Arkahn | 2008-06-14 10:42:48 AM

Excellent post, Alan. Reading that was a great way to mark tax freedom day in Canada.

Agha, if it could be shown, with even the smallest amount of evidence, that someone is plotting an attack, the suspect wouldn't need to be held without a charge being laid. The charge would be apparent and would be laid.

Posted by: Matthew Johnston | 2008-06-14 12:01:46 PM

Matthew. If a judge rules that the evidence is not sufficient, keep 'em in jail until the evidence improves, up to 42 days. [Longer if posible] Your enemies (friends?)are twisting your laws to ruin you. Freedom is not free. If you want freedom for free, you get what you pay for.

Posted by: Agha Ali Arkahn | 2008-06-14 1:38:35 PM

I'm agreed with Matthew, it's a great post. Of course, in the U.S., it looks like habeas corpus will be restored for foreign suspects thanks to the Supreme Court.

But I don't understand opposition to the Supreme Court ruling, or support for allowing detentions for 42 days without trial. I'm trying to understand it, I really am. All I keep hearing is: "They are terrorists." Or "They are enemy combatants." etc.

But that's what we *don't* know! They are *suspects*. And all suspects should be presented before a court, and the onus should be on the state to prove that in this or that case, the suspect's liberty can be justifiably infringed.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-06-14 1:42:36 PM

For example.... 329 Air India passengers would agree to permit 42 days as a 'price' of freedom. ?Or maybe 42 days have more significance than 329 lives?

Posted by: Agha Ali Arkahn | 2008-06-14 2:16:57 PM

Habeus corpus and other constitutional alliterations belong to its citizens. Without that distincition, we should fall back on the Geneva convention.

Otherwise, there is nothing stopping a runaway supreme court of declaring Nazis captured in battle, say in France, from demanding their rights to be sent back to Germany during WWII.

Posted by: h2o273kk9 | 2008-06-14 2:31:17 PM

David Davis is a fool. I don't want his brand of freedom let it stay in Britian were it belongs along with the other trash. We conservatives on this side of the pond beleive that there is a price to pay for our security and freedoms. Its called guantanamo bay (those fools are going to be sent packing shortly, a shame) in candada security certificates. Ya don't like it, leave. Europe will welcome you with open arms.

Posted by: Conservative Crusader | 2008-06-14 5:09:44 PM

This is the wrong hill to die on. He named many abuses - and he ought to have resigned to fight against those. This, on the other hand, is a power which is justifiable - even if it takes us in the wrong direction.

Attempting to fight a war according to modern Western, civil law is insane. We've gotten lucky so far that the Bush Administration's anti-terrorist policies have been effective because the terrorists keep foolishly attempting to organize large-scale attacks and because the Administration's policies haven't really been obstructed effectively in this area.

But, let's get real, folks. We follow the calls of some for the preservation of civil liberties at all costs and the likely result is going to be the destruction of even more fundamental rights. What do you folks think would follow a nuclear attack?

That's what you war opponents miss. The Bush Administration's course isn't a choice in a range of choices that run only to war and peace - it's a middle ground between the surrender that some advocate on one side and the genocidal one which would follow a nuclear or major biological attack.

Indeed, I would argue that this measure isn't nearly harsh enough. We shouldn't be dealing with terrorists through ordinary laws. Terrorists and their supporters should simply be disappeared in the middle of the night, have all useful information extracted from them and then, depending on their level of cooperation, either securely retired somewhere or dumped from a helicoptor into the middle of the Ocean.

Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 2008-06-14 6:06:55 PM

Terrorists and their supporters should simply be disappeared in the middle of the night, have all useful information extracted from them and then, depending on their level of cooperation, either securely retired somewhere or dumped from a helicoptor into the middle of the Ocean.
Posted by: Adam Yoshida | 14-Jun-08 6:06:55 PM

Sounds very similar to what Yagoda did 75 years ago. Who decides who is a terrorist?

BTW. Can you post where part 2 of this howler is located? I couldn't stop laughing with the thought that you and not Jack Bauer was going to save Western Civilization.


Posted by: The Stig | 2008-06-14 7:27:10 PM

"...the theft of our civil liberties is not something in isolation, and not accidental. It is programmatic - part of a clear re-shaping of national life. The government is creating a security state while, at the same time, creating the threats to national security which supposedly necessitate it. This it does by destroying the natural cohesion of society and, more specifically, by encouraging large Moslem communities in Britain’s towns and cities while conducting wars of aggression against Moslems in their own lands.

David Davis’ stance is all very fine and well, but it does not go far enough. It does not address the government’s real objective in assaulting our civil liberties, which is to continue the population changes in train now through to their conclusion without complications, especially violent complications, arising from any quarter.

The security state is an end to the means of replacing the English with foreign populations, and a precondition for the control of its deracinated successor."

Posted by: DJ | 2008-06-15 9:28:41 PM

So, how do we solve the tricky problem of wanting to prosecute terrorists without making public the evidence against them for fear of giving their comrades an advantage against us?

How about granting a great deal of the power to appoint terrorist court judges to the organizations that exist to protect individual liberties? If the judges were appointed upon the recommendation of a committee made up of, oh say, the Privacy Commissioner, Amnesty International, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the NDP, etc etc, and those judges STILL agreed that the accused should be detained without making the evidence public, would that resolve SOME of the opposition?

Posted by: Anonymous | 2008-06-16 8:07:37 AM

Adam Yoshida says:
"Indeed, I would argue that this measure isn't nearly harsh enough. We shouldn't be dealing with terrorists through ordinary laws. Terrorists and their supporters should simply be disappeared in the middle of the night, have all useful information extracted from them and then, depending on their level of cooperation, either securely retired somewhere or dumped from a helicoptor into the middle of the Ocean."

Are you kidding me? And what happens when the government decides for some reason to label you a terrorist, Adam? Perhaps a copyright terrorist? Why would anyone be willing to trust any government with that kind of totalitarian power. This is what Pinochet did. Much as our current governments would like you to believe differently, there is and has never been one large homogeneous group of "terrorists". A Right wing government may "disappear" left wing dissenters/"terrorists and a Left wing government may "disappear" right wing dissenters/"terrorists". Due process must be given to all who are accused of crimes.

Why are modern North American conservatives so terrified of their own shadows?

Its amazing to see how the movement of smaller government has changed into a movement wanting ever more government to protect them from some unseen, omni-present and all powerful bogey-man.

Please, all of you conservatives who are so happy to give away all of your freedoms in the name of "safety", grow a pair and stop being so afraid. Us Real conservatives would like the party to be taken seriously again.

The fact that no attacks have occurred since 911 is not proof that anyone has stopped an attack from happening, but it makes for great government propaganda to keep the people afraid.

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"
-Benjamin Franklin

Posted by: Robert | 2008-06-16 11:22:38 AM

State detention is wrong without evidence, period.
Surveillance is wrong and brings no good results anyway. Our nation has, almost like England, lost all sense of justice and nobility and has become the one we should fear. We need our patriots now more than ever. The loyalists are their own problem.

Posted by: JC | 2008-06-16 9:09:24 PM

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