...a blog by Richard Flowers

Monday, August 19, 2013

Day 4614: Miranda (Not the Funny One)


Mr David Miranda, a passenger en route from Berlin to Brazil and not entering the UK, has been detained at Heathrow Airport under the Terrorism Act 2000, and held for the full nine hours allowed under that Act before being released. His telephone, laptop, games console, DVDs and other electronica have been confiscated.

Mr Miranda is not a terrorist suspect.

This is an abuse of power. This is why Labour were wrong.

We need to be abolishing these laws and Labour’s Yvette Cooper needs to be apologising for her part in enacting them, not demanding answers like a victim.

Hard Labour’s terrorism laws and security theatre are wide open to this kind of abuse and this proves it. Their excuse at the time – “we would never abuse these laws” – we already shown to be hollow, if not downright mendacious, when Walter Wolfgang was arrested at their own Party Conference. But they are shown to be absurd in their cries “oh the Evil Coalition” – and who left the “Evil Coalition” with all these power to abuse, eh? And who warned you not to do anything so bloody stupid?

Nevertheless, as members of the Coalition, this certainly happened on “our watch” and for that we are to blame.

The first question has to be whether we are directly to blame: we urgently need to discover who ordered this and why.

“Who?” is either a minister who needs to be made accountable, or someone in the police or security services possibly acting ultra vires.

The Grauniad is quick to conflate the police/borders authority/security services who detained Mr Miranda with “the UK government”. (Irrelevantly to the illegality of his detention but possibly not unconnectedly Mr Miranda is the partner of one of the Grauniad journalists reporting on the whistle-blower Edward Snowdon and the American NSA, and “intimidation” has quickly – but plausibly – been suggested as a motive.)

I suspect that that is slack reporting rather than bias, but as a first step we need to establish (in decreasing order of culpability) if anyone in government – presumably the Home Office – ordered this, or were aware of this before the fact, or during the fact.

“Why?” then leads to questions of greater UK involvement in the whole Prism/email hacking scandal, or perhaps someone being too eager to do a favour for our American cousins. The possibility of the “phone call from the State Department” being at the root of this reminds us of the dangerously subservient Blair-era relationship between US and UK.

But even if we’re not guilty of direct abuse of power, we have still failed to do our part to prevent it by rolling back the police state that the last government was intent on putting into place.

Our Freedoms Bill was watered down and we have failed to move the Civil Liberties agenda on far enough. Theresa May’s Home Office in particular is rife with “little initiatives” to try and increase rather than decrease the powers that police and security services already have. Every success is treated as proof they need these powers; every failure is cited as evidence that they need more power.

Labour and Conservatives have both demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with our Rights and Liberties, except that you can trust them to take liberties with your rights while handing over more money and power to the security industry.

As Liberal Democrats even we cannot be trusted with this sort of power. That is why we must urgently press to repeal those powers to take the temptation away.

We need to take a stand on this.

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