As I am sure everyone is aware, after some rather lengthy parliamentary shenigans and some vaguely mitigating amendments involving a promise to review the legislation after a year – oh so likely, of course, that the promise will be kept – and granting the courts the power to grant the orders – without seeing intercept evidence, though, on which much of the case will inevitably be based - the British government's plans for the house arrest have passed through parliament. I think my position on the whole bloody mess has already been made rather clear, so I'll restrict myself to pointing out a few things I think are worth being aware of.
Firstly, the wrath of the righteous can often be a wondrous thing to behold, so Nick Barlow's comparison of Tony Blair to first a spoilt child and then an abusive husband should be read by all those who feel a righteous wrath boiling up in them.
Secondly, just in case you don't feel that righteous wrath, there’s a rather interesting piece in this fortnight's LRB, by Conor Gearty, in which he argues that intercept evidence is not used in court because it would a) expose the illegal use of surveillance by the security services and b) it’s fairly unreliable anyway. Yet courts are being asked to take the security service’s word for granted on the granting of these orders. Wonderful. Notwithstanding these points, Gearty's account of the then head of MI5 Stella Rimington's Dimblebey Lecture in 1994 ought to concentrate the mind a little further.
"Boasting of MI5's successes, she talked of the large number of 'terrorists' that had been apprehended and were awaiting trial. Not 'suspected terrorists': just 'terrorists'. The intelligence services have never understood the need for a criminal process: their ideal world would be one in which official suspicions led straight to incarceration."
So now we have organisations which take suspicion as equivalent to guilt passing recommendations to a government which obviously couldn't care less about a presumption of innocence which has the power to confine people to their homes without the courts being able to see a substantial part of the evidence that these people are dangerous, evidence which is likely to be highly unreliable. This is of course to say nothing of further policy based on the word of these organisations. Absolutely bloody marvellous.