Terrorism must not the excuse to curb civil liberties

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Dr Mick Taylor writes:

The world has seen a rise is senseless and appalling attacks on people exercising the right of free speech. Most immediate is the slaughter of the editor and staff at Charlie Hebdo in France by people who claim to have been offended by the magazine, which regularly lampoons both politics and religion.

Whilst the coming together of millions of people of all political opinions and religious persuasions from across the world to condemn this terrorism is a very positive and welcome sign, the predictable response from authoritarian political voices has been for more repression and more attacks on civil liberties.

Now we all know of the anti civil liberty policies of the last Labour Government with its control orders 45 days detention and ID cards to mention but some of its unappealing legislation whilst in government. We are also clear of where Tories stand on this issue as Home Secretary Teresa May calls daily for more unchecked powers for the police and security services, predicated on the false assumption that somehow this will make us safer.

So we welcome the unequivocal statements by Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg that the current proposals wending their way through Parliament are unacceptable in their present form. He is calling for their amendment to take account of the grave concerns expressed by the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. Whilst that may not be enough for everybody it’s certainly a great deal better than the current bill.

Here’s some of what Nick Clegg said about civil liberties following the Charlie Hebdo outrage.

“The irony appears to be lost on some politicians who say in one breath that they will defend freedom of expression and then in the next advocate a huge encroachment on the freedom of all British citizens.
Let’s remember, the so-called snooper’s charter was about was about storing the social media activity and the websites visited by every single man, woman and child in this country – by everyone ….
It’s not about dark [spaces on the web]; it’s about do I think with scooping up vast amounts of information on millions of people – children, grandmothers, grandparents, elderly people who do nothing more offensive than visiting garden centre websites. Do I think that is a sensible use of our resources and our time? No. Does it address the issue which you quite rightly identified and the agency quite rightly identified which is, as technology mutates, as this globalised industry becomes more and more global, how do we make sure that we continue to have the reach into those dark spaces so that terrorists cannot hide from it? I don’t think so”

Nick Clegg also defended the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish the image of Mohammed on their cover because “we have to keep our values safe.” He said that

“We shouldn’t self-censor for fear of causing offence. You can’t have freedom unless you have the right to offend people. People should not seek to impose their ideas on those they share society with.”

Nick also said that the right to privacy was qualified.

“If someone wants to do us harm, we should be able to break their privacy and go after their communications.”

Nick Clegg is the only British political leader speaking up for free speech and civil liberty. Both Cameron and Milliband want to curb civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism.

Civil Liberties group slams Calderdale Council spending on CCTV

A civil liberties group has slammed Calderdale Council for spending £680k on upgrading its CCTV equipment. The upgrade of the equipment will be financed by over £425K of borrowing at a time when Labour are cutting services elsewhere.

Commenting on the spending Charles Farrier of the civil liberties campaign NO CCTV said:

“It seems absurd that in an age of savage cuts to public services Calderdale council think it is appropriate to spend over half a million pound of local tax payers money on upgrading their surveillance cameras. Surely greater crime prevention or crime control effects can be realized by using the money to be spent on surveillance cameras on proven strategies to improve education systems, create job training programs, improve housing, relocate families living in high crime areas, reduce poverty, or hire more people to walk, talk, and problem solve in “at risk” communities. The council hide behind meaningless statistics that only show how often a control room knob was twiddled. Study after study has shown that CCTV cameras are not the silver bullet that lazy, populist politicians continue to claim they are.

What is more, research shows that cameras can have a damaging effect on communities by increasing fear and reducing trust. A report entitled ‘Fortress Britain’, published last year by the New Economics Foundation, found that residents on an estate in London felt that “knowing people”, whether it be caretakers, youth workers or each other, was the key to creating trust, whilst cameras increased fear and decreased trust. Surveillance cameras do not fix but actually contribute to the breakdown of our communities. But we have another concern about Calderdale council’s so-called “upgrade” to their CCTV cameras.

The proposed scheme represents a massive step change in open-street surveillance as the council would no longer be operating closed-circuit cameras but networked digital surveillance cameras connected to the Public Sector Network. Such cameras were described by the Royal Academy of Engineering as “public webcams”. Of course the council will tell us that only authorised persons and organisations will have access to the network of cameras but we know all to well how such lists of authorised bodies can grow.

The council’s proposals would be waste of tax payers money but more importantly an assault on the freedoms of everyone in West Yorkshire.”

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Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate Alisdair Calder McGregor has also stated his opposition to the scheme:  “Whilst borrowing money to spend on CCTV Labour are cutting Pellon & Sowood Community Centres, which do more to address anti-social behavior issues than all the CCTV cameras in the world.”