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.