Friday, September 17, 2010

Freedom or License - about burning books

Pastor Terry Jones's plan to burn 200 copies of the Qur'an in Florida on 9/11 was widely condemned. But the unique symbolism of book-burning has a long and sinister history.

by Jon Henley - The Guardian, Friday 10 September 2010

On the night of 10 May 1933, a crowd of some 40,000 people gathered in the Opernplatz – now the Bebelplatz – in the Mitte district of Berlin. Amid much joyous singing, band-playing and chanting of oaths and incantations, they watched soldiers and police from the SS, brownshirted members of the paramilitary SA, and impassioned youths from the German Student Association and Hitler Youth Movement burn, at the behest of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, upwards of 25,000 books decreed to be "un-German".


The volumes consigned to the flames in Berlin, and more than 30 other university towns around the country on that and following nights, included works by more than 75 German and foreign authors, among them (to cite but a few) Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Albert Einstein, Friedrich Engels, Sigmund Freud, André Gide, Ernest Hemingway, Franz Kafka, Lenin, Jack London, Heinrich, Klaus and Thomas Mann, Ludwig Marcuse, Karl Marx, John Dos Passos, Arthur Schnitzler, Leon Trotsky, HG Wells, Émile Zola and Stefan Zweig. Also among the authors whose books were burned that night was the great 19th-century German poet Heinrich Heine, who barely a century earlier, in 1821, had written in his play Almansor the words: "Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen" – "Where they burn books, they will, in the end, also burn people."

Pastor Jones, in Florida, abandoned his plans. But they had been greeted with world-wide revulsion and helped fuel anti-American, anti-Western feelings in several Muslim countries. The damage had been done. Even the threat to burn the Koran was enough for that.

In other parts of America, people did go ahead and burn copies of the Koran. The news media hardly recorded their activities at all, deciding (despite the American reverence for free speech) that inflammatory rhetoric and self-publicising are not worthy causes for which to risk American lives and American principles.

Thank goodness for self-restraint. It matters. There are few absolutes in anyone's life and that is as it should be.

It is worth noting in passing that Jesus is honoured in the Koran, as a prophet equal to Mohammad.

Also that Jews, the people of the book, receive similar respect.

What the Police say and do

The British police seem uncertain whether their activities can or should be governed by the law of the land and by all the ethical considerations and considerations of honesty which ought to be upheld by everyone, even policemen, in a civilized and democratic society.

They target minorities of various sorts at various times (just as the Jews were targeted in Hitler's Germany). They oppress minorities of various sorts at various times, sometimes in ways that may be as punitive and as destructive as actions against the Jews before the Second World War.

Muslims are one of the principal current targets.

From the Guardian, 27th. August, 2010

Police chiefs misled Birmingham city council over Muslim CCTV, inquiry told
Sir Paul Scott-Lee, former West Midlands chief constable, and Stuart Hyde, his assistant chief constable, face disciplinary action after telling Birmingham councillors the CCTV scheme for Muslim areas was not terror-related

Paul Lewis, Friday 27 August 2010 20.26 BST

Two police chiefs could face condemnation and disciplinary action after an inquiry was launched into claims they deliberately misled councillors about surveillance targeted at Muslim communities in Birmingham.

The £3.5m initiative to ringfence two Muslim suburbs with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras was shelved in June after an investigation by the Guardian.

Sir Paul Scott-Lee, who was West Midlands chief constable until April 2009, and Stuart Hyde, who was assistant chief constable, stand accused of deliberately misleading councillors over the true motives behind the monitoring programme. Several councillors who attended a meeting about why the cameras were being installed in their wards say they were told they were part of a Home Office scheme targeting antisocial behaviour and vehicle crime.

A network of 169 ANPR cameras was erected this year to form "rings of steel" around Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, two largely Muslim neighbourhoods. There was no public consultation before the project, which also included the installation of additional CCTV and covert cameras.

Paul Lewis reported again in the Guardian on 1st. October, 2010. For some reason, this article is not available on the Guardian web-site. But it began like this:

"A secret police operation to place thousands of Muslims living in Birmingham under permanent surveillance was implemented with virtually no consultation, oversight or regard for the law, a report found yesterday .... police had misled residents into believing that hundreds of counter-terrorism cameras installed in streets around Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath were to be used to combat vehicle crime and antisocial behaviour.
In fact the £3m project was being run from the West Midlands police counter-terrorism unit with the consent of security officials at the Home Office and MI5."

"Police devised a "storyline" that concealed the true purpose of the cameras. Counter-terrorism insignia was removed from paperwork as part of a deliberate strategy to "market" the surveillance operation as a local policing scheme to improve community safety."

So it's OK to lie then? Officially? If you're a copper?

The Rule of Law

Thomas Bingham (Lord Bingham of Cornhill) died this month. His obituary in the Guardian, published on 11th. September, included the following remarks:

"He was also to the fore in promoting a strong, independent judiciary. At a time of growing executive power and a diminishing influence for parliament, and in particular following the terror attacks of 9/11 in New York and 7 and 21 July 2005 in London, the Labour government adopted an increasingly authoritarian approach. This included the power to detain certain foreign nationals indefinitely without charge, and the right to use evidence that may have been obtained by torture in certain legal proceedings. The government also argued for a strong role for the executive, with which the judiciary should not interfere.

In two seminal decisions, in 2004 and 2005 in the two cases of A & Others v Secretary of State for the Home Department, Tom wrote leading judgments rejecting the government's arguments. In so doing, he advanced the rights of all individuals, while recognising the reality of the threat presented by certain forms of terrorism. He rejected – with characteristic firmness, clarity and authority – the government's approach to the judiciary. "The function of independent judges charged to interpret and apply the law is universally recognised as a cardinal feature of the modern democratic state, a cornerstone of the rule of law itself," he wrote in 2004. While the attorney general, on behalf of the government, was entitled to insist on the proper limits of judicial authority, he was "wrong to stigmatise judicial decision-making as in some way undemocratic"."

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Tomlinson case

On July 23rd., the director of public prosecutions announced that no charges would be brought against the policeman who, with his badge covered, attacked Ian Tomlinson who afterwards died.

Ian Tomlinson was attempting to walk home from his job as a newspaper seller in the City of London. The attack was recorded on video. There was no scuffle or surrounding struggle to justify or account for the aggression.

The reason for inaction given by the DPP is that pathologists who conducted the (three) autopsies on Mr. Tomlinson's body did not reach identical conclusions. The Guardian's editorial included the following paragraph:

"It is clear from the report of the Crown Prosecution Service that efforts were made to reconcile the findings of the postmortems. Its inability to do so, however, is not some catastrophic misfortune. It is a symptom of an institutional failure. The problem is this: there is a climate of impunity among Britain's police services that is fostered by the reluctance of the CPS to bring prosecutions. It was clear in the events surrounding the death of the teacher and activist Blair Peach more than 30 years ago; it was clear in the events surrounding the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005 for which no one has been prosecuted; and it is as clear now in the response to Ian Tomlinson's death. Things may have improved since the Cass report into the death of Blair Peach, finally published earlier this year, which found members of the Metropolitan police (none of whom was ever charged or even disciplined) telling "easily recognisable lies". How, after all, could police officer A deny that he had hit Mr Tomlinson when the world had seen him doing just that. Yet the sense of impunity is unchanged. This was never acceptable. Now it is unsustainable."

In the letters column of the Guardian, on the next day, a doctor reflected that he did not fear crime or terrorists, which do not impinge on his daily life.

"However, I now hesitate to express my freedom of speech by attending political demonstrations, for fear of the violence and intimidation of the police ..."

Another correspondent wrote:

"It is impossible to imagine the Crown Prosecution Service taking the same decision if a police officer had collapsed and died minutes after being struck by a demonstrator. That says it all."

Many years ago, in 1957, the great American writer, Norman Mailer, wrote the following in an essay called "The White Negro", published in Dissent Magazine. I was in my late teens when I read these words and they have stayed with me ever since:

"A man knew that when he dissented, he gave a note upon his life which could be called in any year of overt crisis."

I have lived my life differently because I read those words.

I have hardly ever dared to express my political views openly (still less loudly) and I have never attended a political demonstration of any sort from fear of the police and the spooks as well as from a well-founded belief in their essential uselessness.

I have lived my life in fear of the covert and overt repression of the British State.

Is that not a sad comment to have to make when your next big birthday will be your seventieth?

What sort of freedom do we really enjoy in this country when a white, thoughful, well-educated person like me carries this burden of mis-trust throughout his life?

Freedom is an empty concept when British police can behave as they did to Ian Tomlinson, when British soldiers become murdererers, as they did on Bloody Sunday and have in Iraq, when the institutions of government and of justice are subverted and distorted, as they have been in the last decade through collaboration with the American-led global "war on terror" and by falsely and dishonourably protecting the "culture of impunity" by which MI5, MI6, the Metropolitan police and others operate in their bizarre and twilit worlds.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The game is almost up .... for the Government!

The Government has announced a judicial enquiry into the torture allegations involving MI5. As part of the package, they are attempting to persuade the six former detainees who are suing for wrongful imprisonment to abandon their litigation and to abort requests for the documents (some 500,000 of them) which spell out the callousness of Britain's official response to the imprisonment and torture of some of its Muslim citizens.

The Government has failed. The former detainees seem startlingly insistent. It is almost as if they think they have the right to know why their own elected representatives stood by while they were tortured by the Americans, Pakistanis and others.

"Yesterday," states the Guardian, 15th. July, 2010, "the government failed in an attempt to bring a temporary halt to the proceedings that have resulted in the disclosure of the documents. Its lawyers argued that the case should be delayed while attempts were made to mediate with the six men, in the hope that their claims could be withdrawn in advance of the judicial inquiry. Lawyers for the former Guantanamo inmates said it as far from certain that mediation would succeed, and insisted the disclosure process continue."

One of the detainees, when interviewed by MI5, complained of internal bleeding and violent mis-treatment. ".... what kind of world was it," he asked, "where the Americans were more barbaric than the Pakistanis? We listened," wrote an MI5 officer, "but did not comment."

(How very British!)

MI5 did not believe that this prisoner, Omar Deghayes, was telling them the truth.

The officers "proposed disengaging and allowing events here to take their course."

As a result of this official British 'disengagement', Deghayes was rendered to Guantanamo Bay and stayed there for more than five years.

"At one point he was so severely beaten that he was blinded in one eye."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bloody Sunday

The Saville Enquiry has reported at last. On Bloody Sunday, 30th. January, 1972, British soldiers committed murderous acts. They fired on unarmed protesters. They continued to fire as the wounded attempted to crawl away and save themselves.

They lied when they gave evidence about these events and what they did. There were no attacks on them, no provocation, to justify their actions.

Thirteen people were killed immediately and one died later from his wounds. Fourteen people were wounded.

A statement by Tony Doherty, whose father, Patrick, was killed:

"When the state kills its citisens it is in the interests of all that those responsible be held to account. It is not just Derry, or one section of the people, but democracy itself which needs to look out." (Guardian 16th. June, p2)

A copy of the 1972 Widgery report, now proved to have been a whitewash, "a travesty", was torn to pieces on the steps of the Guildhall in Derry after Lord Saville's conclusions became public.

"What happened was unjustified and unjustifiable," said the Prime Minister to the House of Commons.

"It was wrong."

The Parachute Regiment has brought disgrace on itself and on all of us.

So who was in charge?

Guardian, 17th. June, 2010

by Henry McDonald

The civil rights activist who led the Bloody Sunday march has expressed his disappointment that the Saville report failed to criticise the man who took the decision to deploy paratroopers in Derry.

Ivan Cooper said "overall responsibility" should have been levelled at the army's most senior officer in Northern Ireland at the time of the massacre, Major General Robert Ford, then commander of land forces.

"I saw General Ford in William Street shouting at the troops 'Go Paras, go,'" said Cooper.

"If you examine the evidence during the tribunal that stated that General Ford wanted action against the so-called Derry Young Hooligans, he is the officer who had overall control of the operation. I firmly believe he should have been held accountable for the action of his troops. After all, it was he who, as commander of land forces, was ultimately responsible."

Cooper, a Protestant, was an independent MP and peace activist at the time of the killings, and was a vocal advocate for Protestants and Catholics to fight together for civil rights.....

Cooper said that Ford should have received the same criticism in the report as Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford, the officer in charge of 1 Para on the day. Saville was damning of Wilford's conduct.

"The general ordered the paratroopers into Derry even though they had just returned from operations in Aden where they already had a reputation for being gung-ho and ruthless. They should never have been used and Ford should have known that," said Cooper

The Saville report, published yesterday, concluded that there was "no evidence to suggest that the use of lethal force against unarmed rioters, who were not posing a threat of causing death or serious injury, was contemplated by General Ford".

That assessment, Cooper said, was the most disappointing aspect of what was an otherwise historically significant report.

He also disputed Saville's assertion that Martin McGuinness, at the time the IRA's number two in the city, had probably been carrying a sub-machine gun on Bloody Sunday.

"All my life I have been opposed to Martin McGuinness but on the day I saw him and he was not carrying a sub-machine gun. He certainly wasn't hiding it in his trousers because I would have seen that too. I don't know why Saville said he was probably armed with a sub-machine gun but I certainly did not see him with any gun," he said.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Torture and the British Government

Will the truth ever emerge?

The legacy of the outgoing Labour administration was so shocking, so intensely anti-libertarian, that it has not been difficult for the new Tory-LibDem coalition to shine by comparison.

In the first few weeks, Cameron and Clegg have announced an inquiry into torture allegations and other measures (to review the extradition of Gary McKinnon and to cancel the ID card scheme) which I can only applaud.

I find myself in the unnerving position of approving and welcoming the activities of a new Conservative Government.

(If only they will take the axe to Trident as well.)

Inquiries in Britain have a habit of taking a long time, costing a lot of money and obfuscating (rather than clarifying) the issues and background of controversial matters of policy.

I hope very much that the proposed inquiry into the well documented activities of MI5 and MI6 operatives who condoned and may even have encouraged the agents of other government to torture Britsh citizens will be different.

On 20th. May, the Guardian listed its own repeated accounts of British intelligence agents involved in torture and summarised the need for the inquiry to fulfill the following objectives:

To establish the full truth, the inquiry will need to discover:

• Who authorised the bilateral agreements with the US, signed three weeks after the 9/11 attacks under article V of the North Atlantic treaty, that led to the UK offering logistic support for the CIA's rendition programme of kidnap and torture.

• Whether any other such bilateral agreements were signed that led to human rights abuses during the so-called war on terror.

• Who drew up, and who authorised, the secret interrogation policy, transmitted in January 2002 to all MI5 and MI6 agents in Afghanistan, telling them they could interrogate people who were being tortured, as long as they did not participate and were not "seen to condone it".

• How was that policy further developed in mid-2004, why and by whom.

• Which ministers authorised these policies.

• What Downing Street knew about the torture of the British resident Binyam Mohamed, and about the torture in Pakistan and elsewhere of several British citizens suspected of planning terrorist attacks since 2001.

• What the last foreign and home secretaries, David Miliband and Alan Johnson, knew about the UK's involvement in torture and rendition, what they did – and critically, what they may not have done – in an attempt to bring it to an end.

The inquiry will also be under pressure to publish the interrogation policy as it has stood since mid-2004 – even though Miliband said last year that this could never be done as it would "give succour" to the country's enemies.

The Guardian also included the following:

Philippe Sands QC, professor of law at University College London, said the inquiry should have happened long ago. "To restore trust in government, both here and abroad, and to get to the truth the inquiry needs to be deep and broad and as open as possible," he said.

"It should address in particular who authorised what and when and why, what the relevant legal advice said, and how it related to any change in US practice in 2002 and 2003."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Whatever happened to probity?

Whatever happened to probity? And are you free, can you ever be free if you live in a society where morality, honesty, probity seem of no value? Where the law is not respected by the lawyers or the rights of little children by corrupt priests and a warped and wicked priestly hierarchy?

The Pope has issued a pastoral letter this week. It concerns child abuse by Catholic priests. How can anyone take this letter seriously when the Vatican has sheltered Cardinal Bernard Law from accusations that he actively concealed child abusing priests when he was in charge in Boston, Massachusetts? When the Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal Sean Brady, played an active role, as a young man, in making sure that ten year old children were prevailed upon and frightened into swearing oaths to keep silent for ever about the fact that they had been sexually abused by a priest called Brendan Smyth?

Is it possible to feel anything but disgust not just for these criminal priests and their crimes but for the poisonous hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in covering them up?

It seems now to be normal in Britain for the guardians of public order to lie, to dissimulate, to prevaricate, to conceal their misdeeds without shame, hesitation or any need to explain or excuse their actions.

"Scotland Yard has not disciplined a single police officer for failing to display a badge number at least year's G20 protest" wrote the Guardian on 19th. March, despite the Met Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, promising that officers caught deliberately covering their badge numbers would be sacked.

As for Lord Ashcroft, words almost fail me. Ten years ago, he seems to have assured William Hague, the Leader of the Opposition, that he would become resident in the U.K. and pay tax here on all his earnings and he then re-negotiated the deal (with the apparent help of the Conservative Chief Whip) so that he gained all the benefits of a peerage without conforming to the assurances and meeting the obligations that he had accepted.

Is Lord Ashcroft contrite?

Are he and Mr. Hague in sackcloth and ashes together?

Not a bit of it.

"The intricacies of the (Ashcroft) affair," wrote the Guardian in a leader on 18th. March , "will leave many people lost. No rules, it seems were broken - only carefully walked around. No outright lies were told - only whole truths not spoken."

How very, superbly, British.

It makes me almost embarrassed to accuse Rome and the Pope of hypocrisy. Whitehall and Westminster could teach the Vatican more than a thing or two about concealing the truth and covering things up.

Another example from the Guardian, 17th. March, of the British talent for breaking the law whilst not admitting it, for penalising the whistleblower and not the wrong-doer:-

Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Mercer, a lawyer and professional soldier, drew the attention of the commanding officer of a British regiment serving in Iraq to what his soldiers were doing to their prisoners, which appeared to this senior soldier-lawyer to be illegal under the terms of the Geneva conventions and the European Convention on Human Rights.

This resulted in a "massive" row.

Later, the Lieutenant Colonel "walked out of a meeting between British officials and the International Committee of the Red Cross after being told by a "political adviser" to keep his mouth shut."

"Mercer's protests about the unlawful treatment of Iraqis in British custody were so unwelcome within the Ministry of Defence that his boss, Martin Hemming, head of its legal service, threatened to report him to the Law Society," claimed the Guardian, summarising his evidence to the Baha Mousa inquiry.

How could a senior lawyer like Martin Hemmings set aside his over-riding obligation to probity, to rectitude, to the law itself, seemingly acting as if honesty and morality were simply negotiable commodities, to be used (or misused) in any way that might be convenient to those in charge?

Martin Hemming prepared statements for the Commons human rights committee which Mercer and General Robin Brims, commander of British troops in southern Iraw actually refused to sign because (it seems) they concealed the facts about the unlawful treatment to which Iraqi detainees were being subjected.

(Lieutenant Colonel Mercer is still serving in the Army.

I wonder what his prospects are now of making full Colonel?)

As another Guardian article suggested (also 17th. March), whistleblowers at Lehman Brothers (Matthew Lee) and at British Biotech (Andrew Millar) and at HBOS (Paul Moore) all lost their jobs when they advised their bosses that their respective companies might be guilty of false accounting, unethical behaviour and reckless lending.

Being right (as these three were) is no defence.

Being wrong allows complacency without compunction.

The more wrong you are, the more brass face you seem able to muster.

In this spirit, let us turn to Dame Eliza Manningham Buller, the former head of MI5.

She wrote to the Guardian on 15th. March stating carefully and precisely and very guardedly that she "did not know exactly what had been done specifically to Khalid Sheik Mohammed until after I retired."

In this way, she attempted to rebut the suggestion implied by the Guardian's careful research (published on 11th. March) that evidence of the Americans torturing prisoners (or outsourcing the torture of rendered prisoners) was available five years before Manningham Buller left MI5 in 2007.

Much of this evidence was published in very reputable newspapers, notably the New York Times.

Many of these accounts also suggested the MI5 or MI6 staff were close at hand when such torture occurred and had fed questions they wanted answered to the torturers or collaborated with torturers in other ways.

If Dame Eliza did not know about these accusations and these reports, she had kept herself in ignorance with extraordinary dedication.

Did she not read any newspapers at all while she was in charge of a major British security agency?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Lies, misdeeds and mistrust - the MI5 achievment

The British Government has shot itself in the foot again. Not only that, but MI5 has been shown to be a lying, deceitful and untrustworthy organization which demeans the democracy that it claims to serve.

1) Determined and lengthy British Government legal initiatives have failed to stop the courts allowing publication of a seven paragraph summary prepared by the Americans that proves that MI5 knew that a UK resident called Binyam Mohamed was being tortured by the Americans and their associates and continued to interrogate him in that knowledge, in clear breach of international obligations and of a government ruling dating from 1972.

2) In an attempt to water down a judicial ruling that criticised MI5 and its behaviour, the lawyer acting on behalf of the government wrote to the courts and asked the court not to publish the following allegations which form a summary of just what the judge thought that MI5 gets up to:

"The Master of the Rolls' observations .... will read as statements by the Court (i) that the Security Service does not in fact operate a culture that respects human rights or abjures participation in coercive interrogation techniques ..... (iii) that officials of the Service deliberately misled the Intelligence and Security Committee (of the House of Commons) on this point ...."

The lawyer continues:

"The Master of the Rolls' observations .... constitute an exceptionally damaging criticism of the good faith of the Security Service as a whole. In particular, the suggestion that the Court should distrust any UK government assurance based on the Service's advice ....."

Full details are in reports in the Guardian and other newspapers today.

It is likely that the full text of the Master of the Rolls' observations will become public shortly and I look forward to reading paragraph 168 of the Master's judgement in full and gory detail and adding its text to this post.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lord Bingham on Liberty and its diminution

Lord Bingham, Baron Bingham of Cornhill, was Lord Chief Justice and the Senior Law Lord, before his retirement in 2008.

These extracts are from an interview with Stephen Moss in the Guardian, 8th. February, 2010.

Bingham is .... forthright on the way in which the government is using the threat of terrorism to erode fundamental freedoms. He quotes with approval Benjamin Franklin's dictum that "he who would put security before liberty deserves neither"

Bingham believes we are getting the delicate balance between liberty and security wrong. "Liberty is losing out at the moment. Extraordinary inroads are being made into principles that would once have been regarded as completely inviolate, such as the growing practice of putting material before some decision-making tribunal or judge that the defendant never sees." He worries that the culture of the law, and indeed society, is changing. "When I talk to the young, I'm struck by how, even when they have impeccably liberal instincts on things like torture and the death penalty, they tend to make an exception for terrorists. They've grown up in a world post-9/11 in which terrorism has been seen as this colossally potent threat." The danger is real, but so is the threat to hard-won liberties.

Just before we met, the story that the police were considering the use of unmanned drones had been in the press. He is not a fan. "We are already plotted almost every single inch of our lives. I have a rather bolshie approach to this. Why is it necessary? I was going through customs at Heathrow the other day, presented a perfectly innocent British passport, the lady takes it and puts it into a machine to photograph it. I said to her, 'What –happens to the photograph you've just made?' She said, 'You're not allowed to know.' Why should the citizen not be allowed to know? We have a very noble tradition, and have to battle to protect our rights."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Spooks and Suspicions

Christopher Andrews recently published an 'authorised history' of MI5. I rather thought, in my naive and trusting way, that this might be a good thing. After all, when I was young, the British Government did not admit that MI5 and MI6 existed, still less that their functions included spying on British people who supported Trades Unions, political reform and/or the Labour Party.

At least now we know we have secret policemen and something about what they do to us and pretend to do for us. And from Peter Wright's celebrated book 'Spy Catcher', we also know that MI5 officers sometimes used to be lawless, corrupt and devotedly fascistic and that the Government (attempting to conceal these truths) would not hesitate to be 'economical with the actualite' as a very senior Civil Servant admitted, under cross examination, in an Australian court.

So far so good - an official and authorised history of a body like MI5 could only throw a little light on secret matters, however discreetly the book was constructed, however many documents in MI5's files had been 'redacted', (the bureacrats' word for concealed, censored, suppressed.)

In a long letter to the London Review of Books, (3rd. December, 2009), Mr. A. W. Brian Simpson writes about Mr. Andrews' book.

Mr. Simpson has written about the detention of aliens and citizens in time of war, both during the First World War and during the Second. These topics are almost wholly omitted from Mr. Andrews' book, although it is known that MI5 was the prime mover in making arbitrary imprisonment normal in Britain.

Some 30,000 aliens and 1,700 citizens were detained without trial in the early years of the Second World War and many remained in prison throughout hostilities. This was almost certainly a pointless exercise in messing up people's lives. "Only one of the aliens, Klaus Fuchs, later - after release - became a spy."

MI5 also contributed to government policy and has successfully influenced successive governments in favour of trials in camera and other impositions on British subjects. "There is not a mention (of this) in the official history."

"Since MI5 was invented, there is no doubt that there has been a steady erosion of civil liberties in Britain, much of it in the name of security ... MI5's input into the evolving policy remains concealed."

MI5 came into being before the First World War so it has exercised influence in Britain throughout the Twentieth Century. It is appalling that the official, authorised history, should not describe at least some of the policies and policy initiatives which it has espoused in the last hundred years.

NB: 'Redacted' is a word I had never heard until five or six years ago and is, I think, a fine example of what George Orwell imagined and categorised as 'NewSpeak'.

'Suppressed' or 'censored' are so much more precise - the advantage of using the word 'redacted' is that very few people understand what it means.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Human Rights against Security - a false juxtaposition

comments by Gary Younge
extracted from his article in the Guardian, 4th. January 2010

"To galvanise the nation for war abroad and sedate it for repression at home, the previous (Bush) administration constructed a terror threat that was ubiquitous in character, apocalyptic in scale and imminent in nature. Only then could they counterpose human rights against security as though they were not only contradictory but mutually exclusive.

Al-Qaida was only too happy to oblige. In such a state of perpetual crisis both terrorists and reactionaries thrive. Terrorists successfully create a climate of fear; governments successfully exploit that fear to extend their own powers.

"I'm absolutely convinced that the threat we face now, the idea of a terrorist in the middle of one of our cities with a nuclear weapon, is very real and that we have to use extraordinary measures to deal with it," said former vice-president Dick Cheney.

The trouble is that even by their own shabby standards, none of these "extraordinary measures" have ever worked. No new laws were necessary to stop 9/11. If the immigration services, the FBI and the CIA had been doing their jobs properly, the attacks could have been prevented.

Nonetheless, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the US government undertook the "preventative detention" of about 5,000 men on the basis of their birthplace and later sought a further 19,000 "voluntary interviews". Over the next year, more than 170,000 men from 24 predominantly Muslim countries and North Korea were fingerprinted and interviewed in a programme of "special registration". None of these (measures) produced a single terrorism conviction.

This set the pattern for the years to come: wiretapping, rendition, torture, secrecy. Those who otherwise rail against the inefficiency of government argued for more extensive, intrusive state power even as it produced little in the way of results. When confronted with this lamentable record, their only defence was the threat of the next attack. "The next time, the smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud" said Condoleezza Rice, adding. "They only have to be right once. We have to be right every time." Over the last week even once in a while would have looked good."