12 October 2007
The Labour government is mounting one of the biggest ever peacetime assaults on civil liberties and the right to privacy. It is undermining the rights of the individual and strengthening the power of the state; creating a snooping, surveillance society, and eroding the right to protest and the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty.
Peter Tatchell interviews political columnist and civil liberties advocate, Henry Porter.
Under Labour we have experienced a huge expansion in CCTV, the DNA data-base and in covert phone and email interception. The government plans to force us to carry national identity cards, which we will be required to produce to get a job, buy a house, open a bank account and to access education, health-care and welfare benefits. ID cards will enable the state to track us from the cradle to the grave. Big Brother will be watching you, me and all of us.
Precious hard-won freedoms, won through centuries of popular struggle against the tyranny of absolute monarchs and corrupt parliaments, are under attack. The ancient writ of habeas corpus, which has for hundreds of years protected the citizen against arbitrary arrest and detention without trial, is threatened. Already, Labour has extended to 28 days the period that the police can hold terrorist suspects without charge.
Free speech is menaced by public order laws that are increasingly interpreted to punish people for offending the sensibilities of others. The right to protest can now be curtailed on the say-so of the police, and demonstrations near parliament now require police permission seven days in advance.
While many of these measures are being introduced for the apparently reasonable purposes of combating crime and terrorism, some of them have already been abused and all of them are open to serious abuse by a future less benign government.
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