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Monday, 15 February 2010

Liberty should step up security, but perhaps it is guilty of the opposite

The latest furore over authority control interfering with civil liberties, following on from such exhaustive procedures as the Chilcot inquiry and rows over inaccurate IPCC climate reports, inhales yet more needed public oxygen this week as the competence of a government intelligence committee and the integrity of MI5 are brought into questioning.

The heavily critical opposition to the alleged decisions made by officials within MI5 to be actively complicit in the maltreatment of a detainee of the CIA, Binyam Mohamed, despite them denying any involvement that they were aware of, is gaining support.

Queries are being made into the effectiveness of the intelligence and security committee (ISC), a government-introduced panel, which previously published a report in 2007 alluding to a lack of knowledge on their part about MI5 activities. It has been claimed that the ISC was in no position to give accurate judgements in regards to the conduct of the intelligence agency.

For Britain's national and moral integrity this case has been a huge blow, dealt by the series of repeated investigations into the agencies held responsible and the publication of these investigations' findings for the public sphere's benefit.

But is it actually for our benefit, or are we becoming increasingly too aware of matters which are intentionally kept secret from us? For advocates of free speech, freedom of expression and human rights, as laid down by the European Convention on Human Rights and further revised in the UK under the Human Rights Act 1998, this move made public is virtuous. But to some it is a case of disclosure that is growing up to be a vitriolic issue.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband was initially opposed to the release of covert information that contained details outlining the procedures and conduct in relation to how the subject was treated by CIA and MI5 interrogators while he was detained in Pakistan in 2002. And, of course, the chief suspect in this case, MI5, is not keen to turn its interrogation lamp on itself by responding amenably to the current allegations.

The issue of this alarmist 'culture of suppression' argument is that although it may serve us in terms of empowering liberty, it could also switch to the reverse and compromise our national security. For centuries, not a mere decade, governments have been notified about contemporary terrorist threats by organisations and agencies designed to conceal and conserve intelligence of this kind - IRA attacks are among the not-so-distant many.

Ever since the dawn of the new War on Terror there has been significant investment in anti-terror strategies, technologies and policies, not just in the west, but throughout all burgeoning democracies, India for one. Unprecedented overhaul in this division of national and international interests was expected and is now the norm when another fuse is lit. But we might be doing more than protecting our nation's civil liberties when we demand justices like Binyamen's are served publicly.

To air the information of national security in such a way is to simultaneously admit that we are just as capable of error as any other established or flourishing democracy under the same circumstances - this reveals weakness. The impact of this latest Court of Appeal case is that faith in the very security services that are in place to protect us is shaken and left open to external scrutiny beyond our national political catchment.

I'm not saying reconciling superior agencies like MI5 with the truth of its activities is a fatal mistake, and I'm certainly not suggesting that the public shouldn't know when something is amiss with its government. What I am saying is that it isn't absolutely necessary that the press should persist so much in spouting matters of perceived public interest that undermine the faith in public safety.

We've already been told the situation with terror threats has been bunked up to 'severe' (unanswerable ambivalence, if you ask me), and so to concurrently allege the faults of a crucial security force in the UK and snub its reputation is seemingly a little off-kilter for the press. In the end, though, the expectations are that this case will be filed and used in the future to analyse the exact purpose and ethical grounds for permitting unjustified detainment of men who are hitherto conviction - if a trial ever takes off - innocent and entitled to their fair access to human rights.

What now causes me to mutter malcontentedly and shake my head is the call for another possible, dare I say it's dreaded name, inquiry. For all it's worth, it's worth very little. These hyped-up and discursive political inconveniences have yet to prove their worth in this century - what the hell IS the Chilcot inquiry? Does anyone even know how it's going? At least only those with the shoulder-padded suits to match its false appearance of broad appeal still hold their ears to the grapevine.

Just please, for the love of much-needed time, don't hold another ill-fated!

1 comment:

  1. Good blog mate, very Guardian-esque! :)