Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Worse Than the Patriot Act? I

Trey Smith

Since I'm not a Brit and I have never been to the UK, I don't pay that much attention to their laws and regulations. The recent row over the detention of Glenn Greenwald's spouse has brought to light the UK version of the US Patriot Act. While I think our law is overly broad and an invitation to abuse, it turns out that the UK's Terrorism Act of 2000 is even scarier.

One would think that -- at the very least -- an individual could not be detained UNLESS there was a degree of suspicion that said person might have some ties to terrorism -- probable cause. But as it turns out, even this minimal standard is not a requirement of Section 7 of the act. A law enforcement officer can question just about a-n-y-b-o-d-y to determine if there might be a reason to be suspicious. In other words, a law enforcement official is empowered to detain anyone they want to for next too no reason at all.

In a democracy, that's absolutely ludicrous!

Imagine if the crime of rape was epidemic in your community. Public officials declare that they need extra powers in order to protect citizens. So, they pass a law or ordinance that grants the police the right to question anybody at any time for any reason under the auspices of trying to prevent rape. Would you be okay with being stopped and badgered with questions for 9 long hours? Would you have no qualms about being detained even if you didn't match any of the descriptions of alleged perpetrators and nothing you had done gave rise to any suspicion that you might be a potential rapist?

Most people would be up in arms about such a law or ordinance. It is the kind of regulation one might expect in Nazi Germany or the old Soviet Union, but not in the USA or UK. It is the kind of law one would expect to find in a police state, not in a nation that [supposedly] recognizes that citizens have certain constitutional rights.

Sadly, that's NOT the worst aspect of the Terrorism Act of 2000. I will deal with that in this evening's post.

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