Within hours of the savage murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, some elements within the government and wider political class were already pondering if this outrageous crime could be turned to the state’s advantage in pressing home the effort to increase surveillance and reduce privacy and individual freedom of the general population.
We know this because within days it has slipped out that people were calling for legislation, that had been rejected on the grounds that they would infringe civil liberties, to be revived, amid the sense that the public revulsion at what happened on the streets of Woolwich would make them more accepting of the sweeping powers the state wants to afford itself at the expense of our right not to be treated as criminal suspects and have our communications and affiliations spied upon and recorded.
Today, Cameron’s self appointed media mouthpiece and cheerleader, Matthew d’Ancona, was at it again in a rambling piece that eventually got to its intended destination, when he wrote:
National security, like politics, is the art of the possible. The number of people who might, conceivably, move from agitation to acts of violence is very high – far beyond the surveillance capabilities of a normal police service and domestic intelligence agency. Those who are psychiatrically deranged can be sequestered on precisely those grounds. The law allows detention without charge for a strictly limited number of days. There are other constraints that can be imposed upon terror suspects. But all attempts to strengthen these measures are ferociously opposed on the grounds that they infringe civil liberties – witness Nick Clegg’s hostility to government plans to extend monitoring of emails and internet use. Witness, too, the by-election forced by David Davis when he resigned his seat over Labour’s proposal to extend the maximum period of detention without charge.
Ah yes, the hackneyed old crap that if only these misguided people could be overcome and persuaded to stop resisting the sacrifice of yet a bit more freedom and privacy, the government could do something to help tackle such atrocities. Spread enough FUD around and some people might be convinced to open all windows and doors into their lives to the government, so it can pry, snoop, monitor and record who they engage with and when as it so chooses, combining that with video footage, financial data, health records and details of movements to build up a portfolio of intelligence information any time it wishes.
How would monitoring the email and telephone communications of every man and woman in this country have made any difference when it comes to the brutal killing of Lee Rigby? We know there were two attackers. We know they conspired to indulge their appetite for bloody violence. We know the arguments they fall back on in a pathetic effort to justify their evil intentions and actions. We now also know that both men were already known to the security services and had made no secret of their views and those hatemongers they fell into line behind.
So what possible difference would it have made, or will it make in the future with people minded to copy their vicious example, to monitor who they – and every other person living in these islands – emailed and telephone? What would such intrusion into our lives do to prevent or tackle the kind of barbarous behaviour the people of Woolwich witnessed last week? How would the state extending its perceived control over us reduce the threat? And in any case, what is the point when, despite being armed with sufficient information to identify an extremist threat to the well-being of British people, the organs of the state fail to deal with what is right in front of their collective noses?
The state not scrutinising, monitoring and snooping as much into our lives as it wants to is not the reason Lee Rigby died. His death is being cynically and nauseatingly used for political ends, turned into an excuse to treat the population even more like untrustworthy conspirators who are considered to be up to no good unless evidence shows otherwise. Well, the government can fuck right off. The country is the British people, not the parasites in Westminster seeking to assert themselves as a higher class that should have oppressive control over the rest of us.
Too many laws exist already. The UK is the most monitored and spied upon place in the western world. We have more CCTV per head of population than any nation on the planet. Yet none of what the government has in its surveillance arsenal prevented last week’s attack and none of it will prevent a similar one in the future. Individuals and pairs of people already know not to talk about their plans, or share them electronically across communication networks like the email and phone systems.
So the politicians, such as Dr John Reid, Jack Straw, Alex Carlile and Admiral West, seeking to ram through further infringements of our liberty and freedom in light of last week’s hate killing, are using that incident as an excuse to achieve other self serving ends, which is nothing short of an outrage.
We are not the property of the state and we should resist its efforts to treat us as such – particularly when such gross and shameless opportunism as using the murder of a young soldier is deployed to justify the contemptible political actions they are planning.