The “42-day rule” will mean nothing to readers outside the United Kingdom but the issue has been an intense element of the public discourse for several months, coming to a head last week with the rejection of the statute by the House of Lords.
Every talking head, pundit, phone-in maven, and liberal newspaper — of which there are many — in Britain is registering varying levels of ire over what is seen as a contentious law that should be dead and buried once and for all.
The 42-day rule is an eminently sensible provision in British law allowing the police to keep a suspect in custody for 42 days, an increase on the present 28 days. There has been unprecedented anger in the country and indeed the House of Lords, these days packed with an increasing number of liberal life appointees replacing now-abolished hereditary peers, has expressed its displeasure. Those of us who live in the real world, headed by the brave Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, feel this is a gift to the unending stream of Muslim radicals whose names are paraded across our screens in the context of a plethora of plots. Some of us actually believe that 42 days is a short time in which to investigate the peregrinations of suspects.
Now, journalist Andrew Gilligan, a household name in Britain but perhaps not as well known in other climes, has taken it upon himself to write a rant in the Evening Standard of October 16 condemning the “police state” and making assertions that some observers could say border on treason. Gilligan, who shot to fame in 2003 when he “outed” the “sexed-up” government dossier on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, a national crisis that ended with the death of world biological weapons expert Dr. David Kelly and the resignation of BBC Director-General Greg Dyke, is actually asserting that in 2008 the financial crash will at last liberate us from spending money on preventing terror attacks.
I have now thrice reread Gilligan’s editorial, on which the paper provides the heading, “Banking Excess May Save Us from the Police State,” and must conclude that he reflects the level of foolhardy liberal insanity that has been increasingly pervading the British social discourse in the past decade. What is so alarming is that with the exception of Home Secretary Smith every person in a public forum is self-flagellating over the reduction in personal freedoms that the battle against Islamic radicalism has engendered in Her Majesty’s Kingdom.
Gilligan refers to “securocrats” who “traded in off-the-record mumblings about unspecified dastardly threats.” Does he really think the families of the victims of the July 7 bombings or the maimed survivors believe the radicals who perpetrated these acts were just wayward youths? He goes on to say that the terror plots pursued by the British intelligence services “always turned out somewhat less dastardly than claimed.” Has he forgotten the thankfully failed bus bombers of July 21, 2005? Has he forgotten the hideous attack on Glasgow Airport of June 30, 2007, which had followed on the heels of the foiled car bomb attacks on nightclubs in the Haymarket and in Cockspur Street by the Texas Embassy restaurant? Were three terrorists in the liquid bomb plot, Abdullah Ahmed Ali, Assad Sarwar, and Tanvir Hussain, just convicted on September 9? Were the “fertilizer bomb plot gang” of five radicals not convicted and sent down for life in April 2007 after a stunning undercover investigation that had begun in 2004? In the context of emails and telephone calls being intercepted by the authorities, his rationale for condemning the police, the security community, and government is that the money spent on these pursuits is far in excess of the threat. He says, “Quite apart from the privacy invasion, it is surely mad to search for a few dozen terrorists by swamping yourself with billions of messages sent by the innocent.”
Inasmuch as the United States has not suffered a major terrorist attack inside its borders since September 11, 2001, do the many Britons who reflect the reckless views of Andrew Gilligan think that “securocrats” in America sit about hatching plans to harass innocent folk, draining the nation’s coffers?
Gilligan reminds readers that both Blairs — former prime minister Tony and police commissioner Ian — began their respective journeys to public scorn and eventual resignation from office when they broached the idea of a 90-day detention rule. Now, the government’s desire to have access to internet and telephone communications — which Gilligan describes this way: “the securocats unveiled their grandest Big Brother project yet, a £12 billion database of everyone’s calls and emails” — is being roundly condemned as an American-style breakdown of personal freedoms. Would it not have been splendid if interception of messages had foiled the tragic carnage of July 7 in central London? Indeed, the brilliance of the British security services and police did foil the plots detailed above, and are no doubt stopping further atrocities as we breathe.
What is worrying about the Gilligan view is that it is held so widely across Britain. Living here every day of the year as I do, it is evident from wildly approving television and radio audiences and from furious politicians — including many Conservatives — that common sense has gone topsy-turvy.
Gilligan says in his long piece that the excesses of bankers will have a positive effect on what he describes as going after “an enormous haystack” to the government’s “collection of needles.” He says the lack of funds will stop the issue of ID cards in Britain and “the other horrors on the Home Office wish list.” He observes that Prime Minister Brown will not need a “security blanket” to make him look tough. So, my conclusion is that I will now walk the streets of Britain knowing that my taxpayer money will not go to supporting Home Office horrors but instead the lack of said taxpayer money will allow terrorists to hatch the “horrors on their wish list.”
What Gilligan is saying — and he has huge support across the country — is that Britain must avoid at all costs being lumped with the Evil Empire known as the USA, to which he refers in his column as perpetrating torture and rendition. He reminds us that two weeks ago the government invoked anti-terror legislation to block British savers’ funds from being confiscated by the Icelandic banks and that this was a form of Big Brotherism. He refers to attempts by Parliament to tighten up measures to stop radical plots as “the everlasting Duracell bunny of anti-terror legislation” and “Wile E. Coyote Law of Cartoon Physics.” Has this man seen some of the UK-based radical blogs of late? I suggest their everlasting Duracell bunny will get a new lease of life from the Gilligan screed.
I fear for the sanity of Britain, but most of all I fear for the safety of its deluded citizens and increasingly deranged leadership. God help them if such editorials inspire open season on the streets of the United Kingdom.