Grading The War On Terror
October 10, 2014Posted by on
Lincoln, Civil Liberties, and the Constitution proposes a grading system for those Presidents of the United States of America who enacted special ‘internal security measures‘ in a time of war. Mark Neely ‘graded’ four American Presidents, according to an analysis of their administration’s response to the internal security measures they enacted. He asked three simple questions that were all about behaviour and not about the law.
The Bush Administration was not included despite a declared a ‘war on terror‘ in 2001. However, this was a quasi-war in which no war was actually declared by the USA (pdf) or the Coalition of the Willing. Nevertheless; regardless of the criteria set out in the Just War Theory and the lack of any ‘proper authority and public declaration’ justifying a war, the ‘war on terror’ has now been waged for over a decade. It continues to be waged under many guises warranting, perhaps, the naming of The 1984 War•.
Neely’s questions are used here to (briefly) consider the responses to this war on terror by the Parliament of the UK.
Question 1: Is the internal security system proportionate to the threat or is it out of all proportion to the threat?
Comparisons can be made with Neely’s analysis of Lincoln and the action taken during the American Civil War to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. This was considered by some to be particularly heinous and yet the USA period of habeas corpus remains at 2 days.
In the UK the writ of habeas corpus is now 14 days and can be extended to 28 days (possibly the longest period in the world where habeas corpus applies). Parliament sought to have the writ of habeas corpus extended to 90 days, but even the 28 day period eventually agreed by parliament prompted the resignation of the Shadow Home Secretary David Davis.
The proportionality of the writ of habeas corpus and other Acts of Parliament should be considered in the context of this question.
Question 2: Is the system, once in place, used for other ends than the one of meeting the original threat?
The present Government policy to Protect the UK Against Terrorism has amended, but not revoked, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). It’s questionable that the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) sufficiently protects the rights of the public¹.
The Terrorism Act 2000 states, ‘In this Act terrorism means the use or threat of action where the use or threat is designed to influence the government [or an international governmental organisation] or to intimidate the public or a section of the public’. The intention of coercing or intimidating the government gives police and the legal system much greater powers where they are not necessary or appropriate².
The use of these measures for other ends should be considered in the context of this question.
Question 3: Once the threat ceases does the internal security system also cease?
In the forward to the Government’s Justice and Security Green Paper (pdf), the claim is made by Kenneth Clark that the primary role of any government is to keep its citizens safe and free. During the final debate on the Justice and Security Bill in the House of Lords, Lord Brown warned that the legislation involved a radical departure from the cardinal principle of open justice in civil proceedings, effecting a sensitive aspect of the court’s processes
To answer ‘Question 3’ there is a need to ask whether or not ‘war on terror’ is simply the euphemism now used to justify further curtailments of civil liberties by parliament: and – paraphrasing the view expressed by Sir James Anderton in 1979¹ – whether or not politicians regard the greatest concern of policing as taking action against those perceived as seeking to subvert the authority of the state: and whether or not the Justice and Security Act 2013³, is more about the self interest of parliament than the liberty of its citizens.
The continuance of internal security measures enacted by Parliament should be considered in the context of this question.