Something I’ve always struggled with it certain labels, certain accusations towards the UK government and security services. ‘Police state’ ‘Nazi’ ‘Fascism’ ‘Stasi’ – all very easy to blurt out and demean the original usage, and when using them you think about some cold grey depressing country (oh it is the same!) in Eastern Europe with brown shirted capped guards, gulags and thought police. Can’t be our grey and be-fracked land, could it? The comparison seems ludicrous, something from the 1950’s cold war.
Well I’m sure you’ve heard about what happened to Glenn Greenwald’s partner – who at the most was a go-between between Laura Poitras and Glenn who are working on the Snowden story, but certainly not in any terms seeming to be a terrorist. But like many non-terrorists he was held at Heathrow, under Schedule 7 but unusually for the maximum nine hours and quizzed not about terrorism as the law was intended but about the work his partner was doing re: the NSA. The whole ‘re-definition’ of terrorism just proves Glenn’s previous points about this whole theatre that’s going on at the moment.
This goes against any journalistic freedom, and as we’ve seen in the UK it’s a drip, drip, drip, slowly but surely eroding our rights. Anti-terrorism laws have been used by councils to spy on people to check if parents live where they’re applying to school, to check parking permits, immigration status etc. First time it’s been this blatant with a public journalist – and more importantly his family though, and definitely being used to intimidate him.
This is where we transition from the pre-Biko phase into the phase where all people are targets if they oppose the State – happened to violent effect in South Africa, happened in 1930’s Germany, happening in Russia, Iran and many places today. The silencing of critics and journalists by attacking their families. What I never expected is that to happen here – I doubted they go that far. But UK now has protesters treat as ‘domestic terrorists’, UK now has copyright as a criminal act, UK now has automatic deportation to the US on their request, a massive effort to spy on British citizens called Tempora which is part funded by the Americans to get round their own rules, and UK now seem to be just a ‘non-colonised territory’ of the US in all but name.
“So any journalist passing through London’s Heathrow has now been warned: do not take any documents with you. Britain is now a police state when it comes to journalists, just like Russia is.
In this respect, I can say this to David Cameron. Thank you for clearing the air on these matters of surveillance. You have now demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that these anti-terror provisions are capable of rank abuse. Unless some other facts emerge, there is really no difference in kind between you and Vladimir Putin. You have used police powers granted for anti-terrorism and deployed them to target and intimidate journalists deemed enemies of the state.”
When you have someone as flakey and right-wing as Andrew Sullivan saying that, about someone he claimed was ‘legitimizing’ the Lee Rigby killing (so, old habits die hard then, Andrew?), then you know things are scary.
EDIT: oh it gets scarier. Apparently GCHQ visited the Guardian’s headquarters to destroy harddrives and computers in the Snowden inquiry (failing to understand that the data is, you know, digital and thus copyable. How 20th century of them):
“And so one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in the Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents. “We can call off the black helicopters,” joked one as we swept up the remains of a MacBook Pro.”
Words fail me. As I just said on Twitter, I really don’t want to live here anymore. This is going to get worse before it ever gets better.