The problems with Gordon Brown's article on detention without trial

So – Gordon Brown flows over many column inches in The Times today defending his insistence on introducing 42 days detention without charge.

He holds forth in fulsome manner over the ‘compromises’, the judicial oversight, the need to come to Parliament for a vote if time beyond 28 days is necessary etc. There’s much to disagree with on the grounds which he chooses to argue – such as how meaningful will Parliamentary oversight really be if we’re all asked to vote suddenly after a new terror horror or scare? Those are just the circumstances in which you get rushed judgements, faulty information (think how often the initial media reports get major things wrong when there is a terrorist incident) and bad or blind decision making.

But what’s really striking is what’s missing from his piece. All those column inches today and not one single example of an instance where more than 28 days was needed. Not one example of where something went wrong because the 28 day limit was reached. Not one example of where something nearly went wrong until a a lucky break just before the 28 day limit was reached. Just not one example to back up his case. That gives it all away.

Instead, he tries to scare us with stories – about the thousands of hours of work now needed to sort through many aliases, many computers, many countries. And yet – no word about employing more people or more computers instead to speed up investigations

When you’re proposing to curtail our liberties – to say it’s OK for innocent people (because yes, many people arrested do turn out to be innocent) to be locked up for long periods – you really do need to make a careful case, with evidence and examples and explaining why the alternatives aren’t sufficient. Do that – and I’m all ears. Failed to do that – and no, I’m not persuaded.

0 thoughts on “The problems with Gordon Brown's article on detention without trial

  1. An explanation was put forward this morning on Andrew Marr’s Start The Week (BBC R4):“Almost every widely held idea we currently entertain about 21st century terrorism and its relationship to the wars against terror is wrong and must be thoroughly rethought.” Or so claims political philosopher and former White House advisor PHILIP BOBBITT in his latest book, which argues that we must tackle our vulnerabilities and stockpile laws for times of emergency to ensure we don’t slip into living in states of terror ourselves. Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century is published by Allen Lane.(From http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/starttheweek.shtml)I disagree on the “stockpiling laws” deduction: in a free country (UK, USA) that does not have the continental Examining Magistrate structure, to some extent we trade that readiness for our freedom.