On the back of European enlightenment during 1700s, the concept of government scrutiny came to the fore and the absolutist doctrine of state secrecy was successfully challenged. In the context of government scrutiny, the freedom of the press has been critical in ensuring the government is transparent to the people. It seems though, the people are the ones becoming transparent through the erosion of liberties to a government whose opacity is increasing.
There have been a few reports recently which though prima facie are disparate, are in fact well connected issues certainly with regards to their implications.
First is the case of David Miranda, who was detained under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The Act itself is an affront to humanity. Those stopped constantly at airports will attest to this. The fact that the decision to detain at Heathrow airport for 9 hours was supported by the High Court reinforces the notion that even the courts are now succumbing to the NeoCon’s attack on Human Rights. As Helena Kennedy QA states in her opinion piece,
“It is also important to recognise that our judiciary is currently on the back foot. It is not only the European court of human rights that is being attacked by the tabloids and Tea Party tendency; many of our own judges have been at the receiving end of vitriol for being too committed to human rights.”
Too committed to Human Rights? Can you even be too committed to something which was born from the ashes of the Holocaust?
The reason for him being stopped however is critical. He was stopped because he possessed encrypted files, including a hard drive which containing 58,000 intelligence documents. The detention was therefore to prevent journalism, not terrorism. It was to prevent, in short, government scrutiny.
The second affair is concerning Prince Charles. The Guardian has been embroiled in a legal struggle to obtain copies of correspondence with seven government departments between September 2004 and April 2005 under the Freedom of Information Act. Based on the Guardian report, there are suggestions that he has been utilising his unelected position to influence official policy through these secret correspondences. The Attorney General Dominic Grieve had banned the disclosure of the private letters. This is clearly undemocratic and a violation of the principle of government transparency.
To flip the common question asked in favour of eroding liberties to the government, if you haven’t got anything to hide why are you worried?
Connected to Prince Charles is another scandal. This time the Prince was requested by the Foreign Office to meet Saudi officials, possibly to facilitate an arms deal with the Saudi government. In other words, taxpayer money is being used to facilitate an arms deal between the corrupt BAE and a country which the West regards as completely antithetical democracy and it’s principles.
Finally the case of Moazzam Begg, who today as been arrested on suspicion of terrorism offences. It is crucial to understand Moazzam Begg’s movement. He has been a Human Rights campaigner for detainees after returning from Guantanamo Bay. In a recent interview he articulated that he was being harassed constantly under anti-Terror legislation and MI5, infringing his freedom of movement. Begg won an out of court settlement against the government which in essence proved complicity to illegal detainment and torture in Guantanamo. He was also meeting with key figures and airing his plight. Recently he was investigating leads into British and American complicity to illegal renditions and eventual torture in Syria.
In sum then, he was doing that which every upright citizen who has the capacity, should be doing: subjecting government actions to scrutiny. This is something the government is not comfortable with. In his own words,
“It is these government-shaking issues that are the real reason why I have been continually harassed and targeted by the authorities in this country. I am not and never have been in anyway a threat to them, unless words seeking accountability are a threat.”
The confiscation of his passport and now his arrest suggests the government is getting desperate in trying to cover its tracks and preventing government transparency.
The analysis of the above cases points to a chilling conclusion. The NeoCon government, in conjunction with the NeoCon media machine are chiselling away at “enlightened” values. Human rights are being torn up, policies such as PREVENT are being put into place where interference with civil liberties is at its peak, and the government is desperately trying cover its dirty deeds by suppressing and persecuting through harassment the very people who wish to maintain the principles it claims to protect.
The liberals too, who are, in an unholy union, jumping into bed with the NeoCons in the discourse against Islam, Muslims and human rights need to reassess their position in light of their own principles. If the mechanism to maintain the checks and balances of this government are being shunned, then these incidents will become a norm. When these incidents become a norm, the people will fear the government, and in the words of Thomas Jefferson,
When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.