MP Keith Vaz: If Anti-Terrorist Law Is Going To Be Abused To Detain Non-Terrorists, We Should At Least Be Upfront About It

from the a-strongly-worded-statement-that-defers-to-police-officials'-judgement dept

The news about Glenn Greenwald’s partner’s nine-hour detention by UK officials at Heathrow Airport continues to reverberate around the world. Back at home in the UK, even entrenched government officials are stating their shock at this abuse of so-called “anti-terrorism” laws.

Keith Vaz, head of the Home Office Select Affairs Committee, expressed his concern over the detention of David Miranda and has promised to seek “clarification.”

Keith Vaz called the detention of Miranda “extraordinary” and said he would be writing immediately to police to request information about why Miranda was held under anti-terrorism laws when there appeared to be little evidence that he was involved in terrorism.

[I’m fairly sure the police have phones, especially the top-ranking ones who have desks and offices and everything…]

“It is an extraordinary twist to a very complicated story,” Vaz told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday. “Of course it is right that the police and security services should question people if they have concerns or the basis of any concerns about what they are doing in the United Kingdom. What needs to happen pretty rapidly is we need to establish the full facts – now you have a complaint from Mr Greenwald and the Brazilian government. They indeed have said they are concerned at the use of terrorism legislation for something that does not appear to relate to terrorism, so it needs to be clarified, and clarified quickly.”

There’s not much to clarify. This was nothing more than the somewhat indirect government intimidation of Glenn Greenwald. The officials held Miranda for 8 hours and 55 minutes, just under the maximum permitted 9-hour mark. Then they seized all of his electronics.

It’s another abuse of anti-terrorism laws, which seem to be the kinds of laws that are just there to be abused. Vaz should try to get to the bottom of this, but writing angry letters simply grants police officials more time to diffuse the outrage and work on their spin. And Vaz should be more careful about appearing tough on anti-terrorism law abuse. His past suggests that he’s more than willing to lock up terrorism suspects without charge and has twice sought extensions to the current 28-day detention limit in the UK.

Vaz appears to view the law as impeccable and the Heathrow incident as an anomaly. But this is just one incident that has triggered worldwide reaction. There are probably more where that came from, but until it happens to someone notable, the abuse goes unnoticed.

Vaz also stated he was unfamiliar with the electronics seizure policy, which seems either sad or unlikely (depending on your point of view) considering his involvement with the Home Office, which oversees counter-terrorism activities and policies. This policy is hardly a secret, having been covered here and elsewhere less than a month ago.

In addition to allowing for the seizure of terrorist-related electronics, the policy also allows officials to download data and retain it indefinitely. And like every bad anti-terrorism law or policy here in the US, it’s all supposedly subjected to rigorous oversight by officials like the Chairman of Home Affairs Select Committee, who has apparently never heard of it.

Vaz had more to say on the subject, but by the time he’s done, it almost sounds as if he’s talked himself into agreeing with police officials, despite not hearing their rationale for Miranda’s detention.

“What is extraordinary is they knew he was the partner [of Greenwald] and therefore it is clear not only people who are directly involved are being sought but also the partners of those involved,” he said. “Bearing in mind it is a new use of terrorism legislation to detain someone in these circumstances […] I’m certainly interested in knowing, so I will write to the police to ask for the justification of the use of terrorism legislation – they may have a perfectly reasonable explanation. But if we are going to use the act in this way … then at least we need to know so everyone is prepared.”

So… if officials are going to abuse a law, they should at least be upfront about it? Vaz started out strong, but by the end, he’s basically ceded the argument to the police. It almost has the appearance of internal dialog that was mistakenly made public. Vaz is first outraged but then thinks it through, finally arriving at the conclusion that the UK would be best served by a bold new era of transparent abuse. I guess if you can’t beat ’em, tell them you’re going to start beating them. And then commence with the beatings.

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Comments on “MP Keith Vaz: If Anti-Terrorist Law Is Going To Be Abused To Detain Non-Terrorists, We Should At Least Be Upfront About It”

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out_of_the_blue says:

"at least we need to know so everyone is prepared."

Likely was precisely for public exercise of arbitrary power, as when Senator Ted Kennedy was put on the no-fly list: do it to someone well-known so people are acquainted with the new level of tyranny. — And supports that the whole “leak” is a giant psy-op (the quote above sure does), though of course it’s possible that they’re just turning a minor problem to advantage. But don’t worry, the tyranny is really just beginning. — And by the way, that’s not defeatism, it’s clarity so that maybe you optimists will wake up sometime.

Oh, minion! In an otherwise good piece, here you’re just SILLY as everyone (else) knows that official queries are always made in writing: “[I’m fairly sure the police have phones, especially the top-ranking ones who have desks and offices and everything…]”

Anonymous Coward says:

‘until it happens to someone notable, the abuse goes unnoticed’. ‘unnoticed’ needs to be changed to ‘ignored’, i think! no one of power gives a shit about ‘joe bloggs’ being detained, questioned, imprisoned or disposed of.
i read earlier that the UK had informed the USA of what it was going to do before hand. i bet the USA had a big hand in what happened anyway. i think the UK needs to be a bit careful before it drops itself as far in the crap as the USA has already. what the UK is overlooking is that if it should happen, no one is going to bail out ‘little old England’! and if the UK had nothing to hide, it would have nothing to fear. more bullshit, i think! it doesn’t pull stunts like this or destroy electronic equipment, including macbooks, from what i read, either! it’s seems as if those responsible have the opinion that any information they want to destroy is only on those pieces of equipment with no backups anywhere else. duh!!!

Jake says:

There’s a couple of good reasons why Mr Vaz is writing to them, rather than telephoning. First, a letter can be sent by what’s known as “Recorded Delivery”, meaning that the recipient has to sign for it and therefore can’t pretend it never arrived. (I assume the USPS has a similar facility but I don’t know what you call it.) Calling, on the other hand… Well. Have you ever tried to call someone in senior management at the office when they didn’t want to talk to you?

Second, it’s traditional for a response to an enquiry to use the same method; if he sends a letter, it’s expected that a letter will be sent in return. That means a hard copy with someone’s signature on it, so that everyone will know exactly what was said.

Anonymous Coward says:

This does reminds me of Aliens.


Gorman: Apone! Look… we can’t have any firing in there. I, uh… I want you to collect magazines from everybody.

Hudson: Is he fuckin’ crazy?

Frost: What the hell are we supposed to use man? Harsh language?

Yay! write a harsh letter admonishing the armed thugs commanded by others, that will show them.


Anonymous Coward says:

Vaz is flighty, he says whatever will get him on TV.
The whole ‘mastering the internet’ was done by New Labour, Vaz’s party, the laws that would have made it legal were introduced by Jacqui Smith, with support from Vaz, and rejected by the voters who kicked his party out. They just did the mass surveillance anyway.

I don’t think Cameron is in charge at this point in time, General Alexander, the NSA chief, seems to give the orders here in the UK.

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