Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Legislators with spine

Not everyone will agree in general with the title characterization, but here:

LONDON — After nearly 12 hours of debate over two days, the House of Lords overwhelmingly rejected a Labor Government proposal on Monday evening that would have allowed the authorities to hold terrorism suspects for 42 days without being charged.

The vote was 309 to 118, with many Labor members joining Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and independents in opposition.

The bill, pushed hard by PM Gordon Brown, only barely passed the House of Commons a few months ago (by a nine-vote margin). In a country that possibly has the most surveillance cameras per square mile of any on Earth, legislators have drawn a line at adding another two weeks to the four weeks that those accused of terrorism may already be locked up without charges.

Let’s note a few things about the current 28-day period:

  1. It’s already the longest in the “free world.” In contrast, even our vile “USA PATRIOT Act” only permits 7 days.
  2. Note that this is talking about people accused of terrorism. They haven’t yet actually been determined to be terrorists, and people are falsely accused all the time.
  3. Note that this is talking about people who have not been charged with any crime. In other words, the police haven’t enough evidence — they may have nothing at all except a suspicion, perhaps something from a third-hand report or an anonymous tip. File charges against the accused, if you want to hold them.

Three cheers for the British legislators for standing up against their leader for what’s right and decent. Three cheers to them for not being the sheep that our Congress have so often been, agreeing, far, far too quickly to clamp down on civil liberties with the USA PATRIOT Act; agreeing to cede their power to declare war; allowing themselves to be bullied by the Bush administration into so many bad policies.

Lord West, the Home Office minister, isn’t pleased with the decision. Addressing the comparison of the already-long 28 day detention period with what’s allowed elsewhere:

“I don’t really care what any other country does,” Lord West, the Home Office minister, said during a powerful speech in support of the bill in the House of Lords on Monday evening. “You’re bloody lucky to live in this country,” he added.

Luckier after this decision than had it gone otherwise, I’d say.

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