There were announcements by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and by the Prime Minister last week saying that the terror threat has been raised to ‘severe,’ one down from the highest. This came about following news that people have been leaving this country to fight for the #IslamicState formerly known as #ISIS. Some are said to be returning and having been radicalised, pose an increased threat to this country.
A package of anti-terrorism measures are currently being worked on for presentation to Parliament when it reconvenes. The decision was taken following advice from the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre.
Governments – and ours is no different – are frequently looking for more powers especially of an intelligence nature. They want to demonstrate that they care for our safety and it is a way to be seen to take action. The fact that inaction has been clear in terms of what is going on in Iraq and our policy towards it doesn’t seem to matter: at home new powers are needed and MPs will no doubt airing their views inside and outside the House of Commons.
Are these extra powers really needed? The government and its agencies already have a huge armoury of powers at their disposal enabling them to intercept messages, phone calls, internet traffic, emails and so forth. As has been shown, there is too little control being exercised by parliament over this activity and the key committee had little idea of the scale of it.
These proposals, combined with the parallel plans to make people stateless, show that there is a degree of knee-jerk reaction to events in Iraq.
The worry has to be that the proposals will represent a further erosion of our liberties. Once the new powers are enshrined into law and the terror threat is reduced, will they be removed? Unlikely on past form and they will have represented a ratcheting up of intrusion into our lives.
Our liberties and freedoms were hard won and we need to be especially vigilant when governments seek to limit or curtail them. It will be interesting to follow the debate when it happens.