Well, it certainly is a changing world. The ripple effect from the controversial 9/11 attack in New York continues to alter our government’s focus, the scope of our rights as citizens, and the very character of our focus on world politics.
The BBC reports today that the new “Protection from Terrorism” bill has passed successfully through Parliament.
The “Anti-Terrorism, Crime & Security Act 2001” gave UK politicians, not judges, the power to imprison, without trial and indefinitely, foreign nationals suspected of terrorist links. During the time the UK was petitioning the US to release British Nationals held without trial at Guantanamo Bay, the UK was, themselves, doing the same to other foreign nationals at Belmarsh.
Recently, a UK judge ordered the release on bail of several suspects held under the ATCSA, ruling their detention was illegal. Even with the passage of the new “Protection from Terrorism” bill, England will still be violating European Law by suspending fair trial guarantees.
The new bill even allows British citizens to be detained without trial. The scope of the bill now extends beyond foreign nationals to include the UK’s own citizenry.
The first draft of the bill, pushed heavily by Prime Minister Tony Blair, granted politicians the power to imprison anyone without trial suspected of ties to terrorism. However, in an unusual move, the House of Lords – the unelected portion of Parliament, comprised of hereditary seats, lifetime appointments, and bishops of the Church of England – refused to grant the bill their approval.
Perhaps members of the House of Lords have a better memory of the lives of citizens that can be imprisoned at will, indefinitely, and without trial.
The initial bill was forced into change. Judges instead of politicians must now make the determiniation. Better definitions are in place to determine who, exactly, can be considered a terrorist suspect. And most strikingly, the bill has an expiration date: one year. After one year, the bill needs revisiting. This satisfies many claims by MPs, even within the Labour Party, that the bill lacks enough thought and debate.
So, here we are again. At least the British have named their draconian bill something reasonable – “Protection from Terrorism”. Our American one is simply ridiculous – the “Patriot Act”. That alone should reveal something fundamental about the manipulation inherent in our American culture.
But whatever you call it, here we are back in George Orwell’s world again. Strikingly so, in the most subtle of ways.