THE government wants to ram through severe attacks on civil liberties under the cover of its 'war against terrorism'. Home secretary David Blunkett confirmed last weekend that he is 'very seriously' considering introducing compulsory identity cards.
New Labour's latest anti-terrorism laws may also include wider powers for the police to detain people they consider to be terrorist suspects, the right to monitor e-mail, and scrapping some of the appeal rights of people refused entry to Britain.
New Labour is trying to exploit people's real fear over terrorist attacks. It is excusing its assaults on civil liberties as measures to curb terrorism. But they will restrict the freedom of everyone. You could be detained for the 'crime' of forgetting your identity card. The police would feel even more confident to harass and arrest people they didn't like the look of. In France, where id cards are compulsory, the police routinely target Arabs and black people. New Labour's plans would have little impact on any terrorist threat. For instance, someone determined to plant a bomb would not balk at forging an identity card. Four European countries that have identity cards are Italy, Spain, Greece and Germany. Id cards did not stop 15 years of terrorism in Italy in the 1970s and early 1980s.
They have not stopped the Basque nationalist group Eta from planting bombs in Spain or the November 17 group in Greece. A number of the people suspected of hijacking US planes on 11 September lived in Germany for a time.
New Labour and its supporters are also talking of using id cards to 'crack down' on benefit claimants. Compulsory id cards would mean greater powers for the state against people it perceives as a threat. That could include anti-capitalist protesters. New Labour is discussing with other European governments new security measures against acts with the aim of 'seriously altering or destroying the political, economic or social structures of countries'.
That would make everyone on the 300,000-strong protest against the G8 summit in Genoa in July into a criminal. Civil liberties group Statewatch warned against such a policy, saying, 'If it is intended to slip in by the back door draconian measures to control political dissent it will only serve to undermine the very freedoms and democracies legislators say they are protecting.'