Fox News reported on the David Cameron Anti-Terrorism Bill as an unquestionably good thing. I hate terrorism and hope the Islamic State is soon defeated (though not necessarily by our own ground troops).
I am glad that David Cameron is opposed to terrorism. But it raises questions in my mind that I would like to have answered.
Cameron officially asked the House of Commons to agree to several temporary measures he proposed late last week, including the power to seize passports of suspected British jihadists leaving the country and controlling where they can move within the country.
“As I’ve said all along, this is not a knee-jerk response or sweeping, blanket changes that would be ineffective,” he said. “It’s not about just new powers, but about how we tackle extremism in all forms. … We will in the end defeat this extremism.”
He said his proposed legislation would give police officers temporary power to seize passports at the border. Secondly, he said it was key that Britain work to keep out foreign fighters who return from the Middle East and pose a threat to the nation, which recently upgraded its terror alert from substantial to severe.
Cameron said that Britain must prevent those suspected of extremism from traveling out of the country.
“Passports are not an automatic right,” he told his colleagues. He said to date, 500 people from the UK have left the country to fight in Iraq and Syria; 700 have left France to fight and Germany has seen 400 people exit to join religious extremists.
Cameron is asking for the changes essentially to prevent attacks on Britain by Islamist militants coming and going for terror training in the Middle East.
I am all for defeating and stopping terrorists. But I have to ask, if these laws are aimed at “extremism in all forms,” is he including non-Islamic “extremism”? What exactly does he have in mind?
Also, is giving the police the power to confiscate legal passports not a potential problem? The police are being given a great deal of personal authority to take control of people’s lives. What counts as a “suspected terrorist”? This seems even more severe than the U.S. no-fly list.
If passports are “not an automatic right” then what does that mean? Are people supposed to be prisoners inside their own nation even when there is no proof against them and no charges have been brought against them in a court of law?
Obviously, the British government needs to protect the British people and also not unleash others to go into other lands and commit acts of violence. But this is a classic move where the government is going to empower itself and we have no idea if that greater power will really be used for the public good or not.