We have chosen as a society to put the civil liberties of the suspect, even if a foreign national, first. I happen to believe this is misguided and wrong.
Their (suspects’) right to traditional civil liberties comes first. I believe this is a dangerous misjudgment.
Possessing a book called Future Jihad, Terrorist Strategies Against The West by Walid Phares, possessing a press ID, using the term Al Qaida in my emails and essays, visiting a number of places in Britain, taking photos of Tower Bridge which show the structure of the bridge, and having pictures of military people.
- Possessing a book, no matter how “suspect” the title, is not a crime. I own the works of Osama bin Laden, not because I want to emulate him but because if he’s going around the world blowing things up I’d quite like to know why.
- Being a journalist is not a crime. I’m a journalist, and never have I been told that possessing a press ID is grounds for arrest.
- Using the term Al Qaida is not a crime. I’ve done it, we’ve all done it. Tony Blair does it often enough, maybe someone could arrest him.
- Visiting a number of places in Britain is not a crime. I just don’t know what to say about this one.
- Taking photos of Tower Bridge which show the structure of the bridge is not a crime. Taking photos which do not show the structure of the bridge would be quite a feat.
- Having pictures of military people is not a crime. Should I hide the photo of my late grandfather in his RAF uniform, just in case an overzealous cop kicks my door in one day?
Now I should point out that all these reasons for the arrest come from Abdulrahman himself. Perhaps the police do have some devastating evidence against him that he doesn’t mention. Perhaps under the Freedom of Information Act I could find out, if the government wasn’t trying to gut that as well.
But if the reasons for his arrest are true, then I am guilty on every single count. Hmm. Should I notify MI5? Perhaps not. Because of course, it really doesn’t matter if I share 6 or 100 harmless habits with Salam Abdulrahman. When it comes down to it, I’m white and he’s not. I could never be a terrorist; he is presumed to be one unless he can prove otherwise. Notice the emphasis in Blair’s statements on “foreign nationals.” He doesn’t say it, but we all know which “foreign nationals” he’s referring to. French tourists and Swedish au pairs have nothing to fear from the British police; Iraqi and Syrian men, on the other hand, had better not take any photos or mention “A_ Q___” if they don’t want to spend the night in jail for the sake of keeping “us” safe.
Finally, I should make another confession: as well as apparently being a potential terrorist, I am also a thief: I stole both the title for this blog post and the picture from an excellent-sounding new film about Tony Blair’s destruction of civil liberties. I plan to go and see it, if I can find a cinema screen in London that isn’t taken up with Pirates of the Caribbean 3.