just don't get it, says Reid
John Reid yesterday accused the government's anti-terror critics of putting national security at risk by their failure to recognise the serious nature of the threat facing Britain. "They just don't get it," he said.
The home secretary yesterday gave the thinktank Demos his strongest hint yet that a new round of anti-terror legislation is on the way this autumn by warning that traditional civil liberty arguments were not so much wrong as just made for another age.
"Sometimes we may have to modify some of our own freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their misuse and abuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy all of our freedoms in the modern world," he said.
Mr Reid said Britain was now facing "probably the most sustained period of severe threat since the end of the second world war" and that the country was facing a new breed of ruthless "unconstrained international terrorists".
The European human rights convention had been drawn up 50 years ago to protect against fascist states but now the threat came from "fascist individuals" unconstrained by such conventions, agreements or standards. Everyone across the political, media, judicial and public spectrum needed to understand the depth and magnitude of the threat.
The majority of the public understood its seriousness but there were those who "just don't get it", whose opposition was undermining the struggle. They included:
· Politicians who opposed the anti-terror measures the police and security services said were necessary to combat the threat.
· European judges who passed the "Chahal judgment" that prohibited the home secretary from weighing the security of millions of British people if a suspected terrorist remained in the UK against the risk he faced if deported back to his own country.
· The media commentators who "apparently give more prominence to the views of Islamist terrorists rather than democratically elected Muslim politicians like premier Maliki of Iraq or President Karzai of Afghanstan".
Mr Reid argued that since 2000 almost 1,000 people have been arrested for terror-related offences, with 154 of them charged and 60 suspects now awaiting trial. Four significant terrorist plots had been disrupted. But the opposition from politicians, media commentators and judges had left the government ill-prepared to tackle the threat.
"In spite of these successes we remain unable to adapt our institutions and legal orthodoxy as fast as we need to," he said. "This is the area that puts us at risk in national security terms. There have been several contributory factors to this, including party political point scoring by the Conservative and Liberal opposition during the passage of key anti-terrorism measures, through to repeated challenges under the Human Rights Act and the convention, which I continue to contest."
He said at a time when a single terrorist with access to weapons of mass destruction could cause irreparable damage, their opposition meant he could not always prosecute, deport or detain foreign suspects.
The Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Mark Hunter, said Mr Reid was right to call for cooperation from all sections of the community but "he needs to make sure the government's counter-terrorism strategy encourages rather than undermines that cooperation".
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