A Police State Weakens Britain

Article excerpt

THE FORMER director general of M15, Dame Stella Rimington, has warned that government counterterrorism policy could risk creating a police state.

Dame Stella's years at the head of the security agency made her acutely aware of the difficulties of striking a balance between basic freedoms and the need to protect the public against the kind of terrorists who brought us the 7/7 bombings -- a threat highlighted as today's airline bomb plot trial opens. Someone intimate with terrorist activity of which most of us know little might be expected to emphasise security above liberties. However, in her interview with a Spanish newspaper, she is saying quite the opposite: that reducing freedoms can actually boost the extremists' cause. That makes her view important.

Dame Stella's criticisms come at a time when the Government is preparing to publish plans for an expansion of surveillance powers over internet and phone communications. Her comments are likely to increase the Government's difficulties in winning support for the plans. Dame Stella has previously criticised proposals for ID cards and the nowrejected plans for 42 days' detention of terrorist suspects without charge. …