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Everyone's a 'suspect'

Just in case you thought New Labour’s planned new anti-terror laws were bad enough, pay attention to what the European Union is cooking up. This undemocratic, bureaucratic organisation is bringing forward a raft of measures that add to the growth of a European-wide authoritarian state.

The workings of the EU are obscure but thanks to Statewatch we can just about fathom out what’s going on. In its latest bulletin, the independent monitoring group analyses new terrorism laws planned by the European Commission. These would create three new categories of criminal offence: provocation to commit terrorism, recruitment for terrorism and training for terrorism. The "provocation" offence is extremely broad, as it does not require a direct encouragement to commit terrorist acts but applies to any statements which create a "danger" of such acts being committed. Statewatch warns:

“The wording of this definition is clearly likely to result in the criminalisation of the expression of political views (for example on the situation in Middle East or on certain conflicts within Member States) even if that expression does not in any way include the advocacy of terrorism to support those opinions. It will be enough that the authorities deem that there is a ‘danger’ that this will happen.”

Then there are the plans to fingerprint all children over six for EU passports. The commission would have included even younger children but the idea was rejected because the under-6s don’t yet have fully-identifiable fingerprints! Finally, this week the European Commission announced plans for a PNR (passenger name record) scheme to monitor all travel in and out of the EU. Similar data is already being collected under a EU-US scheme that sailed through without parliamentary approval.

All passengers, including visitors from the USA, will be “profiled” to see if they constitute a “risk”. If they are, they can be refused entry. The "profile" will be updated and held for 13 years. This will involve millions of quite innocent people being kept on record. Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, comments: "This is yet another measure that places everyone under surveillance and makes everyone a ‘suspect’ without any meaningful right to know how the data is used, how it is further processed and by whom. We have already got the mandatory taking of fingerprints for passports and ID cards and the mandatory storage of telecommunications data of every communication, now we are to have the mandatory logging of all travel in and out of the EU.

“The underlying rationale for each of the measures is the same - all are needed to tackle terrorism. Yet there is little evidence that the gathering of mountain upon mountain of data on the activities of every person in the EU makes a significant contribution. On the other hand, the use of this data for other purposes, now or in the future, will make the EU the most surveilled place in the world".

Bunyan says that the "profiling" of all airline passengers has “no place in a democracy”. He is right. The trouble is that behind the façade of parliamentary democracy, a terrifying authoritarian state is nearing completion. It’s an EU-wide project in which the New Labour government plays the leading role.

Paul Feldman
AWTW communications editor
8 November 2007

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