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A state of terror

Gordon Brown is generously offering the “expertise” of the British security and intelligence services to fight al-Qaeda’s activities in Pakistan. But many are increasingly questioning the ability of the British capitalist state to protect anyone from attacks as well as its abuse of anti-terror powers to create an authoritarian regime.

The dust is not yet settled over Friday’s inquest verdict into the killing of Jean de Menezes. The jury’s 8-2 vote for an open verdict – the most damning available to it – showed that they did not believe the police account of what happened. Jurors held their nerve, despite coming under enormous pressure from the coroner who had ruled they could not say that the 27-year-old Brazilian electrician was unlawfully killed at Stockwell tube in July 2005.

Fellow passengers on the tube insisted during the inquest that the police had given no warning. Anna Dunwoodie, for example, said she thought the police were “out of control” and said there was a “sense of panic” when they rushed aboard the train. It was also revealed that the marksmen from C12 and C2 were allowed to “confer” after they realised that they had executed an innocent man.

It is not only the Menezes case which has shown an overweening and out-of-control police. After the arrest of MP Damian Green earlier this month by nine anti-terror officers, even the Financial Times ran a headline saying “The police, and the state, are out of control”. Philip Stephens went on to remark that the police’s "disdain for political process spoke eloquently to the authoritarian culture of our times”.

Meanwhile, data unearthed by under the Freedom of Information Act about the Kent police operation against climate protesters at Kingsnorth power station last summer showed that claims about “violent protesters” were untrue. The injuries reported by the 1,500 police on duty ludicrously included "stung on finger by possible wasp"; "officer injured sitting in car"; and "officer succumbed to sun and heat". Lib Dem justice spokesman David Howarth said:

That the minister could defend as 'proportionate' a £5.9m policing operation in which there was not a single injury to police officers caused by the protesters beggars belief. The threat posed by environmental direct action is being systematically overblown by both the government and the police.

And, in yet another bizarre use of anti-terror powers, police detained photographer Jess Hurd under the Anti-Terrorism Act as she was taking photographs at the Canary Wharf wedding of gypsy couple Nora Quilligan and Danny Sheridan from the Dale Farm camp in Essex.

Meanwhile two Bills are going through parliament which will give yet more powers to the police. A new counter-terrorism Bill will give the home secretary greater powers to withhold intercept evidence from the families of the deceased in the interests of national security or the UK's relationship with another country or "otherwise in the public interest". Organisations like Inquest are warning that key evidence will be suppressed, especially in “contentious deaths involving state agents”. The coroner and lawyers would have to be vetted and the inquest would take place in secret.

And, yet another move by the surveillance state, the Coroners and Justice Bill, announced in the Queens Speech earlier this month, has been denounced by Phil Booth of NO2ID. He warns:

Rather than protecting our personal information, as it should be, the government is cutting away safeguards for its own data-trafficking convenience. This is a Bill to smash the rule of law and build the database state in its place.

The rule of law is the last thing on New Labour’s mind, however. Brown’s regime is sitting atop social anger that is building towards an explosion as a result of the economic crisis. The government is keeping the state onside by giving it more and more powers to intimidate every sector of society, from political opponents to activists. The Menezes jury’s defiance of the state is to be commended. We should build on that and carry through the proposals outlined in our new book, Unmasking the State.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary
15 December 2008

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