Month: August 2016

More Proof That the Rule of Law Doesn’t Exist in Britain

Rule of Law

For anyone who has been paying attention to the so-called war on terror perpetrated by Western governments over the past fifteen years, what is obvious at this point is that there is a class of people in society which literally exists beyond the reach of the law. These people – statesmen, intelligence officials, military generals – can literally commit the worst crimes in the world (such as launching wars of aggression, constructing an international surveillance regime, kidnapping and torturing people, imprisoning people without charges, assassinating suspects and arming brutal dictators) and it is guaranteed that there will be no legal repercussions for them. It is for this exact reason that the US and its allies are able to continue unleashing massive violence and terrorism on the world; they are safe in the knowledge that they will never face justice for the crimes that they carry out.

New evidence has emerged of how intimately the judicial system in the UK is bound up with these lawless, murderous factions, despite its reputation as an independent entity which is able to impose constraints on the government. Cori Crider of the legal charity Reprieve recently published an article in The Guardian revealing that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has decided to uphold its decision that no one in the British government will face prosecution for UK complicity in the abduction and rendition to Libya of two Libyan families (including women and children) under the Blair regime. According to Crider, the CPS has refused to hear from any of the rendition victims, who were also subjected to torture, and it is more than likely that the investigators at the CPS charged with reviewing the case didn’t even read the police file attached to it (“With a police file of over 28,000 pages, they would have had to read 550 pages daily, seven days a week, just to process all the evidence. There is no real prospect that they even read the police file. This is the “careful and fully independent consideration” the Libyan renditions victims are thought to be worth”). One paragraph in Crider’s article is particularly revealing:

“It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the single guiding principle at the CPS is to act exactly as those at the top of government would wish. During the investigation and afterwards, I spoke to former senior prosecutors and others for advice. All of them were clear: members of the security services are basically never put on trial in this country and, however shocking this case, they probably never will be. The CPS would always, always close ranks and defend MI6 officers, looking for any excuse, however flimsy, not to bring a single official to book”.

This ‘closing of ranks’ that Crider describes in order to shield the government and the security services from accountability is a tendency which can be found not just in the judicial system but in mainstream journalism as well, with countless examples of journalists adopting a tribalistic mindset when it comes to reporting on their government’s wartime policies, so that instead of those in power being held to account and aggressively questioned on their claims they are instead allowed to propagandise the public unchecked and unchallenged. Often, it seems as though the “single guiding principle” in many mainstream journalistic outlets is also “to act exactly as those at the top of government would wish”. There are countless examples of this, from the BBC’s former director of news Helen Boaden apparently sincerely believing that the goal of the Iraq War was to bring democracy and human rights to the Iraqi people to a Sunday Times reporter explaining the strategy behind publishing a false propaganda piece stating that Edward Snowden has spilled operational secrets to Russia and China: “We just publish what we believe to be the position of the British government”.

It is because the rule of law is such a joke in the West that it is more important than ever that investigative journalism is not stifled and suppressed but is instead allowed to flourish unhindered by those in power. The courts cannot bring true justice and accountability while they continue to operate with such close ties to the very people they are supposed to be holding to account. Likewise, mainstream journalism has become little more than the propaganda organ of the state, operating behind pretences of ‘objectivity’ and ‘impartiality’ while actually pushing an agenda overtly biased towards power and corporate interests. Of course, the rule of law doesn’t exist, and the law courts are often rendered impotent; but the court of public opinion is one place where we, the people, still have the power to hold the government to account.

MI5’s Dystopian Powers Exceed the Limits of Legality and Morality


MI5, Britain’s secret police force (or ‘domestic intelligence agency’), announced to the press recently that it has helped to foil up to 7 potential terror attacks in the UK through the use of its Behavioural Science Unit (BSU). This unit was set up in 2004 to monitor the behaviour of people suspected of plotting to engage in terrorism, and is made up of criminologists, psychologists and other academics. There are no court orders or warrants involved in this process. Anonymous officials in MI5 independently decide which members of the public they are going to secretly surveil, analysing their behaviour for anything which might arouse suspicion. So you could be being secretly tracked right now because someone in MI5 has decided that you might be planning to engage in terrorism, and so everything you do is being closely watched and monitored in case you do something abnormal or erratic, in which case the state will take an even closer interest in your life. There is no way you can challenge what is happening to you because you don’t even know that it is happening to you. But, like a microbe in a petri-dish, you could be being studied, examined, analysed by nameless, faceless figures who wield infinitely greater power than you do, and there is nothing you can do about it. The people MI5 are monitoring are suspects – not people who have been found guilty of doing anything wrong in a court of law; not even people who are reasonably suspected of plotting terrorist acts on the basis of evidence which has been examined by a jury. A judge does not need to issue a warrant for these people to be secretly spied upon; they are simply selected by anonymous officials to be subjected to all-encompassing, arbitrary surveillance, even if it turns out that they are completely innocent of having done anything wrong.

MI5 claims that it has stopped up to 7 terror attacks in the UK through the use of this authoritarian program. First of all, journalists should be highly skeptical of such claims from the security services and subject them to close scrutiny (instead of uncritically reporting them as if they are tantamount to the truth). The security services regularly make all sorts of unevidenced claims to the press that are designed to make the power they exercise in the dark appear justified. Until MI5 presents evidence that it has indeed stopped up to 7 terror attacks in the UK through covertly monitoring suspects, its claims of doing so should be treated with extreme caution. However, even if it is true that MI5 has actually helped to prevent terror attacks through the use of this program (even though it provides no evidence of having done so), there is no reason why simply working in conjunction with the law, instead of bypassing the checks and balances that are supposed to exist, will not produce similar effects. If there is actual evidence that someone is actively plotting to engage in terrorism, not simply a vague suspicion that one day they might do something bad, then there is no reason why MI5 members can’t simply go into a court of law and present evidence before a jury, which then decides whether or not it is justified for this person to have their life closely monitored. If it is decided that it is justified for such authoritarian measures to take place, then a warrant can be issued by the presiding judge and the program can go ahead. The fact that intelligence officials appear to be using these powers in a highly indiscriminate, unfettered way with no judicial oversight whatsoever (they decide who to target using a network of informants and alerts from members of the public) is extremely alarming, and probably not even effective.

The powers which MI5 is exercising, whatever the context for them, are inherently tyrannical; closely monitoring someone’s behaviour as a clue to how they think and feel, allowing the state to tap into how their brain works and to scrutinise their innermost thoughts, is totalitarian. Even though these powers might be applied selectively to begin with (although that too is questionable), they are bound to end up being abused. As with all broad, authoritarian government powers, especially in the context of the war on terror, what seem like sensible measures for combatting specific societal ills will inevitably turn into mechanisms for control and repression. Right now, it is probably the case that this ‘mind-reading program’ (as the press is labelling it) is limited to the UK’s Muslim population, and so the fact that it is a gross violation of civil liberties has aroused no general concern. However, as with NSA and GCHQ surveillance, it will inevitably expand to encompass all citizens, not just Muslims. Until the security services are constrained, not just by the judiciary (which is all too often utilised as an another arm of the establishment), but by the will of the citizenry to combat creeping authoritarianism, the already excessive power of the state will continue to grow at the expense of democracy and individual liberty. No one should be above the law; especially those who wield the greatest power.