Civil liberties

Interview: Moazzam Begg: Operation end your freedom

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As Labour imposes more draconian legislation, Patrick Ward asks former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg for his views on civil liberties today

The government won the House of Commons vote to extend detention without trial to 42 days. What do you think about this attack on civil liberties?

It's important to remember that the government didn't want 42 days - they wanted 90 days and they've settled for less than half of that. What's really bizarre for me is that I was at the protest close to Downing Street when George Bush visited and I actually caught a glimpse of him.

Personality Disorder: The Home Office's pre-emptive injustice programme

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Our world is one of security cameras, personal information databases and, of course, the potentially ever increasing 28 days of detention without charge under the Terrorism Act. One wonders what the next level is.

The Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder (DSPD) programme set up by the Home Office (now part of the Ministry of Justice) to "protect" the public may just be that next level. It includes four units so far, totalling about 300 places, at Broadmoor and Rampton hospitals, and Frankland and Whitemoor prisons, with the prospect of expansion.

ID think twice about it

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Following the negative reception to recent data losses the public are yet to warm to the idea of ID cards. Leaked reports (can they not keep their hands on anything?) suggest that the rollout will start in 2012, two years later than anticipated.

The government still claims that ID cards will be voluntary for EU nationals, but (other) leaked documents suggest that by 2010 anyone wanting a student loan will need to be registered with a biometric card - essentially making students guinea pigs.

Double Standards and Decapitation

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The self-styled "defenders of the West" should look a little closer to home before decrying Islam.

Last September Subhaan Younis, a young Glaswegian, was discussing the Iraq war with Charlotte McCay in the shop of the city's Moathouse hotel. He asked if he could show her something that would give her nightmares. When she responded, "Aye, right," Younis held out his video phone and played her a clip he had downloaded of a hostage in Iraq being beheaded.

The New McCarthyism

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On the morning of 21 May 2004, artist Steven Kurtz awoke to find his wife Hope lying dead beside him.

Kurtz immediately called paramedics. On arrival, the response team noticed assorted laboratory equipment in the home - petri dishes, microscopes and test tubes. Nervously, they alerted the FBI. The Joint Terrorism Task Force soon descended on the Kurtz home and agents and confiscated Hope's body, and gathered a variety of materials for scientific analysis. They also impounded the artist's passport, lesson plans, books, car, computers, and even his cat.

Opinion: Acts of Repression

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Nadine Finch looks at New Labour's latest 'anti-terror' laws.

Historically anti-terrorism legislation has sought to both suppress open debate about the political causes of this phenomenon and isolate communities thought to be suspect, as well as protect the civilian population. The Prevention of Terrorism and Emergency Provisions legislation in the 1970s and 1980s was a response to a very serious threat to those living in London, Birmingham or elsewhere in England.

Nothing but Contempt

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As if the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, the innocent Brazilian man shot at Stockwell tube on 22 July by the Metropolitan Police, was not shocking enough, the behaviour of the police since has been appalling.

Despite initial claims, Jean Charles was not wearing a padded jacket, he didn't run from the police, nor did he jump the tube ticket-barrier and there were no grounds for seeing him as an immediate threat.

'The Thrashing Around of the Beast'

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American journalist and writer Mark Danner explains to Peter Morgan why support for the Bush administration is slipping.

You've recently written about the minutes of the meeting that took place between Tony Blair and his foreign policy and security advisers in the run-up to the war in Iraq, now known as the 'Downing Street memo'. How significant have these revelations been in the US?

The Downing Street memo has fit in with a general perception on the part of the US public that the war was begun on false pretences and the Bush administration was not honest about the reasons they were taking the country to war in Iraq. All of this results from the fact that the war is going badly.

To Fight Chauvinism Everywhere

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Communists in Harlem, just republished, is the celebrated account of the relationship between communism and the black struggle in the US. Hassan Mahamdallie speaks to its author Mark Naison.

Communists in Harlem first came out in 1983. What spurred you to write it?

I was very involved in Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the late 1960s and the whole approach of the Communist Party to the 'Negro question' was something that different groups in SDS were using to justify or explain their own understanding of race in America in that pretty tumultuous era. They used the communist approach particularly to justify how they would deal with organisations like the Black Panthers or black student unions on college campuses.

Terrorism Act: The Real Threat to the Nation

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Long before George Bush declared a 'war on terror' in September 2001, Britain already had a head start with its own anti-terror laws. But its strategy has recently gone into crisis, especially the powers to intern foreign nationals.

Those powers were officially justified by a supposed 'public emergency threatening the life of the nation'. As the government faces growing opposition to internment, the home secretary desperately tries to maintain a fake emergency, central to its politics of fear. To avoid criticism for discrimination, moreover, he has proposed yet new powers to impose 'control orders' upon anyone, including house arrest. Many MPs are now supporting such measures - similar to the 'banning orders' under apartheid in South Africa, which they opposed not long ago.

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