Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Secret terror courts considered

The attempted spin here is that the government is proceeding cautiously - countering well-founded accusations of rushing out "half-baked" ideas on new laws against terrorism. In truth it is more likely that this is a "trial balloon" to test public reaction.

The idea of secret courts where the defendant is not entitled to know the charge against him OUGHT to provoke an extremely strong reaction. The idea is positively Soviet.

The notion that, in order for courts to have access to wiretap evidence, the hearings must be conducted in secret on such terms is bizarre. Government wiretap evidence is used all over the world and the "agents" who set up and monitor the equipment either give evidence openly or have their identities protected. The hearing itself can still be open on the principle that "justice must be seen to be done".

The government agent could give evidence from behind a screen or via a video or audio link. The voice could be electronically modified. A pseudonym could be used. As long as the judge was satisfied as to the identity of the witness, such measures could be justified.

Why is Britain so paranoid about "protecting" its secret agents? One has to suspect that something else is being concealed here. Perhaps the extent of the "secret state" is much greater than any of us thought?

BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | Secret terror courts considered

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