Thursday, April 20, 2006

Patriot Act in the UK?

Definite similarities exist between the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) and the USA Patriot Act, in regards to quashing public dissent, but I was surprised to find that the UK's Anti-Terrorism Bill apparently also threatens libraries and people's freedom to read.

First, on public dissent, see this from the Mayor of London blog (not the blog of the Mayor of London), February 06:

'Danish Embassy protests in contrast with the SOCPA Designated Area Parliament Square and Whitehall arrests and convictions

It is all very well for the Metropolitan Police or the Metropolitan Police Authority spokesmen to talk about "assessing the risks to public safety" and "collecting evidence for possible future arrests" with regard to the demonstraions outside of the Danish Embassy, where violent slogans were shouted and murderous threats were displayed on placards.

The existing public order and incitement to violence laws should have been perfectly adequate to deal with the situation, but the argument that not giving the oxygen of publicity to a minority of extremists by arresting them on the spot, is very sensible.

However, what then, is the justification for arresting, prosecuting and convicting people under the Serious Organsied Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area powers in Parliament Square or Whitehall, who have not uttered anything violent, and who were no possible threat to public order or national security or any hinderance to the operations of Parliament ?

If the Metroplitan Police are to command the respect of the people of London, they should be seen to be acting fairly, and treating all groups equally.

At the moment they do not appear to be doing so, on either "public order" or on "anti-terrorism" issues.'

On the matter of Libraries in the UK, it seems that the "Anti-Terrorism Bill of 2005" also impacts libraries similar to the way the USA Patriot Act does here in the States.

From the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals:

The Terrorism Bill had its second reading on Wednesday 26 October 2005 and contains clauses (2 and 3) which are likely to be problematic for libraries and information services in all sectors. They cover the dissemination of terrorist publications, and in view of the wide and uncertain definition of what may constitute a terrorist publication, librarians and their governing bodies/institutions would be at risk of prosecution as the clauses currently stand. Lord Carlile, in his capacity as independent reviewer of anti-terrorist legislation, has expressed a concern about the potential for these clauses to criminalise academic and parliamentary research and serious journalism: his remarks may be said to apply equally to libraries and information services following their normal lawful business. Concern has also been raised about clause 17, defining offences abroad, which puts on an equal footing, for the purposes of the Bill, things done in the UK and the same things done at (say) a university campus in overseas country. '


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