Sunday, June 22, 2008

More On David "Freedom" Davis

I'm grateful to Mike for drawing my attention to David Davis's new website where he has posted a reply to critics of his support for detention without charge for 28 days but not for 42 days.

Before coming to that argument, I have to say that the website made my blood boil.
Firstly, there's the arrogant title: Davis For Freedom. Then there's the banner showing a cross-section of the public against a backdrop of the Houses of Parliament. Are there any gay people amongst them, do you suppose, given that Davis opposed every extension of freedom and equality to gay people?
When I was a teenager I was travelling to London to the Annual General Meetings of the NCCL (now called Liberty). When Davis was a teenager he was ascending the rostrum at annual conferences of the Tory Party, a party whose only genuine commitment to freedom is to free markets and the freedom of the rich to get richer.

That's the ad hominem stuff out of the way. Back to the argument.

One glaring inconsistency in Davis's argument is that he says that the police convinced him of the need for 28 day detention. Yet those same police are now arguing for the need for 42 day detention. So he accepts their expert knowledge in the one case but not the other.
Davis says they were able to show him concrete evidence of the need for 28 days based on a particular terrorist plot but they would obviously show him the evidence that they wished to show him and which supported their argument.

We are told that it is the complexity of these cases that makes detention without charge necessary but terrorism cases are not uniquely complex.
Harold Shipman murdered far more people than the current crop of terrorists have so far done - more than 200. The investigation was extremely complex, involving exhumations and computer analysis. Admittedly, the latter was not particularly challenging because Shipman was unaware that system files record the actual date you enter data on your computer regardless of the date you put on a document. But despite the complexity of the investigation, no extension of detention was either used or called for.

Computer analysis is not a unique feature of terrorist cases. It applies equally to many child pornography cases and many fraud cases. So if the need to analyse and decrypt hard disks is the key argument, why is the change of law applicable only to terrorist cases?

Davis describes 28 day detention as "a necessary evil". But as I wrote previously, once you accept a 'necessary evil' or 'the end justifying the means', you are just quibbling over details, not defending fundamental principles.

Those of us who defend fundamental legal principles have to be honest and say that it's possible that some people will die because the law was not draconian enough. (But that's not nearly as probable as the proponents of 42 days suggest).
No politician will have the courage to stand up and say this because they believe it would be unpopular with the public.
And the reason so many politicians are willing to trash civil liberties is because (a) they wish to avoid blame for any future attack and (b) they are more vulnerable to terrorist attack than the general public, in some cases living in a world of armour-plated cars and 24-hour personal protection.

Is it defensible to cling to ancient freedoms if there is even a possibility that some people may die as a result?
Well, British soldiers are dying every week in defence of those freedoms, or so we are constantly told by politicians. The deaths of civilians at home, who unlike the military have not volunteered to lay down their lives for freedom (any more than the civilians in Iraq whom we massacred), is seen as much more terrible and unacceptable. Yet it is interesting that so many surviving victims of 7/7 in London have stated their opposition to measures like detention without charge.

I was going to put some of these points in the comments on David Davis's blog. But then I looked at the Terms and Conditions on his website. Here's an abbreviated version:

"By posting messages, uploading files, inputting data or engaging in any other form of communication (individually or collectively "Communications") to or within the Site, you grant to David Davis for Freedom a perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable, unrestricted, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to use (including use for promotional and advertising purposes), copy, license, sublicense, adapt, distribute, display, publicly perform, reproduce, transmit, modify, edit and otherwise exploit such Communications and any ideas or original materials contained in such Communications, in all media now known or hereafter developed.

You waive all rights you may have to inspect and/or approve of any use by David Davis for Freedom of any material or idea submitted by you in any Communications or receive any compensation for such use. You waive all rights to any claim against David Davis for Freedom for any alleged or actual infringements of any proprietary rights, rights of privacy and publicity, moral rights, and rights of attribution in connection with such Communications
." [My emphasis]

Waive all rights of privacy?
Waive all moral rights?
Oh, sod it! Just bang me up for 28 days, why don't you?


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