Syria – my two pen’orth

Diane Abbott said it best. It’s not about what we throw at Syria over the next week or so. It’s “what next”? What happens AFTER we shell the Syrian government?

The apparent hyperbole and paranoia in Parliament, talking of a World War III may not be as fantastic as it sounds. Syria has nasty friends, especially Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. And if any of them decide that Israel was involved in the information gathering that led to the attack, and turn on Israel, then we really are in trouble. Because EVERY COUNTRY ON EARTH has a policy either for or against Israel. Not just the big ones or the scary ones, ALL of them. And they all have weapons of some kind and transport. And an opinion they want to express and back up.

At home, we have a slightly different issue to deal with. Britain’s place on the world stage has been damaged significantly by the no vote. The USA intends to plough ahead without us, although what help they think they’re going to get from the French, I have no clue. But we are on the Security Council because our abilities and capacity far outweigh our physical size. We are world leaders. Well, we were. Where we stand now is anyone’s guess. If we are not leading, then we are, by definition following, and that is an uncomfortable place for us to be. We need to regain our reputation before we are dismissed permanently from consideration.

If and when the USA decides to spank Assad, they will be on morally dubious ground, but the consequences may affect us all, whether or not we join in.

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Snowden, Greenwald, Miranda – rights, what rights?

Unless you live under a rock, you will know that David Miranda, a Brazilian national and partner to David Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who published what Edward Snowden nicked, was held at Heathrow Airport for nine hours, ostensibly under terrorism legislation and then released without charge but also without a large proportion of his possessions – laptop, phone, games console, all sorts.

Now, Louise Mensch popped up on Newsnight last night (yes, I know we all hoped that when she resigned as an Member of Parliament and moved to the USA, we’d be rid of her bleating self-publicity, but apparently not), alleging that Miranda was carrying confidential stolen documents.

Really?

So when all the news reports blathered on about the confiscation of his games console, et al., all the Border Agency would have had to have said was “Well, we also seized what appear to be stolen and/or confidential documents” and there would be absolutely no outcry whatsoever. It would have been a legitimate search. Unproductive, but legitimate. So we’ll assume you’re lying, Louise, if it’s all the same. Thanks for contributing, though. Give my love to Macy’s.

So, what we are left with is a man held, essentially, for being in a relationship with someone who has annoyed British and American intelligence services (I use the term intelligence in it’s broadest, most ironic sense, obviously) and for going to Germany to help his boyfriend’s colleague, Laura Poitras, make a film about Edward Snowden and what he revealed.

Here are a few basic facts, as I have gleaned them:

1. Nine hours is the maximum permissible under law to hold someone under Schedule 7 without charge.

2. The USA was told BEFORE he was stopped.

3. He was officially grabbed at exactly five past the hour.

4. He was released exactly on the hour, with five minutes left before the time allowed for holding him expired.

5. At no point during the nine hours did any of the six people questioning him use the word “terrorism”.

6. So it was all carefully timed and carefully arranged so that there would be no mistakes on the timing.

7. They found and learned nothing but kept lots of his stuff, which everyone is now in Court arguing they should not be allowed to look at.

Since when did our security services hold people without charge for the maximum time on the basis of absolutely no evidence whatsoever? If you hold someone on suspicion of something, you’d better be able to back it up.  I can’t be arrested on suspicion of anything unless you can show “cause”.  No one has mentioned any such thing.

So it would seem they exceeded their powers. This is not good.  We gave you those powers to protect us from people with bombs in their knickers.  Not to protect yourselves from people who try to tell us what you’re up to that you probably shouldn’t be. And certainly not to protect us from their spouses.  If we can’t trust you to wield those powers responsibly, we will have to take them away from you, just as we would take away a toy from a child that uses their new plaything to hit the other children.

The Home Office line is that it is about “stolen information that would help terrorism”.  Really? Okay, show us.

Until you can, the investigations and recriminations will continue, and quite rightly so.

It is bad enough that the UK frequently behaves as the lapdog of the US, without you actually infringing our laws to do so.

Currently, it seems that all someone has to do is be acquainted with Edward Snowden and you are so beholden to the US, that you would infringe every rule in the book to hold them.

I’m looking forward to what David Anderson, Q.C. comes up with. He is the UK independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. I didn’t even know we had one, but I’m glad we do. Let’s see how he does with his first foray into exercising his powers.

P.S. For those of you with a finely-developed sense of irony, don’t forget where you’ve heard the name Miranda before:

“The Miranda warning, also referred to as Miranda rights, is a warning given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial interrogation) before they are interrogated to preserve the admissibility of their statements against them in criminal proceedings. The Miranda warning is part of a preventive criminal procedure rule that law enforcement is required to administer to protect an individual who is in custody and subject to direct questioning or its functional equivalent from a violation of his or her Fifth Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination. In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court held that the admission of an elicited incriminating statement by a suspect not informed of these rights violates the Fifth and the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Thus, if law enforcement officials decline to offer a Miranda warning to an individual in their custody, they may interrogate that person and act upon the knowledge gained, but may not use that person’s statements to incriminate him or her in a criminal trial.  In Berghuis v. Thompkins, the Supreme Court held that unless a suspect expressly states that he or she is invoking this right, subsequent voluntary statements made to an officer can be used against him in court, and police can continue to interact with (or question) the suspect.”  Ain’t Wikipedia handy sometimes?