Britain ‘risks a police state’

Following the damning reports of the House of Lords Constitution Committee and yesterday, the International Commission of Jurists, now Stella Rimington, ex-Head of the security service, MI5, has warned that Britain risks becoming a police state. In an internview with the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia reported by the Daily Telegraph, Ms Rimington attacked government plans for the National Identity Register and the soon-expected plans for a database of all communications (delayed from last year). If even ex-heads of the security service are now asking the government to change direction, in addition to civil liberties experts, independent judges, and just about everyone else, their stock of excuses must be rapidly diminishing. The current cabinet must know that their actions smack of the desperation of a failing government desperately searching for votes in being ‘tough on crime and terrorism’… but they seem to be locked into a trajectory of ever-increasing surveillance and security that they cannot justify but cannot escape. You do wonder who is actually advising them that this is all a good idea…

Author: David

I'm David Murakami Wood. I live on Wolfe Island, in Ontario, and am Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in Surveillance Studies and an Associate Professor at Queen's University, Kingston.

3 thoughts on “Britain ‘risks a police state’”

  1. Thanks much for your useful blog. Will read the items cited re Chicago. Could you also discuss any analyses of the actual effectiveness of CCTV networks in preventing terrorism? I am focused on the ongoing “pre-positioning” in major target cities (US, Europe and UK, as far as I can learn about) of chemical cargoes the US government calls “weapons of mass destruction”, such as chlorine, ammonia, LPG rail tank cars, for the benefit of future terrorists. In Washington DC the federal government is spending 10 million on high-tech cameras in the rail system — instead of re-routing the most dangerous cargoes away from our iconic target areas such as the US Capitol.

    As CSXT suggested already in the federal docket, since 9/11 the US public has reconsidered what is an acceptable risk:

    “The support of the public, and of many policy makers, has greatly eroded since 9/11. Now the railroads are harshly criticized for transporting these [TIH, or “ Toxic by Inhalation” poison gas cargoes] …Our company’s reputation has been assailed…[and] vilified in the media. TIH cannot simply continue to move by railroad indefinitely…Even if the potential for ruinous liability were somehow erased, the widespread social disapproval of TIH transport by rail would remain.”
    Railroads have asked Congress to grant them a federal indemnification from liability, since they cannot get adequate insurance from private insurance companies.

    For a brief and vivid video overview:

    The PBS NOW! report cited below is the best short intro to the issue.


    The national PBS story, while excellent, unfortunately does not mention the 11 target cities which have introduced WMD re-routing ordinances.

    Click on “Toxic Trains” story on June 30, 2006. An excellent 15 minute introduction to the issue.

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