Friday, 28 January 2011

Anthony Glees - Terrorism Expert, Civil Liberties Apologist?

I am wondering if anything has ever made me as angry as I was watching Anthony Glees (AG - Terrorism expert, Buckingham University) on 10 O'Clock Live.  He was brought in for a debate chaired by David Mitchell (DM) relating to control orders (against Rizwaan Sabir (RS - who was wrongly accused of being a terrorist) and Afua Hursch (AH - a legal expert)) as the voice for stronger policy.  Really the whole conversation he infuriated me, it starts about 36 minutes in if you don't want to watch the rest.  I shall here just pick out snippets:

DM: In a free country how can it ever be right to hold people without charge?
AG:  Because it is only by holding people who want to destroy the values of this country that we can remain free.
Well, like David so rightly points out to him the people who aren't in prison remain free.
AG:  The people who are being imprisoned who would like the laws and rules of the Taliban to exist in this country, these are the people who stone young lovers to death we saw it on the TV yesterday, these are the people who amputate limbs.
I don't think anyone's arguing that these people do exist there are also people, like Rizwaan, who are falsely held under these measures.

DM: What happened to you?
RS: I was picked up whilst conducting academic research applying for a doctorate.
AG: Tell us what that academic research was?
RS: That was comparing the military tactics of Al Qaeda and Hamas (AG Laughter) and I downloaded a document from the most radical of websites: The United States Department of Justice.  This was the document that caused such a furore…
AG: No no, it was what you did with the document that caused the furore, you passed it on to somebody and you photocopied it.

I'm sorry, I must have missed the new legislation that made photocopying legal documents and passing them on to somebody an illegal act, of course he must be a terrorist, nobody ever photocopies something for innocent means in academia! What a ridiculous argument - when pushed on this point he just reverts back to talking about "the people who support Al Qaeda".  The only way you could make a worse point is if you tried to use another case of somebody being wrongly accused to back up your point, oh wait...

AG: That’s not true again you see, people applaud for that but in fact there is evidence.  Think of the people who came, pretending to be students, who came to the north east, operation pathway was…
RS: was nonsense
AG: He say’s that’s nonsense.
RS: It was, they were released without charge, that’s nonsense.
AG:  I’m not saying, you know, you’re a terrorist don’t get me wrong.

Another case of prejudice assuming they are guilty.  One final statement I want to highlight is:

AG:  You see I think one thing has to be stated very very clearly, we do not have civil rights in this country that allow the rights of terrorists and would be terrorists to be put above civil rights of people who want to go about their business in a peaceful and normal way.

Overall what I think Anthony Glees fails to see is that these people who have these measures put on them also have rights.  Just because the police/MI5 suspect something doesn't mean they are definitely right!  Therefore anyone subject to these measures has had their rights removed without a chance to defend themselves!
The gist of the problem is it doesn't solve anything.  If they are innocent then they have had their rights and freedoms taken away from them without a fair trial.  If they are guilty then they are still walking about in society.  The evidence against them should be used against them in a court of law and judged on its merrits. 

Overall I still say the coalitions policies are better but obviously they are a long way off the ideal.  As for 10 O'Clock Live.  Well I think it is a good show.  It fills a need that will hopefully get more people interested in politics however it definitely suffers from having too many presenters.  I don't think they've really figured out what it's supposed to be yet.  The pieces seem a little rushed in places and David Mitchell's (who has been excellent in every other segment he's done) interview with Alastair Campbell last night missed the mark in so many ways (not insightful or remotely funny).  It does however create a good platform for the sort of debate last night saw, in front of a very young crowd, which can only be a good thing.

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