Anatole "Natan" Sharansky, in his now-influential book, The Case for Democracy, posits two types of society: free societies, where people can express themselves without fear of arrest, etc.; and fear societies, where they cannot. Of course, Sharansky's view is dangerously simplistic - there is a spectrum of possibilities between being a free society and a fear society. It all depends on how much power a government can wield over one of its citizens, on how many of his or her liberties it can withhold.
The Blair government fears a free society, so it is creating a fear society. It is being helped in its task by well-meaning NGOs such as Liberty and Amnesty International, by the Law Lords and by the media. The government's latest power-grab began with what to do with the so-called Belmarsh prisoners. The NGOs appealed to the Law Lords under the European Convention on Human Rights. The Law Lords, bless 'em, judged (not ruled, for it wasn't binding) that the foreign nationals were being discriminated against because they were non-citizens and thus they should have the same rights as British citizens. So the government gratefully accepted the Law Lords' non-binding decision and has proposed that all British citizens can be made subject to the same restrictions ("control orders") as the Belmarsh prisoners. The British constitution, which is an unwritten contract between the people and the sovereign power, is being eviscerated by the Blair regime.
The newspapers today are calling Charles Clarke's latest moves a climbdown. It's not - it's a sidestep after taking four steps forward. Instead of confining people solely on the Home Secretary's say-so, it's now proposed that a judge will be asked to concur with "the security services" that such-and-such a person is suspected of ties to terrorism (or whatever). The judge, a modern-day Brian "Lord" Hutton, wouldn't see all the evidence, nor would s/he be able to question the suspect. The designated beak would likely err on the side of caution and trust the word of the security services every time.
The government justifies its appropriation of emergency powers on the grounds of the threat of 'international terrorism'. But, in the words of a correspondent to today's Guardian:
The government's defendants of the new terrorism bill ask the hypothetical question: suppose we don't implement the proposed regulations and we have a terrorist attack - would we not properly be blamed for failing to protect the public? But is not an equally valid question: suppose the bill is passed into law but we do have a terrorist attack - what further restrictive measures shall we put into place?
(Prof) Frank Land
London School of Economics
The security services' initial target will be Muslim Britons, but anyone deemed a threat to national security may be subject to these orders. First they came for the anti-American Muslims...