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In our Taking Liberties blog, not only will we keep you uptodate on the progress of the film, we'll also post news about the ongoing civil liberties movements we're related to.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Big Chill

Taking Liberties will be screened at the Big Chill festival this weekend. And having seen the weather forecast we may also avoid screening the film in a swamp, which will be a real bonus. Apparently it's on at 2pm in the Amnesty Tent on the Sunday afternoon, and I'll be doing a Q&A afterward. The tricky part is going to be to try to hold it together and not come across as a dribbling wreck...

BNP Bombers Jailed

Robert Cottage, former BNP member, who was caught with largest haul of explosive materials ever in British History, has just been jailed for 2.5 years. What is fascinating about this case is that when he was arrested - at the end of the summer of 2006 (you remember, when the new offence of travelling whilst Muslim was invented) it went completely unreported in all the mainstream media. The previous month several dozen unfortunate dark skinned gentlemen had been arrested in a series of "Terror Swoops", had their names and photos splattered all over the Murdoch Press, and were then quietly released without charge. But when a right wing racist nut nut gets arrested with more explosives than wiley kyote on the way home from an ACME January sale, it fails to make a single column inch in any of the national press, and was only reported in the local newspaper. The other revealing aspect of this affair is the attitude of the police. In May 2006, when 2 innocent brothers from Forest Gate get shot by the police and thrown in the slammer, the MET commander gets on his batphone to The Sun Newspaper within seconds. The next day the paper is filled with slurs, smears & lies, proclaiming the men to be filthy terrorists - even though it was clear they were nothing of the kind. When BNP's finest get arrested, and actually do have a seriously dangerous amount of explosives tucked away in their potting shed, the unforgettable quote from the senior arresting officer was "These men are not terrorists!"

Of course not.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Boomerang Brown

Does anyone have the feeling that they've had their Deja Vu feeling somewhere before? I think that I've blogged about Gordon making macho noises about pushing for an extension in pre-charge detention for the past 90 days. Hey, I've got a plan... If Gordon Brown stops saying he's going to increase the time the police can hold suspects without charge, I'll stop writing about it... deal?

Sadly not.

Still you can't keep a good man down. Now Tony Blair is safely causing havoc in the middle east and John Reid is locked up in the St Tebbit's home for the permanently deranged, Gordon took centre stage and said that he wants to push the limit up to 56 Days. Or at least he said he wants to push the limit up and allowed his minions to let it be known that 56 days is the preferred limit.

56 is the magic number

Where do they get this figure from? Certainly not the police as there has still never been an occasion when the police have needed to hold a terrorist suspect for the existing 28 days (the longest limit in the free world by the way) so they can't have come up with it. Are there teams of brand consultants sitting in the basement of Downing Street, with mood boards and rubber stress balls saying: "Yeah “90 Days” is sooo Tony Blair so we can’t go near that... but we have to be sexier than 28... what number sums up Gordon Brown in peoples mind... 47? No, too yellow... 63? No, people might think that's his age... 56? I like it!"

Or maybe it's a mathematical equation?

How tough Gordon wants to look divided by how much he wants to appear different from Blair subtract how many column inches he'll get in The Sun = the new limit for pre charge detention.

Nathan Barley?

Last week had an interesting chat with a journalist from spiked magazine. Interview and comment published here. Arguably the most intelligent and sophisticated piece on the film so far, and he actually compares me to Nathan Barley twice, which is quite impressive…

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Mass Lone Demos Are Back...

And sorry for delay in posting. Chris Smith (the cameraman for Taking Liberties) has just got Married in Ibiza, and foolishly asked me to be his best man. Was arguably one of the most debauched parties I've attended. Which, combined with bags being stolen, friends going missing and a restaurant where the house speciality is to put nails in the food, has meant that I've neglected blogging for a few days, for which I humbly apologise.

But yes, the irrepressible Mark Thomas has just sent me the following email regarding the next Mass Lone Demo, which I would ask you cut and paste and send to your friends, family and work colleagues.

"This is just a quick note to say thanks to everyone who has been involved in the Mass Lone Demos. Finally Brown has said he will change the law, though we are still far from certain if he will repeal it, tinker with it or replace it with something else. But his comments in Parliament is a victory of sorts none the less. Brown has said that he will change the law after consultation with the Police, the GLA , the Mayor and civil liberties groups. But until we see what he is up to the

Mass Lone Demos are back on track for August, after a short respite.
Hand in date is the 8th of August at Charing Cross police station and the Mass Lone Demo is on the 15th August - 5.00pm till 7.00pm Parliament Sq.

I won't see you on that one as I am away on holiday but will catch up with everyone in September.


The weather promises to be something other than a hurricane, so it should be a laugh and make sure that Gordon actually keeps to his word and abolish the protest exclusion zone once and for all. The forms and full details of the MLD is on the Taking Liberties Website.

See you all down there!

Monday, 16 July 2007

As long as necessary.

Well no-one can say that Ken Jones wants to hide his light under a bushel. The new head of the Association of Chief Police officers has recently called for the pre-charge limit of terrorist suspects to be increased, but this time with seemingly no upper limit. To call for an increase in the pre-charge limit is now a standard rights of passage for all senior policemen, especially when they want either a pay rise or a knighthood. Ken Jones has wasted no time in pleasing his new boss Gordon Brown by publicly saying that he wants to be able to hold onto terrorist suspects for "as long as necessary". This actually goes further than his predecessor, Andy "well Menezes looked like a terrorist" Hayman, who at least only campaigned to intern potentially innocent people for 3 months. Ken Jones wants the police to have the power to detain people indefinitely until "they have all the proof needed to carry out effective prosecutions in court." Presumably this "proof" means a signed confession, which they will of course get from anyone - innocent or guilty - after they've been locked up without charge in solitary confinement for a few months. Even Ken Jones would admit to cutting Diana's brakes if you banged him up for long enough.

There is a mountain of evidence that shows that the longer you hold someone without charge the more likely they are to confess to something that they haven't done. Presumably this is why the police are pushing for these powers, as it will push up their conviction rate. Ken Jones has admitted that there still hasn't been a single case where the current 28 day limit has been needed, but still wants to introduce interment, just with a different name. When challenged Jones said that "he didn't want the British equivalent of Guantanamo Bay", but being able to hold people indefinitely without charge is exactly what The Americans do in Guantanamo Bay. Jones has said that the new powers would be subject to "Judicial Oversight", but again there is apparently judicial oversight in Guantanamo Bay, but it doesn't seem to stop innocent people getting locked up there and regular suicide attempts.

His call for an increase in the pre-charge limit echoes Gordon Brown's tough rhetoric on the subject. It is also has provoked a very hostile reaction from the Muslim community, which is exactly the part of the population you want to keep on side if you want people to come forward with intelligence to fight a serious terrorist threat. There was a hope that when Gordon Brown assumed the throne that senior police officers would stop playing politics with the terrorist threat which is desperately counterproductive, but it seems that senior police officers and New Labour are going right back to their old tricks.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

DVD Extras

Are now upon us. Initially the thought of doing any more work on Taking Liberties has made those members of the team who somehow retained their sanity from the film itself reach for the nearest bottle of meths. But once that urge was tamed, there is a strong inclination - from myself at least - to return to the edit suite, go back through the vast swathes of material that were cut, and put together another hour or so of material together for when the DVD comes out in October. This is because:

1) All of the stories in the film had to be cut down considerably from their original edits, in order to bring the film in at under 10 hours and give it some semblance of pace. For example the Mouloud/Ricin story has many strands that had to be chopped (eg how the media completely misreported the outcome of the trial). We still have the longer edits for all the stories (somewhere) so hopefully we will be able to tell the stories in more detail.

2) We interviewed several academics and commentators who really know their stuff on the different aspects of civil liberties. Sadly we were able to include only very small snippets of these interviews in the film - again for reasons of pace. We will be able to go back to each of these interviews and show much more of the discussions - which will be particularly useful as an educational tool.

3) There are several stories that we had to cut from the film completely. If you've read the book you'll see that there are incredibly moving and powerful stories that just didn't make it into the film at all, and we feel we have a duty to tell these on the DVD extras:
-Simon and Gus. 2 Academics at the LSE who wrote a report on ID Cards that showed that the Government was essentially lying about the cost of ID Cards. The Government then initiated a smear campaign against them.
-Sandy Mitchell. Truly horrific. Sandy was framed and tortured in Saudi Arabia for a crime he did not commit. Rather than fight to save this British citizen from his appalling treatment, the British Government turned a blind eye and left him to rot. Once Sandy was finally freed and returned to the UK, New Labour sided with the Saudis again, and halted Sandy's efforts to sue the Saudis to get compensation for his years of abuse.
-Sack Parliament. This was a very surreal demonstration we filmed which was about attended by about 20 very small anarchists and about 800 very large policemen. The Police overreaction was astonishing and they ended up hospitalising a press photographer, Marc Valee.
-Phil says "shit". This is a tale of a heavy metal fan who was accosted by police and given an £80 fine for quietly swearing near a police metal detector.
-Alex Stone. Alex is a British citizen who was falsely accused of assaulting a child in the USA. He was extradited with no evidence and sat in a US Jail for 6 months in terrible conditions (Alex is blind). Rather than help him, the UK government facilitated this injustice. Alex was eventually released but not after his life had been ruined.

Along with several others. These are stories that we all have a very strong emotional connection with and we were gutted when they had to be cut.

4) Lots of Random weird stuff. There's a sketch by John Oliver, an extremely distasteful puppet show on the history of protest, and the many incidents we were stopped and hassled by police on a demonstrations.

There will also be the obligatory "making of" featurette (however we want to break with industry norms and talk honestly about the making of the film rather than spew forth sycophantic guff), Directors commentary (will probably end up being heavily edited by the lawyers and the distributor so apologies in advance for the long breaks of silence) and anything else silly or interesting that we find along the way.

We welcome suggestions and requests for the DVD extras so please make your views known on the Taking Liberties Forums.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Here we go again...

Reading the tabloid press over the last few days has given me the strangest feeling of deja-vu. The response of the right wing press, particularly The Sun, to the terror farces of last week, has been frighteningly similar to the deluge of media hysteria that came after the 7/7 attacks. The scariest example of the recent thundering demands to erode civil liberties even further is to be found in Yesterdays The Sun Says.

it starts the "article" with the standard proclamation that we are all about to die:

"BRITAIN is under siege — threatened by suicide bombers and murderers who have no fear of the law or respect for human life. Just about every shopping mall and sports ground is now a target for terror. Nuclear plants and water reservoirs are at risk of attack."

Where are they getting this information? And where do reservoirs come into the equation? Surely if you set a bomb off in what is essentially an extremely large puddle, the only thing you would be blowing up is water. And why is it "just about" every shopping mall? Does Tervor Kavannah have a list of the few "safe" shopping malls that the terrorists wouldn't dream of blowing up as they find the parking handy?

He goes on to cite the Afghan Hijackers case as an example of the looniness of The Human Rights Act. This was the case where nine men hijacked a plane to avoid imminent torture and death from the Taliban (a move that John Maclean would have been proud of). They flew the plane to Britain where they peacefully surrendered. Jack Straw then tried to deport the men back to Afghanistan where they faced, surprise surprise, torture and death. So the High court stopped him and they were given leave to remain in Britain. The Sun has always had a hysterical problem with this, and Kavannah tells us that:

"All nine are still in Britain today, making a mockery of our support for international law and order."

Which is deeply ironic as it's actually only because of our support of international law and order (ie not sending people home to be tortured) which meant that Straw was overruled by the Judicary. The Sun goes on to tell us how to stop the extinction of the Human Race from the evil men with beads... Dismantle the ew civil liberties that Tony Blair left behind:

"INCREASE the absurdly inadequate 28-day detention limit — preferably to 90 days as originally planned."

Who has said that the current limit (the longest in the free world by the way) is "Absurdly Inadequate"? I suppose that we should give The Sun some credit for using such long words. In his dying days in office "Dr" John Reid was forced to admit that there still has never been a case that has even required the 28 day limit, let alone any extension. The Police are now backing down from demanding it and the security services have provided no new evidence. The only people who seem to think that 90 days is necessary, write for the Sun Newspaper, but for New Labour that's good enough reason to pass a law. We're taking bets on how long before Gordon responds and announces that introducing 90 days precharge detention is at the top of his "to do" list.

"OVER-RULE judges who rejected 24-hour control orders — leaving seven out of 17 dangerous terrorists free to disappear without trace."

Again a scary example of how the Sun, (along with various members of New Labour) have no distinction whatsoever between a terrorist and someone who is "suspected" of being a terrorist. All the people on control orders have never been charged, and are only on control orders because there isn't enough evidence against them to bring a charge about. They are put under a control order only if the Home Secretary "suspects" they are a terrorist, then they they are placed under partial house arrest. However as far as the Sun is concerned that's enough, and convicts them by media. Not only is the Sun pushing the boundaries of Free Speech by printing this inflammatory drivel, but this dangerous nonsense actually effects government policy.

"DEPORT convicted terrorists to countries like Libya — even if lawyers argue they may be mistreated."

Firstly not even terrorists should be tortured - that's what living in a civilised society is all about. Secondly the problem is that the government is trying to deport people who haven't been convicted of any crime back to countries where they face torture and death. Omar Deghayes has been in Guantanamo Bay for 5 years and never even been charged, yet Jack Straw has effectively signed his death warrant by saying that even if he is released without charged he will have to go back to Libya where he will face immediate torture and death.

It is clear to any idiot that none of the above measures would have prevented any of last weeks derisory failed terror attacks.

This editorial and others like it are almost a carbon copy of what we saw after the July bombings. Will Gordon follow in Tony's footsteps by responding to this misguided taunting, and hack away at our rights yet further?

Monday, 2 July 2007

Is that the best they can do?

(Warning this post is likely to offend, well, most people actually.)

Yes there have been a spate of particularly rubbish attempted Terrorist attacks over the past few days. If this really is the best that Al Qaeda have to offer, then we really don't have too much to worry about. Yes it could have been a lot worse, and yes people could have been injured... but they weren't, so just calm down. In fact an hour before the world's worst parking attempt, my good acquaintance Richard Jobson passed through Glasgow Airport on the way to rehearse for the impending Skids Reunion Tour. Just think, if they had forgotten to put their clocks forward, those two chargrilled islamists would have been hailed as national saviours rather than getting banged up for 50 years. Anyway, points of note over the whole affair:

1) Gordon Brown's entrance to the cameras immediately after the London car bombs were discovered. This was painfully stage managed, and reminds you just how effortless Blair made all this seem. What is bizarre is how Gordon has to come though a door and walk down a corridor looking busy but in control, before he "happens" on the cameras. (watch this here) It has the feeling of a Jackanory episode rather than the Prime Minister addressing the nation... "Hello Children! I've just been chairing a meeting with lots of important people with guns. After the break we're going to sing a song about 90 Days detention."

2) In the speech itself, Gordon said "We will not yield, we will not be intimidated and we will not allow anyone to undermine our British way of life." This is almost word for word exactly what Blair said immediately after the July 7th Bombings. And presumably if the emulation of Blair continues, Gordon will soon do the exact opposite of what he said, and use the attacks to undermine our way of life and introduce a slew of liberty eroding anti terror legislation.

3) The New home secretary, Jaqui Smith, has now raised the "terror level" to Red Level meaning Critical. This involved a junior civil servant legging it round the corner to the Home Office to buy a new bulb, as apparently "Dr" John Reid cleaned the place out when he finally stood down as Home Secretary. However they only raised the threat level after all the terrorist activity had taken place. I'm no expert in such matters but it would seem to make sense, at least chronologically to issue these warnings before the baddies did their thing. One can imagine Jaqui Smith aboard the sinking Titanic, yelling "Red Warning... Watch out for those tricksy Icebergs... has anyone got a Red Flag?". In all seriousness, according to MI5 Guidelines, the threat level should only be raised to Critical if there is specific intelligence of an impending attack. However the Home Office and security services have made it clear that they have no such intelligence, which proves that these "threat levels" are nothing more than a political gimmick, that are there purely for the Politicians to show that they are doing something. Though it's a little out of date I've discovered an excellent table that accurately sets out exactly what each terror level means:

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