For a while anyway. The film has run it's course, and to some extent has taken on a life of it's own. While civil liberties will always remain very close to my heart, it's time to move on and go and cause some trouble elsewhere. We'll Keep the blog up online, as in amongst the frothing rants their is actually some useful information. The Blogroll on the right contains some great blogs that will no doubt continue to fight the good fight, long after we fickle film types have moved on. However I'll just leave you with a brief update on some of the ongoing issues and stories that we've covered in the film. Starting with the one that makes me feel that for once I might have actually done something worthwhile in my life:
Omar Deghayes and the other British Residents interned in Guantanamo to be returned to the UK
Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Reprieve and the Save Omar Campaign all deserve a big hug for their tireless work in making this happen. For several years the position of the UK Government was "Let em rot" or "send em back to their home countries to be tortured", and it is thanks to the incredible work of these campaigners that these men - who have never been charged with any crime - will finally retun home to Britain. They have all suffered years of abuse at the hands of the US forces, so they will now spend many years with their families trying to rebuild their lives. Even though some credit has to go to the current government for finally standing up to the US and pressing for their release, it will remain a dark stain on this countries' history that we allowed this injustice to go on for so long. However there are already mutterings that they will be placed under Control Orders when theyreturn which is only going to increase the injustice.
Protest ban in SOCPA may be repealed
Mark Wallinger's "State Britain" - the recreation of Brian Haw's placards in The Tate - has just won The Turner prize, which has yet again shown the insanity of this law. It still makes my blood boil that we are not allowed to protest outside our own government without special police authorisation, but hopefully this will soon be shredded. Even though the Brown Government has made some encouraging noises about scrapping the requirement to apply to protest a week in advance, nothing has yet materialised so we need to keep the pressure up until they actually change it. Again we're proud to have been part of raising the profile of this issue, but the real credit should go to Maya Evans (who recently spent over a week in jail for illegally demonstrating), Milan Rai, Shami at Liberty, Mark Thomas and of course the venerable and slightly barmy Brian Haw.
Public wakes up to just how rubbish the government is at securing our data
Since the loss of the 2 x Data CD's from the Inland Revenue compromising the personal details of 25 million people (about 40% of the population) the public have finally started getting angry about how much data the government holds on us and how insecure it is. Far be it from us to say I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO or TOO FUCKING LATE, but this is an issue that we've been banging on about for a couple of years, and the chaps at No2ID have been campaigning about for much longer. While we're really glad that the public and the media are finally looking at the potentially catastrophic consequences of putting every last scrap of private information on big expensive leaky computers, it is shutting the door after the horse has bolted along with a few CD's and hard drives to sell to the highest bidder. All our medical records, school records and criminal records are already now in the control of similar systems, and there isn't a lot we can now do to get that information back. The DNA database - already the largest in the world - is expanding exponentially, and once the National Identity Register is online, all our biometric information will be accessible as well to several hundred thousand people. Unless something radical is done soon, we will soon wake up in a society where privacy is a distant memory.
What's the answer to life, the universe and everything? 42 Days
While most of the governments anti terror legislation is coming under sustained public attack, the one area where this government still wants to show the world how tough it is on a word (the word in question being terror), is of course the extension on pre-charge detention. At the moment the poilice can hold you without charge for 28 days - the longest in the western world - but Gordon Brown and Jaqui Smith are both still trying to convince us that we'll all die tomorrow if we don't increase this to 42. A month ago they were saying it had to be 56, but after the wave of critisism this brought, they have now lowered their sights to 42. But in doing so they have made it clear that this isn't really about keeping us safe, it's about being seen to keep us safe. While the current limit has never yet been reached, they are doing their level best to whip up our fears and push this through parliament. They are trotting out the same old excuses: terrorists now use computers (Oooo...scary!) and it can take a long time to search a computer. When we put this to Professor Ross Anderson (head of cryptography at Cambridge University) the response was "Hogwash". Passwords are either broken in a few days or not at all. However the government, and the senior police who back this measure have never responded when the experts rubbish their arguments.
What having 42 days pre charge detention will result in, is a sense of injsutice and outrage amoung the Muslim Community who think they are being unfairly targetted, which can act as a recruiting seargent for the very terrorism we are trying to fight. During the Northern Ireland troubles the UK government started interning suspected terrorists without charge, which far from reducing terrorism did the exact opposite by pushing hundreds of angry young men into the arms of the terrorists. When this argument is put to the ever dwindling ministers who support this extention, the repsonse is that "Al Qaeda is a far graver threat than the IRA so there are no lessons to be learned". This does somewhat ignore the statistics that the Irish troubles claimed the lives of over 3000 people in the UK, and Islamic Fundamentalists are currently on 52. Even Lord Goldsmith (he who changed his mind over the legality of the Iraq War and halted the SFO enquiry into the BAE Saudi bribes) has come out strongly against this move, so the battle lines are being drawn. My own personal opinion is that the Government will lose the vote, and when there is another bomb attack they can turn around and blame us whinging liberals for not giving them the power they needed.
Natwest Three take a plea bargain
Last week David, Giles and Gary pleaded guilty to 1 count of wire fraud in return for the other 6 charges being dropped. This means that they will spend about 6 months in a US prison, and then (hopefully) will return to the UK to spend the rest of their sentance (about another 2.5 years) in an open prison in the UK. Far from an actual admission of guilt, this shows the massive unfairness of sending UK citizens over to face crimes in the US without the production of any evidence in the UK. The NatWest three had been flown out to the US in July 2006, so had already spent a year and a half waiting to go to trial. If they had continued to plead innocent they would have had to wait about another year to even get into the courtroom - all the time under house arrest, unable to work, and thousands of miles away from their families. Also as most of the evidence that they needed to prove their innocence was here in the UK, the British Authorities and NatWest bank were actively preventing witnessses and evidence crossing the channel. As the crime was allegedly committed in the UK by British Citizens against a UK bank, the fact that they were standing trial on the other side of the planet was always going to throw a spanner in the works for the men's defense. Couple that with the fact that if you mention the word "Enron" in Texas courtroom a guilty verdict is guaranteed, the Three were always had the cards stacked against them. Plus if they had pled innocent and been found guilty they might get up to 35 years behind bars, but if they plead guilty to one charge (which is what they did) they will only get three. In the same situation most of us would have made the same decision, but this has been used by the government to triumphantly say that they were right to be sent out in the first place. The extradition treaty itself is still under review, and we can only hope that this one sided and unjust law will soon be thrown on the scrap heap.
Mouloud No Longer Under House Arrest
This actually happened round about the time of the film's release, so we're not sure preceisely how much we had to do with it... but a mole from the Home office sneaked into one of the early screenings, and we do know a transcript of the film was used in his defense. Big thanks to Jennifer and Des, CAMPACC and Mike Mansfield who have stuck with him all this time. Mouloud is extremely happy to not be confined to his little room indefinitely without any charge, but the laws that allowed the government to carry out this injsutice still remain.
Just wanted to say a heartleft thanks to all the members of the Taking Liberties Team who all put their souls and wallets on the line to make this happen - couldn't have done it without each and every one of you... In no particular order:
Nicky Moss, Simon Robson, Nick Fenton, Christina Slater, Kurt Engfehr, Becca Elson, Vince Watts, Ian Neil, Ben Stern, Steve Goldsmith, Daniel Prim, Barny Wright, Sarah Bee, Fiona Button, Simon Goldberg, Nick S, Nick T and Justin at Revolver, Chris Smith, Jules Lewis and, finally, Nicky Moss (yes I know she's been mentioned twice, but trust me she deserves it...)