There are 2 lessons to be learnt from the absconding of the 3 men held under control orders. One is simply that as a form of detention without trial, it is simply not working. The second, in the light of the first, is that the whole concept of control orders should be re-opened and significantly altered.
Current procedure is that after the initial hearing in open court, when the public facts alleged the suspects are disclosed, the case then proceeds to closed session, where the full evidence against the suspect is made know to a Special Advocate who acts for the suspect. But this Special Advocate is not allowed to communicate this to the suspect in order to check whether the suspect has an alibi or can refute the allegations.
In order to move away from the whole control order debacle, we should now implement different rules.
At present, it is the Security Services and the Home Secretary who determine that a suspect cannot be given a normal trial and that the Special Advocate procedure should be used instead. In effect, this makes them judge and jury in the same case. What we should now be doing is operating new rules which require that all the evidence is normally made available to the suspect, so that he has a chance to refute it unless a senior judge sitting in camera to whom the case is referred is convinced, on the basis of advice from the Security Services and the Home Secretary, that certain evidence cannot safely, on the grounds of national security, be made available to the suspect.
This would almost certainly reduce the applicability of the Special Advocate procedure and the use of control orders to a very small number of cases. And even where the judge is not persuaded, it would not prevent the Home Secretary, if they did not then wish to proceed, from withdrawing the application for the control order until at least more evidence was available and in the meantime to rely instead on the considerable range of surveillance techniques already available.
This would not only provide the fairest reconciliation of the need for national security with the rights of the individual. It would also minimise the fiasco which the use of control orders is in danger of descending into.
Today’s Guardian splash seems to be another step on the path of softening up public opinion for a potential attack on Iran. I can understand why American defence officials would want to see their allegations splashed across the front of the war sceptical Guardian. But this is essentially a rehash of a story that has been properly discredited already, when the Pentagon trotted it out last, in February.
These are eerily familiar claims that suit the political agenda of the US more than they suit the facts. Sources speaking on condition of anonymity last time have become “senior US officials.” The apparent threat now is against Bradley armoured vehicles rather than the more heavily protected Abrams tank. But the other claims, particularly about weapons and their sources are the same and were conveniently repeated by Tory defence spokesperson Patrick Mercer in a BBC R4 interview on the Today programme this morning- introduced by a summary of the Guardian article.
Just in case Iran is not bug bear enough, we are treated to claims of a link with al-Qaeda link up across the Sunni-Shiite divide and even more incredulously, that the shelling of the Shiite dominated Iraqi parliament was the work of Shiite militias closely allied to Iraqi Shiite political parties and indeed trained by them. Professor Juan Cole of Michigan University has more on this in his Informed Comment blog.
There is, however, a grain of truth in the report, where it says “General Petraeus’s report to the White House in early September will be pivotal and a decision to being troop withdrawal or continue the surge policy will hinge on the outcome.”
That explains why the story is being peddled by unnamed US sources, but not why the Guardian should choose to believe them.
Michael Meacher urges Left to unite behind John McDonnell as candidate for Labour leadership
Michael Meacher has stood down in favour of John McDonnell in the contest for the Labour leadership.
Meacher and McDonnell met today in a bid to ensure there will be a challenge to Gordon Brown. After discussions it was decided that McDonnell had the greater number of nominations.
Meacher will stand down and give his support to McDonnell and is urging all his supporters to get behind the sole left candidate.
“The left is standing on a clear platform in this leadership election. We must tackle the growing inequality between rich and poor; we need a major programme of building social housing; we must deal with poverty in retirement; we need an independent foreign policy; we should reverse privatisation in public services; and we have to restore British democracy and end the presidential style of government. Most importantly we simply have to tackle the single greatest threat facing mankind – climate change. That’s the agreed position for the left, it’s what John and I have been campaigning on for months and it’s the platform on which we stand united.
“John McDonnell has won more of the nominations. I am therefore happy to stand down on his behalf and I will be strongly urging my supporters to back the united left candidate.
“The really good news is that together the numbers of nominations are sufficient to get a candidate onto the ballot paper.
“John and I have both said there should be a debate and a contest, not a coronation. That is what the party and the public want and I encourage as many members of the Parliamentary Labour Party as possible to get behind John to ensure this happens.”