Control Orders - what's Britain's problem with the evidence? Is there a US connection

UK anti-terror laws can place people under draconian control orders that are more intrusive than house arrest without any charges made that the accused may learn of. Is the American alliance one of the reasons?
Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
1 November 2010

We'll carry a longer post on the very important Control Order controversy now underway in Britain, summed up calmly and well in today's Guardian leader and Sunder Katwala discusses the politics in Next Left and there's a strong post by the new Conservative Dominic Raab in the Telegraph

One aspect of it hasn't been addressed yet. Why are the UK's agencies so reluctant to put evidence into a court process where the accused can learn what they are accused of? What is it that they claim to know that can't be revealed, which justifies draconian confinement of what seem to be bad men? For years now politicians and human rights activists have pressed for intercept evidence to be presented in court. The secret services say they don't want their secrets revealed. As they don't have to present everything they know, this isn't completely plausible. There is another undiscussed reason. The United States of America. You may have noticed that just before the Comprehensive Spending Review, General Petraeus turned up to have a chat with David Cameron at No 10 while Hilary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke out against cuts in the UK's security expenditure. Talk about lobbying! And this, we can be sure, was the tip of an iceberg of pressure. Were they really worried about whether Britain retained an aircraft carrier? I suspect not. But as the current Yemeni bomb plot shows, there is a high level of US-UK intelligence collaboration. Well, that may be putting it mildly. Britan is a significant subsidiary in the US's secret intelligence gathering operations. But these need to be kept away from legal scrutiny. How do you distinguish British from US sourcing? What if the accused's lawyer asks how the prosecution know that a recording is that of the accused voice made at the time they allege? If the United States refuses to permit its intelligence to be presented as such in open court, the case, presuming there is a good one, could collapse. Thus the alliance with Washington works to undermine the fundamental principle of justice that can be traced back to the Magna Carta.

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