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Home > Politics

Shrivelled Liberties

17 September 2005

At the beginning of the month Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of MI5, gave a speech in which she said the following: '...the world has changed and there needs to be a debate on whether some erosion of what we all value may be necessary to improve the chances of our citizens not being blown apart as they go about their daily lives.' Her rather emotive point being that the civil liberties we all hold dear - freedom to say what we like, to know why we've been arrested, to have a fair trial and a jury, to be aware the evidence against us and so on - may have to be sacrificed if we wish to defeat the terrorists.

BBC Talking Points opened the question up to the world. 'Would losing some civil liberties be a price worth paying for greater security?' they asked. Most of their respondents had the common sense to see that it would not. D Davies of Coventry summed it up pretty well with a single quote from Benjamin Franklin: 'They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.' But then there were all the others, the scary ones. Here is a selection.


'Could those who say they'd rather run the risk of being blown up by terrorists than losing some sort of abstract freedom explain to the families who lost loved ones on 7/7 (as well as countless other atrocities) how this is a good thing? At least those imprisoned in Belmarsh (rightly or wrongly) get the chance to be reunited with their families.'
- John Cahill, London, UK

'If fewer civil rights translates into a safer society, go for it.'
- Nivedita Nadkarni, Madison, USA

'...I think that if there is the slightest suspicion about someone then they should be "quarantined" or deported. Hundreds of human lives saved are worth more than a few individuals "rights".'
- Andrew, London

'However much I value my civil liberties I value my life more. If civil liberties are eroded to protect the life of British citizens, then so be it.'
- Bill Potter, Telford, England

'I'd rather live in a near police state than suffer the inconvenience of my own untimely death (or anyone else's for that matter).'
- John, Southampton, UK

'I have absolutely no problem with losing some of my civil liberties. I have never been in any trouble with the police and have absolutely nothing to hide. If the loss of liberties will save even a single life against terrorist, I for one am in total support.'
- Martin, UK

'I believe wholeheartedly that the interests of the state (as in the country at large, not the government) are paramount and if, in protecting them, the erosion of liberties is necessary, then so be it. The concept of 'rights' as in the USA cannot accommodate this belief, since they cannot be eroded so I will always consider the concept of 'freedoms' to be more appropriate. In short, individuals should be free to do what they want, unless the government says they can't do it, in the interests of the state as a whole.'
- Grav, Coventry, UK

'I've yet to hear one thing that I could do before 9/11 that the government no longer permit me to do. As far as I'm concerned I have lost none of my civil liberties. I'm prepared to give the police and the security services any help they need to protect us. I'm sure that most Brits would agree with this.'
- P, UK

'Western countries' obsession with individual rights has often been seen as a strength, but in the modern world it has become a weakness. When these rights were developed over the preceding centuries it was never envisaged that they would be exploited to shield those who wish to annihilate those very rights and the society that gave them birth. We should wake up and curtail some of the more excessive freedoms, in order to preserve those that are more fundamental.'
- Harry, UK

The rest.



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