Heading in the wrong direction

IN 1962 the apartheid regime in South Africa, no respecter of civil liberties, picked up a suspected terrorist leader who had just returned from training in bomb-making and guerrilla warfare in Ethiopia. It marked the start of 27 years in jail, but Nelson Mandela was given access to lawyers and his prosecutors had to follow rules of due process. Last year, the world’s foremost democracy, the United States, detained one of its own citizens, Jose Padilla…

If you accept, as most do, that the war on terrorism justifies wider powers of surveillance and detention, then two principles still need to be applied. First, the government’s new powers should, where possible, be enacted in clearly-worded terrorism laws, passed by Congress. Second, wider powers should be balanced by wider review. Spies, now less constrained, should be more answerable for their actions; suspects, deprived of their lawyers for longer periods, should eventually have more opportunity to present their case to a judge and, where possible, a jury; and the whole process should be subject to political and judicial review.

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