“Within the last few days, the British government has announced its intention to bring in anti-terrorist legislation in response to the events of September 11th. No one can deny that the attack on the World Trade Centre was a heinous act requiring a strong response – but it should be an appropriate one! What is the nature of the legislation that is now proposed? The main thrust of the act is that would-be terrorists are to be denied the where-with-all to carry out their crimes in this country. To this end, the bill proposes that it should be possible for people suspected of terrorist intent to be detained without trial for an indefinite period while such suspicions are investigated, that their assets should be seized, or at least frozen, to prevent them from being misused in the execution of a crime, and finally, that the law-enforcement authorities should be granted further powers to carry out surveillance on personal communications of an aural or written nature.
This is another example of “legislate in haste, repent at leisure”, brought about as a knee-jerk reaction to one devastating act that has entered the public consciousness. One cannot help remembering the Dangerous Dogs Act, which introduced draconian restrictions on various breeds of dogs, following a series of lurid newspaper articles showing children who had been mauled by dogs. Although undoubtedly much damage to life and limb has been avoided by the act, it is outweighed by the fact that many innocent dogs, and their owners, have been punished unnecessarily. It might be argued that the proposals are entirely reasonable – after all, who could probably object to proposals that would increase our security? However, the fast pace at which the law is being pushed through Parliament leaves many problems – aspects of the law which will produce legal nonsense in the future. European law enshrines the right of every European citizen to have privacy and liberty until and unless convicted of a crime, yet the proposed bill would ride rough-shod over these rights.”
In this passage, the author is primarily trying to: