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January 28, 2011

UK Scale Back Anti-Terrorism Laws

In what can only be described as a small win for freedom and privacy activists fighting an uphill battle in the UK, the government has decided to scale back some of their anti-terrorism laws, which have been one of the most stringent in the western world. Since 9/11, the UK government has had the right to hold terror suspects for up to 28 days before charging or releasing them. The only problem being that the definition of ‘terror suspect’ becoming increasingly wide over the past few years. Following the changes, announced by British Home Secretary Theresa May, the police can now only hold terror suspects for 14 days. The U.S. authorities only have 7, and the French 6 days.

The British police are also no longer allowed to perform random (read: profiled) searches of the public, and can’t prevent people from taking pictures of landmarks on the suspicion of being potential terrorists. The changes also include a proposed reform of the house-arrest style (and Big Brother sounding) Control Orders, which originally imposed a curfew of up to 16 hours with an anklet, limited contact with other people, and banned an individual from using the Internet or traveling abroad. The new renamed plan will enforce an 8-10 hour curfew with anklet, prevent Internet access from a mobile phone, and enforce limited (and presumably monitored) access to websites from a home computer. Suspects could still be banned from meeting with specific individuals, and visiting certain buildings or streets.

Despite the changes, human rights groups are seeing this as a betrayal from the new government that took office in May 2010 after having pledged to restore civil liberties in the UK. There are also a number of other overpowered laws, such as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2000), that are repeatedly abused to monitor and police normal citizens.

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