Fortress European Union
Mmmmm…..well maybe I was a bit hasty with my Fortress Britain post when I said that the UK was fast becoming a police state, surveillance society, fortress – take your pick. Because like a seasoned galloper in a horse race, the European Union (EU) has burst forth with its own plans to become a locked-down space.
The EU has just unveiled new measures that could make Gordon Brown jealous. Draft laws propose that use of the internet be criminalised if used to incite or recruit for acts of terrorism and passenger lists for airlines flying into or out of the EU will have to be coughed up by the airlines. And…passenger list data will be stored for 13 years (13? why 13 – is this some magical number?).
Apparently, the European Commissioner for Justice and Security thinks the internet is a pretty suspicious place because it breeds international terrorists. Hello! There were “terrorists” way before the internet. I’m sure the British would say that the IRA and their campaigns in England in the 1970s might have fallen into the category of “terrorist activity”. And the Commish says that: “Those telling others how to commit acts of destruction – with a clear terrorist intention – should be put behind bars. Be it on the internet or print“. Now, I wouldn’t for one hop onto a plane brandishing a manual in Arabic on how to fly a plane, but Mr Commish might have forgotten that there are many, many books published over the years that have never managed to get their authors thrown into jail. For example, I read Hayduke Lives! by Edward Abbey way back in the early 1990s. Check out the illustrated front cover of the book here on Amazon – it is a man’s hand holding several sticks of dynamite. I remember really liking this novel about George Washington Hayduke III (who nearly carked it in an earlier novel). He runs around blowing up bridges or anything that ruins the pristine beauty of a landscape filled with deep canyons and sprawling deserts. In other words, Hayduke is an environmental activist using violent means to protect nature. Last time I heard, Abbey (who died I think in the mid-90s) didn’t get hauled off to jail for inciting environmental terrorism.
Clearly, reading the “wrong thing” in public from some “forbidden library” of books might land you in trouble these days. US airport screeners pounced on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s co-founder, John Gilmore, recently because he was reading a book entitled “Drugs and Your Rights”. And here is the book he was reading – part of a Cambridge University series in studies in philosophy and public policy. John Gilmore is a civil libertarian not some dangerous drug smuggler.
As Gilmore says: ” The Gestapo cared what works of philosophy you were reading. So did the Stasi. Those of you who live in free countries may find it a bit hard to understand why any populace wouldn’t tear to bits any bureaucrats that would take away the fundamental right to read whatever you like without it being used to determine how your government treats you as you cross borders or travel within your own country“.
Instead of hauling hapless travellers aside because their book might look suspicious, it might be a better use of time if officials considered the plight of individuals who are persecuted because of the writings they produce or circulate. Two prominent Egyptian bloggers for example, Abdul Karim Nabeil Suleiman and Abdel Moneim Mahmoud, have been arrested over their blogging activities or writings.
And if you don’t think that you could get a visit from the FBI or ASIO (Australia) because of what you’re seen to be reading in public – check out this article on Creative Loafing.
Back to the EU: just like the UK, the EU will collect information about you such as name, passport number, address, credit card details, email address and phone numbers. And in the most sensible observation I’ve seen in awhile, Syed Kamall, a Conservative MEP stated: “This is just another extension of the surveillance society being built across Europe. If we continue to remove people’s basic liberties in this way, the terrorists will have won“.