Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic
With the Magna Carta on display at the Library of Congress for a 10-week exhibition, the United States possesses a physical reminder that its special relationship with Great Britain is grounded not just in shared history, but shared values.
George Orwell captured their essence when observing “an all-important English trait: the respect for constitutionalism and legality.” He characterized that respect as a “belief in ‘the law’ as something above the State and above the individual, something which is cruel and stupid, of course, but at any rate incorruptible.”
As it turns out, the Mother Country’s commitment to constitutionalism and legality are flagging, and the transformation is too broad and deep to ignore any longer.
British citizens can be held by police for 28 days without charges. Foreigners suspected of terrorism can be held indefinitely. The right to a fair trial is threatened due to the fact that Britain’s spy agency is already authorized to conduct secret surveillance on defendants and their lawyers before their case is adjudicated.
Anti-terrorism laws are being turned on non-terrorists: That’s clear from the fact that a British court upheld the detention of David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, under a counterterrorism statute even though no one thinks he’s a terrorist.
The country’s surveillance agency, GCHQ, is likely in breach of numerous statutes and human-rights conventions, according to a legal analysis in Parliament.
Due process is being corrupted too. Under the Justice and Security Act, “intelligence can be introduced by the government but will only be seen by the judge and security-cleared special advocates.” The rules during these closed proceedings are as follows:
The civilian and their lawyer
cannot be present,
cannot see the evidence the government is relying upon (and which is said to be national security sensitive information),
cannot know the government’s case on this evidence,
cannot challenge this evidence or the government’s case and
cannot know the reasons for the judge’s decision on that evidence and therefore (at least a part of) their case.
The civilian will be told whether they have won or lost, but not the full reasons why.