The ultimate goal is to strike the right balance between liberty and security, not an easy task. Bartlett counts himself as a supporter of the Home Office’s counterterrorism reforms. “It’s more oversight, more accountability, and with some pretty useful clauses in there [so] that if there’s another terrorist attack, that we can revert back to slightly more draconian measures but always with parliamentary oversight,” he says.
Lord Harris, a defender of Labour’s counterterrorism powers, recognizes that such strong government policies must be “reviewed from time to time.” Overall, he believes the Home Office’s recommendations were “not unreasonable.”
Even the former head of antiterrorism for New Scotland Yard believes the review accomplished its goal of rolling back some intrusive and coercive state powers without jeopardizing public security. “I think it’s a very carefully struck balance,” Clarke says. “Overall, it’s just about right.”
Perhaps the greatest sign that the Home Office had achieved its goal came from Lord Ken MacDonald, a liberal lawyer and a former director of public prosecutions for England and Wales during Prime Minister Blair’s term of office. Charged by Home Secretary May with providing independent oversight of the review, MacDonald assessed the recommendations.
“The reduction in precharge detention to 14 days, the repeal of Section 44…and the outright removal of those aspects of control orders that most resemble house arrest are all to be regarded as reforms of real significance,” he concluded. “They point to an unmistakable rebalancing of public policy in favor of liberty.”
@ To read the Home Office's review of British counterterrorism powers, go to "Beyond Print."
Matthew Harwood is an associate editor at Security Management.