by Tony Benn
Since the attack on the twin towers, in which many innocent Americans were killed, we have been told that we are engaged in a war against terrorism that threatens our way of life and our liberties. From that moment on we have been asked to adopt a whole range of measures that pose what many believe could be a greater threat to those very liberties and to our way of life.
That fact obliges us to examine them, one by one, as a part of the whole, lest we slip into an acceptance of a situation where we can be seen as acquiescing to restrictions on our political and personal freedoms that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
For example, the forthcoming debate in the House of Commons on identity cards is motivated by a determination on the part of the government to set up a massive database incorporating everything that is known about us all. It integrates our personal particulars with police and security service files that may or may not be accurate, some of which we may never be allowed to know. It is that which makes it all look so like an embryonic police state.
Much of the argument may rotate around the cost incurred or the reliability of biometric testing but, important as they are, the danger lies in the accumulation, storage and use that may be made of this information.
For example, under the arrangements that Britain has with the US that allow us access to their nuclear technology in the Trident programme, America has long insisted that it should have access to all our intelligence material. That means the ID database will be automatically available to it.
Given the number of leaks that occur and the value of the database, the possibility that it could fall into the hands of others for their private commercial purposes cannot be ruled out - with all the opportunities for abuse that would make possible.
I have retained all my wartime ID cards with my name, address and photo but none of these posed any threat of the nature set out above.
In addition, we now have the latest anti-terrorist legislation, which permits house arrest and detention without a jury trial - eroding principles going back to the Magna Carta.