“They had surrounded the wrong house.”

“It could have been terrifying,” said Damien Green MP in The Times on saturday, “had it not been so farcical.”
Farcical it may have been, but it is still terrifying nontheless. The furore about Mr. Green’s arrest has ll but died down now, mainly due to the continuous stream of just-as-bad scandals, restrictions on liberty, police brutality, smear campaigns, botched faux-terror raids, and of course the upcoming budget, that have jostled for our attention since. Mr. Green himself is not too helpful here either, in my opinion, as his attitude, while brave, serves to play down the whole affair.

The fact that they did botch it is a whole story in itself, after all, if we are to believe that there really are evil cave-dwelling bogeymen out there employing white, middle-aged sleeper agents who have managed to get themselves elected to parliament just to “groom” (there’s that word again) civil servants into passing on Top Secret National Security Things -a barely plausible thought in itself, but just supposing such people did exist, then one would hope that the security forces would at least make sure they had the right address.

Nontheless, this is still a terrifying state of affairs. I remember reading The First Circle several years ago, and in that book the whole soviet penal system (and the whole of the rest of the system) is portrayed as bumbling and inept, but these incompetents still had the power of life, death, freedom and liberty over the poor sods in their power, and I’m sure it didn’t make it any more pleasant to be sent to the Gulag by inept chancers than it would have been to be sent by sinister geniuses (genii?). In fact, for me it would make it all the worse. We still have a situation where an opposition MP in possession of documents that would embarrass the government can be arrested and held incommunicado without charge, and scandals since nonwithstanding that is a very scary place to be.

Some other things that Mr. Green had to say were also very illuminating. Take this for example:

“If there had been any national security implication they were being appallingly negligent,” he said. “If I had actually had the nuclear codes, I would have had nine days to get rid of them. So it was always clear to me that the whole national security idea was false from the start and they must have known that . . . There never was and never would be any threat to national security from me. If I received information that I thought was a threat to national security, of course I wouldn’t put it in the public domain.”

And:

“I thought that he [Quick] should not be in charge of the anti- terror squad because the day they arrested me was the day of the Mumbai bombings. Al-Qaeda might have been trying to do a worldwide spectacular. It did seem to me that to have 25 of the anti-terror squad going through my bank statements and my bed was not what the head of the anti-terror squad should have wanted.”

Just let that settle in for a moment, as there are several points to consider here. First of all, as the man says, there was and can never have been any national security implications, as the wait shows. OK, government forces using terrorism legislation for purposes it wasn’t announced to be intended for. No news there. Secondly, it shows that once again, just like the subsequent gaffe from Quick that led to his resignation, it shows that the timing of the thing was held to be important. If the government is prepared to hold onto arrests for reasons of political timing in cases like this, and the case of the supposed bomb plotters last month, are they likely to dally for the right moment in a case of a genuine plot or espionage? What would they put at risk for political gain? Just because most of the terrorist plots are manufactured doesn’t mean they all will be, there are still plenty of nutters out there.

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