Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sedition and terrorism

Yesterday, in the debate over the Key / Kitteridge Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill, Winston Peters proposed an appalling "solution" to what to do about suspected terrorists: resurrecting sedition:

New Zealand First Leader Rt Hon Winston Peters put forward an amendment to the Countering Terrorism Fighters Bill in Parliament today, seeking to re-enact sedition laws repealed in 2007 with the support of all parties except New Zealand First.

“In 2007, we asked Parliament if we as a country would feel safer having repealed sedition laws? Judging by the Countering Terrorism Fighters Bill and ‘tough’ new security laws Mr Key so clearly wants, the answer is a flat no,” Mr Peters said.

“What home-grown terrorists wish to engage in was defined by the then sedition laws.

Only because those laws were so broad as to criminalise any expression of dissent against the government. But while they'd capture those who advocate killing people because of their religion (something which is also covered by conspiracy law, insofar as the advocacy constitutes direct incitement), it also captured people who wrote pamphlets about the confiscation of Maori land, or obnoxious emails. Not to mention a host of other people whose only "crime" was disagreeing with the policies of the government of the day or failing to display sufficient loyalty.

Which also neatly highlights the core problem of our new anti-terror laws: in the past, the state has systematically abused its powers and used broad laws as a tool of political persecution. Our anti-terror laws are open to the same abuse. And with the intellectual heirs of those anti-socialist, anti-pacifist, anti-Maori panty-sniffers alive and well in our security agencies, such abuse seems like a given. With the kicker that because surveillance and passport cancellations happen in secret, we won't have a public record of it.

Looking at history, the message is clear: we can't trust the spies, and we can't trust the state. Given more power over our lives to either is like giving automatic weapons and methamphetamine to a psychopathic killer. Better not to take that risk.