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News Link • Government

'Civil liberties? They're safe.' And if you believe that…

•, John Naughton

On the evening of Tuesday, 5 July 2005, I attended an invitation-only seminar at the London School of Economics. Those attending included academics, some experienced journalists, senior officers from the Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism command and the security services and officials from the Home and Foreign and Commonwealth Offices. The purpose of the seminar was to discuss the difficulties that arise in media coverage of security issues.

One issue that surfaced early in the discussion was trust. Here's how one of the media people put it (I'm paraphrasing from memory).

"We all agree that some of the potential threats of al-Qaida-type terrorism – for example, the release of radioactive material or a biological agent in a crowded city – are so horrendous that democracies would be justified in taking the most draconian measures to counter them. Such measures would drastically curtail civil and even human rights.

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