01 November 2008

Legislation - the details

I was planning, in relation to the previous post's subject, to mention the government's classification of an Icelandic bank as a terrorist organisation in order to freeze its assets.

As is so often the case, as I researched to fill in the details of exactly what happened, I found it wasn't what I thought. As is occasionally the case, the truth is more interesting than the falsehood.

The order freezing the assets of Landsbanki, and section 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 under which the said order was made, make no reference to terrorism, except in that the section is part of that act.

The government is not "misusing" anti-terrorism law to grab the money, they are doing precisely what they were empowered to do in 2001.


4. Power to make order

(1) The Treasury may make a freezing order if the following two conditions are satisfied.

(2) The first condition is that the Treasury reasonably believe that—

(a) action to the detriment of the United Kingdom’s economy (or part of it) has been or is likely to be taken by a person or persons, or

(b) action constituting a threat to the life or property of one or more nationals of the United Kingdom or residents of the United Kingdom has been or is likely to be taken by a person or persons.

(3) If one person is believed to have taken or to be likely to take the action the second condition is that the person is—

(a) the government of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom, or

(b) a resident of a country or territory outside the United Kingdom.



4.(2)(b) is not relevant since the order cited 4.(2)(a) instead, so no allegation of terrorism of any kind needed to be made. The government has the clear legal power to seize the assets of any foreigner who it believes is likely to take action detrimental to the economy of the United Kingdom.

Holy shit.

How did it get that? Well, the clue is in the act. This was the act that was passed in December of 2001, against the votes of many Labour MPs who objected to the detention-without-trial provisions. The "seizing the assets of foreigners for any economic reason" bit escaped any public debate.

This is the lesson that we have to take from the Landsbanki saga. The anti-liberty measures that get argued about on the 9 o'clock news are the tip of an iceberg of literally unbelievable powers being accumulated by the government, that will be unveiled in a few years when the fuss has died down, and used against people who you would least expect to be the target.

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