Wednesday 3 February 2010

Time For Lord Carlile To Tend His Roses

I never imagined it would be Andrew Dismore, the Hendon MP and chair of parliament's joint committee on human rights, but it's about time someone called time on Lord Carlile.

After five long years in the rarified, suspicious world of special access to briefings by spooks, in his role as the government's "independent" reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation, the Liberal Democrats' most illiberal peer has a track record of saying exactly what the security services and ministers want to hear. He was an advocate of the extention of detention without charge to 42 days and went out of his way to criticise David Davis, the former Conservative Home Secretary who stood down to fight a bye-election in 2008 on the issue, in the pages of The Sun. A supporter of house arrest (otherwise known as control orders), for which the lawyer Gareth Peirce accuses him of providing a 'veneer of credibility' to a system in disarray, Carlile is also an opponent of the use of intercept evidence in terrorism trials and has defended racial profiling in the use of stop and search - in the words of one Lib Dem, he helps to foster mistrust towards Muslims by "perpetuating the idea that it's OK to stop a Muslim (and, for that matter easy to identify a Muslim by the fact that they're non-white), but not OK to stop a blond woman":

He writes of cases where 'where the person stopped is so obviously far from any known terrorism profile that, realist­ically, there is not the slightest poss­ibility of him/her being a terrorist, and no other feature to justify the stop' - well, most Asians and black people are as far from any known terrorism as most blond women, so if anything, that's a killer blow to the idea of using 'profiling' based on the colour of a person's skin. I feel almost embarrassed having to explain this to an obviously intelligent Liberal peer.

Quite so, but that's what happens when even the 'obviously intelligent' go native in spook-land. "I think there is a risk of the perceptions of [Carlile's] independence being undermined, and that then undermines [his] credibility," Andrew Dismore is quoted as saying. "I think there ought to be a fixed term for his job."

I couldn't agree more. And five years is way, way more than long enough.

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