“The threat to journalism is real and growing”

I have long known that changing planes in Israel is not a good idea. If you fly into Ben Gurion from London, say, and fly out two hours later to Bombay, you don’t spend those two hours being quietly bored in a transit lounge – you have to take all your baggage and go through Immigration. You’ll be questioned vigorously about your reasons for “visiting Israel”, have all your kit turned out and maybe some of it “confiscated”, despite your protests that you are not visiting, only passing through.

British airports, we now learn, are worse. Special Branch can haul you out of the transit lounge, question you for hours without charging you with anything and confiscate your kit for a week. Worse still, you’re obliged to “cooperate” with your questioners because refusal to do so is an offence, for which they can then arrest you. Heads you’re fucked, tails you’re buggered – Catch 22 has nothing on this. Because you see the UK has Schedule 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2000 which, as Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger explains:

…give[s] enormous discretion to stop, search and question people who have no connection with “terror”, as ordinarily understood. Suspects have no right to legal representation and may have their property confiscated for up to seven days. Under this measure – uniquely crafted for ports and airport transit areas – there are none of the checks and balances that apply once someone is in Britain proper. There is no need to arrest or charge anyone and there is no protection for journalists or their material. A transit lounge in Heathrow is a dangerous place to be.

Rusbridger does a good editor’s job in today’s Guardian, pulling threads together, underlining the principles involved and the danger of allowing those principles to be trampled. Read the whole article here and find out how those nice gentlemen from GCHQ came to call and smashed up the Guardian’s computers. 

You’ll see why the rest of the British press has chosen to keep quiet on this one. Cowards all, and fools.

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