The Times and the BBC are carrying the story of our PM’s new strategy for dealing with major events such as terror attacks or flooding. Points of the strategy include:

  • publishing a previously secret ‘national register of risks’ against the country
  • increase in military support for long-term personnel and funds to help servicemen buy homes
  • review of TA and reserve forces
  • 4 regional intelligence units
  • 4 regional counter-terrorism units
  • Security Service to increase to 2000
  • 10-per cent funding rise for JTAC (Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre)
  • “enhanced scrutiny” and “greater transparency” of ISC (Intelligence and Security Committee)
  • (civilian) task force of 1000 to advise in troubled areas
  • high-tech capabilities to be developed at GCHQ and MI6 to ‘tackle terrorism’
  • new ‘National Security Forum’ to advise the National Security Committee
  • “improved resilience against emergencies” at local level

The UK liberty blog quotes an interesting excerpt:

New powers to tackle terrorism and secure successful prosecutions, including control orders, extended stop and search powers, new offences of acts preparatory, encouraging and glorifying terrorism, and training for terrorism; extended pre-charge detention; and extended proscription of terrorist organisations.

I don’t like the ‘new offences’ bit, or that “pre-charge detention” (as I’ve argued elsewhere). Why we still allow detention for 28 days (a bloody month) without charge is beyond me. However, some of the items do seem to be moving in the right direction – I’m all for the increased transparency and scrutiny of the ISC, as long as we actually get it. In fact, I’m for increased transparency and scrutiny in general – secret tribunals and invoking the Terrorism Act make me edgy. Publishing a list of risk may or may not be helpful too. One the one hand it is open, but on the other the government can point to it and say “Look at all the risks against us! This is why we need detentions and secret trials and more…”. Plus there will still undoubtedly be undisclosed risks, so I do question the value of publishing the register.

The whole thing stinks of “same old same old”, with just enough change that the government can answer future criticisms with “we outlined it in our National Security Strategy”. Of course, will we get opposition to the more egregious parts? Will we buggery.