A tale of two countries — pre-emptive policing in Britain and Syria

What a dif­fer­ence a mere month makes in the UK media.  At the end of March The Inde­pend­ent news­pa­per pro­duced this art­icle in the wake of the huge TUC anti-cuts protest in Lon­don, where the Brit­ish Home Sec­ret­ary was cas­tig­ated for con­sid­er­ing great­er police powers to pre­vent such “trouble” again, with par­tic­u­lar ref­er­ence to the forth­com­ing roy­al wedding.

At the time former assist­ant com­mis­sion­er at Scot­land Yard, Andy Hay­man, who had served as the head of the Met­ro­pol­it­an Police Counter-Ter­ror­ism squad and was, umm,  reportedlymuch-esteemed officer before his early resig­na­tion, adop­ted a mus­cu­lar tone by call­ing for “snatch squads” and “dawn raids” to be car­ried out by police against sus­pec­ted trouble­makers.  How ter­ribly un-British.

Per­haps I’m start­ing at shad­ows, but with the above in mind two inter­est­ing aricles appeared in that very same news­pa­per today.

The first art­icle that caught my eye con­firmed there was indeed just such a secur­ity crack­down against sus­pec­ted dis­sid­ents in the UK on the eve of the roy­al wed­ding.  Lynne Owens, the Met­ro­pol­it­an Police assist­ant com­mis­sion­er in charge of the roy­al poli­cing oper­a­tion, is quoted as saying:

“We have to be abso­lutely clear. If any­one comes to Lon­don intend­ing to com­mit crim­in­al acts, we will act quickly, robustly and decis­ively.” She said the Met was work­ing with forces across the coun­try and would use “spot­ters” to identi­fy those caus­ing trouble.”

The art­icle goes on to say:

As police teams step up their pro­cess of “pre-event invest­ig­a­tion” and “intel­li­gence gath­er­ing”, reports have come in from pro­test­ers that plain-clothed police are turn­ing up at their homes to warn them against attend­ing Fri­day’s event.” 

Military&pageantryIt seems that the poor old Met is hav­ing con­nip­tions about poten­tially embar­rass­ing pro­test­ers sul­ly­ing the pageantry of the roy­al wed­ding and is put­ting our money where its mouth is.  Last week The Tele­graph also repor­ted that counter-intel­li­gence oper­a­tions were being con­duc­ted against “anarch­ists” to pre­vent trouble on 29th April.

Inter­est­ing use of lan­guage, but I sup­pose that one news­pa­per­’s “pro­test­er” will always be another­’s “anarch­ist”.…

So what of the second art­icle that con­cerned me?  This described the bru­tal secur­ity crack­down in Syr­ia, where the secret police were pre-empt­ively hunt­ing down and arrest­ing sus­pec­ted dissidents:

Syr­i­a’s feared secret police raided hun­dreds of homes yes­ter­day as author­it­ies stepped up attempts to crush the pro-reform movement.….”

UK For­eign Sec­ret­ary, Wil­li­am Hag­ue is quoted as say­ing that:

Syr­ia is now at a fork in the road… it can choose ever-more viol­ent repres­sion which can only ever bring short-term secur­ity for the author­it­ies there.”

How much more need I say?  Put­ting aside the fact that Hag­ue seems to have acquired his very own fork(ed tongue), the only dis­cern­able dif­fer­ence at this stage is in the sheer scale of the bru­tal­ity and repres­sion, not the mind-set or intent.

It’s a slip­pery slope.….