Thursday, 9 October 2008


In order to attempt to protect British investors with money in IceSave, the British government
today seized control of the UK assets of the Icelandic Landsbanki, parent company of Icesave.
So far so good: the Brits protect their own and get some small revenge for losing the cod war.
But what makes it interesting is that the bank's assets were seized used provisions of the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001.

Here is the home office summary of what that bill is intended to do, according to their website today:

Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001

The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA) was introduced in order to provide stronger powers to allow the Police to investigate and prevent terrorist activity and other serious crime.

The measures are intended to:

  • cut off terrorist funding
  • ensure that government departments and agencies can collect and share information required for countering the terrorist threat
  • streamline relevant immigration procedures
  • ensure the security of the nuclear and aviation industries
  • improve security of dangerous substances that may be targeted/used by terrorists
  • extend police powers available to relevant forces
  • ensure that we can meet our European obligations in the area of police and judicial co-operation and our international obligations to counter bribery and corruption
Now call me myopic, but I don't see anything there about seizing the assets of banks suffering failure due to mismanagement or global crisis. I seem to recall a lot of hot air and weasel words about the act never being abused or information shared for anything but the express reasons of fighting 'terrorism', ensuring 'national security' and since we are all gentlemen you subjects can of course trust us and besides we know where you live and have a surveillance camera somewhere on your street.

As it happens, the House of Lords was today debating the Counter Terrorism Bill which wants to extend the time 'suspected terrorists' can be held without charge to 42 days. If they extend that to merchant bankers I suspect the public would have little trouble with it, but at worst I suspect most of the bankers involved will simply be held without claret for Lent instead.

The thing that amazes me is that 'Hank' Paulson hasn't been able to get anyone locked up and their assets seized already. There must be a few million poor homeowners who've defaulted and are trying to terrorise the Paulson's of this world by threatening their bonuses. At least they got rid of Elliot Spitzer in the Clinton mode, rather than trying to persuade New York he was an Islamic terrorist, like Barack Obama. But seriously, is there any doubt that legislation like the ATA2001 is INTENDED to be used for political convenience, and that the whole spectre of 'terrorism' (or 'terrism' if you're Shrub) has taken on exactly the same all-purpose mantle of generating fear and leveraging political expediency that 'communism' (or 'commonism' if you're JEdgar Hoover) did for the generation before?

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