Leading article: An inadequate response to the threat that we face

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The Independent Online

Our Prime Minister called for an unequivocal condemnation of those who commit acts of terror, wherever it occurs. He won support from the Security Council. But unsurprisingly the idea was rejected in the General Assembly. What purpose did this intervention from Mr Blair serve? It was always going to be impossible to find agreement on the definition of terrorism. Even Western allies such as Egypt and Pakistan were unable to support such a declaration because of their support for Palestinian militants.

We must also ask whether it was worth distorting the summit agenda in this way. The anti-poverty commitments of the draft summit documents have been watered down, and there is no mention of the vital issue of nuclear non-proliferation. Would this have happened if the UK and the US had stuck to the original agenda? The suspicion must be that Mr Blair, not for the first time, chose empty posturing over practical politics.

The Prime Minister also attempted, yet again, to brush off suggestions of a link between the London bombings and Iraq, arguing that "the terrorist attacks of 7 July have their origins in an ideology born thousands of miles from our shores". And his claim that "for the first time we are agreed that states do not have the right to do what they will within their own borders, but that we have a common duty to protect people where their own governments will not" will come as a shock to those who still consider the invasion of Iraq to have been an illegal act.

While Mr Blair was urging the UN to "toughen" its stance on terrorism in New York, his Home Secretary was attempting to put this into effect in Britain. Yesterday Charles Clarke published the draft clauses from next month's counter-terrorism Bill. These include plans to allow the police to hold terror suspects for three months without charge, rather than the 14 days currently permitted. While there may be a case for extending the time for a week (at most), depriving someone of his or her liberty for months amounts to internment.

Mr Clarke also unveiled a host of new offences, such as incitement to terrorism, committing acts preparatory to terrorism, and the vague "glorification" of terrorism. It remains unclear who will be affected by these new laws, and why truly dangerous individuals cannot be prosecuted under existing legislation.

Yesterday also saw the arrest of seven Algerians cleared by the courts of plotting to manufacture ricin. We are told that - despite having committed no crime - they are to be deported because they are "not conducive to the public good". This is indicative of the new mood in Government. The Home Secretary has the power to remove such individuals under the 1971 Immigration Act, but this power has rarely been used - until, that is, the "Tottenham Ayatollah", Omar Bakri Mohammed, was excluded on this ground earlier this year. It seems we can expect to see this drastic power used much more frequently by the Home Secretary.

From Mr Blair's ill-advised contribution at the UN, to Mr Clarke's illiberal legislation in Britain, the inadequacy of the Government's response to the threat of global terrorism is becoming ever more apparent.

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