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Tim Farron: Theresa May can’t be trusted to get it right on counter-te
Patrice Riemens on Mon, 5 Jun 2017 14:10:37 +0200 (CEST)


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Tim Farron: Theresa May can’t be trusted to get it right on counter-terrorism policy (Guardian)


Original to: 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/05/theresa-may-trusted-counter-terrorism-policy

Theresa May can’t be trusted to get it right on counter-terrorism policy
The PM has a record of poor decisions and did the police a huge 
disservice when she prioritised ineffective mass surveillance over local 
intelligence-gathering


Theresa May set out her position on Sunday, stating, “Enough is enough.” 
It was a highly political speech that set out the choices she intends to 
make that will affect all of us: our security, our freedoms and the way 
we live our lives. These are important choices with important 
consequences. But the real choice is between what works and what 
doesn’t. In her rhetoric, Theresa May is ignoring her own record of 
wrong choices, both as home secretary and prime minister, and continuing 
down the wrong path.

Theresa May accused the police of crying wolf over the impact of cuts to 
their numbers, and their concerns that the public were being put in 
danger. However, the blunt reality is that the one decision she could 
take that would have the single biggest impact is to reverse those cuts. 
In the choice between cuts to corporation tax and properly funding our 
police, we should fund our police. Let’s be clear: fewer police on the 
beat means fewer conversations, less information being passed on and 
less knowledge about who’s who, and who needs to be kept under 
surveillance.

The prime minister is right to talk about the challenges the internet 
brings – and how radical jihadist ideology has been allowed to thrive. 
But these issues are not going be solved with political gimmicks or by 
banning particular technologies. Instead of posturing, politicians need 
to work with technology companies such as Facebook, Twitter and 
WhatsApp, and with other countries, to develop solutions that work to 
keep people safe. The alternative is a government that monitors and 
controls the internet in the way that China or North Korea does. If we 
turn the internet into a tool for censorship and surveillance, the 
terrorists will have won. We won’t make ourselves safer by making 
ourselves less free.
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When we lent our support to the government for extending air strikes 
against so-called Islamic State in Syria, one of the Liberal Democrats’ 
key demands was a report into foreign funding of extremism here in 
Britain. The then-prime minister, David Cameron, agreed to that demand. 
Theresa May now has a choice. Does she publish that report, or keep it 
hidden? Theresa May talks of the need to have some difficult and 
sometimes embarrassing conversations. That should include exposing and 
rooting out the source funding of terror, even it means difficult and 
embarrassing conversations with those such as Saudi Arabia that the 
government claims are our allies.

And what of community engagement? Theresa May’s Prevent strategy has 
failed. The anti-radicalisation programme, meant to stop young minds 
being captured by violent extremists, was described by the home affairs 
select committee as toxic. It’s not trusted. David Anderson, the former 
independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said: “Prevent is 
controversial, to the point where reputable community organisations 
refuse to engage with it.” We have a government anti-terrorism 
engagement strategy that isn’t trusted and doesn’t listen to 
communities, even when they do try to speak out about those such as 
Salman Abedi who are considered a danger. In the choice between 
ineffective mass surveillance, and investment in the sort of 
intelligence we are told is best – on the ground and closest to our 
communities, trusted and appreciated – Theresa May chose the former 
through the Investigatory Powers Act.
Prevent is failing. Any effective strategy must include Muslim 
communities

I trust our police and security services. Their lightning-quick response 
to Saturday’s atrocity shows they stand ready and prepared to protect 
us. They have some of the most extensive powers in any democracy 
anywhere in the world. However, politicians do them the greatest 
disservice when they offer tough rhetoric while hollowing out the very 
mechanisms they need to protect us.

In the choices we make, we should provide the resources necessary for 
those who keep us safe to do their jobs with the powers they have been 
given. We should also jealously guard the hard-won liberties that define 
us as a country. If we make the wrong choices, those who seek to change 
our way of life have won.

Tim Farron is the leader of the UK Liberal Democratic Party

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