Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary:
Now you talk about eleven terrorists coming passed through here, I understand that may be true, but I would also like to make this point,
I would like to ask you on the Today programme and other journalists to cast your mind back to the approach that all of you were taking
before the eleventh of September. I can tell you and look at the record whenever I was arguing in favour of tougher anti-terrorist
powers or tougher powers for example to de-encrypt commercially encrypted e-mails I was told that this was a breach of civil
liberties, almost that it was the end of civilisation as we knew it and that it was completely unnecessary and the beginning of Big
Brother society. What I was doing and those who were supporting me were doing was to say "hang on a second we live a difficult"...
It wasn't this programme that was saying that, just to clarify, it maybe people on this programme put that point of view.
But there is an issue of the culture of journalism. You of course very often are a mouth piece for the prevailing non-governmental organisations and I understand why. But I am just saying the prevailing mood was all one way, that this was Big Brother government. It wasn't Big Brother government. It was government trying to put in place increased powers so that we could preserve and sustain our democracy against this new kind of threat. Let me just give you one example, Sue. We needed to take powers so that we could de-encrypt commercially encrypted e-mails and other communications. Why? Because we knew that terrorists were going to use this. What happened? Large parts of the industry, backed by some people who will now recognise they were very naive in retrospect said "you mustn't do that" and the pressure was so great that we and in the United States, I used to talk to Jane Reno the then Attorney General about this, we had to back down a bit. Now I heard people say "Why are these terrorists here". Well the answer is not because of any lapse by the intelligence or security services or the police but because people have had a two dimensional view of civil liberties. The most fundamental civil liberty is the right to life, and preserving that and sustaining that must come before others.
Foreign Secretary, thank you very much.
Thank you very much.
See also BBC News, Net freedom fears 'hurt terror fight', 28 September, 2001