This afternoon should see the scheduled meeting between the Labour party Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Home Secretary Charles Clarke and the main Opposition party leaders Michael Howard of the Conservatives and Charles Kennedy of the Liberal Democrats, to cut some sort of political deal over the proposed "Control Orders".
Home Office Minister of Staet for Crime Reduction, Policing, Community Safety and Counter-Terrorism Hazel Blears was quoted as saying that these "Control Orders", which would apply to everyone, including British citizens, could be used against "animal rights" extremists or right wing political extremists.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke, in oral evidence to the Home Affairs Committee contradicted this, and was careful to use the weasel words "international terrorist threat around al-Qaeda and its related organisations" which in this context is code for "we know that these 'Control Orders' could and should apply to terrorism across the Northern Ireland and and Republic of Ireland international border, but we do not want to complicate things by mentioning this"
The media have been hyping up the term "house arrest", which Charles Clarke has been careful to not to use.
No doubt Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy will be pressing for "intercept evidence" to be made admissable in UK courts.
The Home Office will no doubt continue to reject this, mainly because it appears that it would not have solved the dilemma of the Belmarsh detainees, against whom there does not seem to be enough "intercept evidence" to make any difference. Presumably the "intelligence" against them is mostly of the informer or dubious "torture" confession variety.
Some of the people in Belmarsh and some of those facing extradition to the USA are accused of supplying money or supplies (not weapons) to rebel groups in Chechnya. The Home Office still has not proscribed any terrorist organisations in Chechnya - why not ? How can "Control Orders" be applied to sympathisers of groups which are not illegal in the UK ?
It seems astonishing that the "Westminister Village" of politicians and journalists are seriously talking about restricting the use of mobile phones or the internet for suspected terrorists or, their families and supporters.
Surely these technologies are far easier and cheaper to keep under surveillance than "house arrest" or even prison detention ? The authorities should be positively encouraging terrorist suspects or supporters to make use of these technologies, not the reverse.
It is unclear to what extent friends, families and co-religionist worshipers at Mosques etc. will be tainted by and affected by "Control Orders" against terrorist suspects.
Any of the "range of measures" under the as yet unspecified "Control Orders" must be clearly defined and must only be applied, on the basis of actual evidence, by the judicial system, not by the Home Secretary or any other politician.
If Charles Kennedy and Michael Howard are serious about human rights and the proper way to fight terrorism, then they must reject Tony Blair and Charles Clarke's "Control Orders" regime entirely, and not be fobbed off with any half measures like judicial review after the "Control orders" have ruined the lives of the people they have been applied to, their families, friends and associates.
If you want to see how easy it is for innocent people to get onto "intelligence" lists of alleged terrorists or terrorist sympathisers, have a look at the list of alleged IRA members published on Cryptome, which has included various controversial lawyers and politicians who are definately not actual members of the IRA.