Today's Article
A leading study
prepared for the
U.S. Congress
appears to say 'no'.
The American Spark
Are Britain's Anti-Terrorism Laws Really Better than America's?

By Cliff Montgomery - Mar. 2nd, 2007

A blunt
Congressional Research Service (CRS) report reveals that Britain's anti-terror laws aren't all the
corporate press claims them to be. We quote from the report below:

"This is a comparison of the law of the United States (U.S.) and United Kingdom (UK) relating to the authority
to investigate
terrorism. It focuses primarily upon the procedures for conducting searches and seizures including
the
interception of communications, arresting and detaining suspected terrorists, and control orders
restricting the activities of suspected terrorists.

"The most obvious difference between the laws of the two countries is that in the UK approval of extraordinary
authority including the issuance of
warrants often remains an executive function, and in the United States the
task more often falls to the courts. In addition, authority in the United States only roughly approximates at best the
power of UK officials to arrest and detain suspected terrorists and to subject them to control orders. On the other
hand, U.S. officials appear to enjoy greater flexibility in the use of intercepted communications for evidentiary
purposes.

"Many of the differences can be understood in light of the reach of the
Fourth Amendment to the United States
Constitution
. The Fourth Amendment condemns unreasonable governmental searches and seizures. It
applies where there is a justifiable expectation of
privacy and does not apply there is not. It does not apply to
consensual searches nor to the overseas search of the property of foreign nationals with no substantial
connection to the United States.

"The Amendment begins with the presumption that a search or seizure is unreasonable unless conducted
pursuant to a warrant issued by a neutral magistrate and upon a showing of
probable cause to believe a crime
has been committed.

"There are many circumstances, however, in which a search or seizure will be considered reasonable
notwithstanding the absence of a warrant or of probable cause or of both. Thus, border inspections require
neither warrant nor suspicion, nor does a procedure which allows officers to stop and search parolees. Incident to
a valid arrest, law enforcement officers may search a suspect without probable cause to believe the suspect
possesses evidence or a weapon.

"They may arrest a suspect without a warrant when they have probable cause to believe he has committed a
felony, and may conduct a brief investigative stop with less than probable cause when, given all of the
circumstances, they have 'a particularized and objective basis for suspecting' an individual is engaged in or
about to engage in criminal activity.

"When acting in the interests of certain special needs, such as highway safety or student health and safety,
government officials may engage in warrantless, suspicionless searches. When acting solely in the name of
national security, government officials may not engage in warrantless searches and seizures relating to a
suspected
domestic terrorist. Whether and to what extent they enjoy greater latitude when focused on...foreign
powers and their agents is less clear.

Police Search Powers

"The statutory basis for stop and searches by the police in the UK is contained in the Police and Criminal
Evidence Act 1984
,  which provides the police can stop and search and individual if they have reasonable
suspicion that a crime has been, is being, or is about to be committed.

"Statistics show that under the provisions of this Act the police stopped black people six times more frequently
than white people and Asian people two times more frequently.  

"The police were provided with broader authority to stop and search people under the
Terrorism Act 2000 that
permits officers, with authorization from a senior officer, to stop and search anyone to prevent terrorism.

"Statistically, Asian and black people are respectively four and five times more likely to be stopped than white
people under this Act. [...] This Code of Practice has given rise to the claim that the British police use ethnic and
religious profiling in their policing, a claim that both the government and the police have actively worked to
dismiss.

"In the wake of the London bombing in July 2005 [however], the Chief Constable of
British Transport Police
(
BTP) publicly stated: 'We should not waste time searching old white ladies. [Searches are] going to be
disproportionate. It is going to be young men, not exclusively, but it may be disproportionate when it comes to
ethnic groups.'

"An expert witness in a panel reviewing the use of [British] anti-terrorism stop and search powers has noted 'one
of the biggest dangers of counter-terrorism policing must be that [such isolation and the stigmatization] will grow
the very terrorism which it seeks to defeat.'

"[But] in the United States...invidious racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination in law enforcement is unlawful, and
the consideration of such factors standing alone 'and sometimes even in tandem with other factors, does not
generate reasonable suspicion for a stop.'