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Wednesday, September 07, 2005 

Clarke continues to spout drivel, this time in front of the EU.

EU states should keep mobile phone and e-mail records for longer to help fight terrorism and crime, Home Secretary Charles Clarke has told MEPs.

Without such measures, European states would be fighting terrorism "with both hands tied behind our backs", he said.

Mr Clarke said telecommunications data proved valuable in the investigation of the London bombings.

He rejected complaints about intrusion into privacy, saying there must be effective protection against abuse.

Mr Clarke also said laws preventing suspects being deported to places where they faced persecution might have to change.

He said he wanted judges to realise of "circumstances in the modern world" when they judging cases involving European human rights laws.

He has not spelt out how long companies should be required to keep records but said "the longer it is held, the better".

EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini has said internet data could be kept for six months and phone call details for 12 months across Europe.

In some member states, he said, there are no data retention rules at all.

Mr Clarke hopes to reach a consensus by the end of the UK's EU presidency in December.

In a speech to the European Parliament, Mr Clarke said countries could only fight terror effectively if they knew what the terrorists were saying to each other.

All measures had to be proportionate, with "appropriate safeguards" against abuse and a clear legal basis for exchange of information in each case.

"They will not lead, as some have argued, to the mass surveillance of our citizens or to unnecessary invasion of the citizens' right to privacy," he insisted.

He also wants biometric information included on driving licenses across Europe but he acknowledged the timescale for the change would be "enormous".

The European telecommunications industry will oppose the plans when EU justice ministers in Gateshead later on Wednesday.

The industry says the plans are disproportionate, expensive and ineffective.

Mr Clarke's dossier also calls for a rethink of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The convention prevents terror suspects being deported back to countries with poor human rights records.

Mr Clarke says the British judiciary should respect controversial deals being sought with other countries to allow deportation despite poor human rights records.

Critics say such deals cannot guarantee that deported people will not be tortured.

Lib Dem MEPs leader Graham Watson said the human rights convention should not be changed in a "spasm" from recent events.

For a start, telecommunications data only became important once the attacks had taken place, and only to track down the suspect that had fled to Italy. They didn't lead to any further significant arrests. Besides, not having such communications data didn't stop the investigations into Madrid and London from quickly taking place and getting results. The funniest thing instantly follows on Clarke saying that such measures would not lead to surveillance of citizens, with plans to make all driving licenses contain biometric data. Why do driving licenses need such information? They already have a photo, home address and date of birth. What else do they possibly need, other than as a use to follow people's movements?

ISPs and other holders of information have already made the point that such laws to hold information would result in higher charges, and even the possibility the smallest would as a result go bust. In addition to that, the ECC has already said that such data retention laws could be illegal.

The facts of the matter are that Clarke and Blair have still not made a case for European convention on human rights to be changed. They have not managed to convince anyone that suspected extremists deported to states such as Algeria and Jordan will not be tortured or locked away without trial. They haven't even explained why suspects cannot be tried here. The government knows full well that these so-called written agreements will not stand in the European courts. They have set themselves on a collision course with the judges, purely so that they can come across as hardline for the tabloids who denounce any sane rights type ruling. No one is suggesting that a threat doesn't exist in this country or in European from extremists of all ilk; simply that the current proposals will do more harm than good.

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