From Samizdata comes a frightening post about the creation of a new law-enforcement body in Britain that seems, quite literally, to be a secret police. Agents of the Serious Organized Crime Agency will not take the Police's customary oath of service to the Crown that mandates adherence to the rule of law; they are authorized to act out of uniform, anywhere in the world; the names of SOCA agents will be kept secret; the locations of SOCA offices in Britain will be kept secret; there is at present no address or email given for SOCA, and the only way that private citizens can contact them is through a P.O. box. (There is a phone number given, for media use only.)
SOCA agents can act without judicial warrants; they can deputize anyone else to act on their behalf. They can gain access to secured data from most government agencies, and are authorized to pass data on to whomever they choose. SOCA is exempt from Freedom of Information requirements, and answers to nobody except the Home Secretary.
Most worrying, perhaps, is that SOCA is ostensibly meant to fight not terrorism (which might perhaps justify such abridgments of standard checks and balances) but organized crime, while not being limited to same. Rather, it is authorized to enforce all laws as needed. In other words, the infrastructure is now in place for Britain's government to totally subvert the traditional police powers and ignore judicial restraint.
Tony Blair may be an ally of the United States in international matters, but he is not a good man. His government is steadily exerting control over more and more areas of private and public life in Britain. And he has the almost total cooperation of the leading opposition party, the Tories; the debate is not whether to erect a police state, but in what manner.
It is perhaps not a coincidence that the erosion of Britain's Bill of Rights began in earnest after the 1997 ban on handguns.