"Nevertheless Winston did not speak for another moment or two. A feeling of weariness had overwhelmed him. The faint, mad gleam of enthusiasm had come back into O'Brien's face. He knew in advance what O'Brien would say. That the Party did not seek power for its own ends, but only for the good of the majority. That it sought power because men in the mass were frail cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves. That the choice for mankind lay between freedom and happiness, and that, for the great bulk of mankind, happiness was better.
That the party was the eternal guardian of the weak, a dedicated sect doing evil that good might come, sacrificing its own happiness to that of others. The terrible thing, thought Winston, the terrible thing was that when O'Brien said this he would believe it. You could see it in his face. O'Brien knew everything. A thousand times better than Winston he knew what the world was really like, in what degradation the mass of human beings lived and by what lies and barbarities the Party kept them there.
He had understood it all, weighed it all, and it made no difference: all was justified by the ultimate purpose. What can you do, thought Winston, against the lunatic who is more intelligent than yourself, who gives your arguments a fair hearing and then simply persists in his lunacy?
'You are ruling over us for our own good,' he said feebly."
This is a passage from George Orwell's visionary novel, 1984, written in 1949. Orwell envisioned a dystopian society of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance and public mind control that persecuted individualism and independent thinking as thought crimes. Orwell wrote this 64 years ago, a futurist projection of trends as a warning. Now, in 2013, almost 30 years after 1984, Britain is careening dangerously close to actually enacting legislation that would define and outlaw thought crimes. That would seem to be the logic the British authorities used to detain David Miranda, journalist Glenn Greenwald's companion for nine hours last August at Heathrow Airport while changing planes.
He was detained under the Section 7 of the UK Terrorism Act while changing planes at Heathrow. The cops held Miranda for nine hours, the maximum allowed under law, without access to counsel, using powers intended to allow the detention of people suspected of connections to terrorism. But it was clear to everyone that Miranda wasn't connected to terrorism -- rather, the UK establishment was attempting to intimidate people connected to the Snowden leaks through arbitrary detention and harassment.
Now that Miranda's lawyers are chasing down the people responsible, we're getting a more detailed picture of the process that led up to Miranda's detention. Before a Section 7 detention takes place, British cops have to file a form called a Port Circular Notice, and several drafts of the Notice used to detain Miranda have come to light.
The final draft argues that Miranda should be detained under terrorism law because "...the disclosure or threat of disclosure is designed to influence a government, and is made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause. This therefore falls within the definition of terrorism."
In other words: thoughtcrime.
Section 7 originated under the New Labour government, and was refined and perfected by the Tory/LibDem coalition.
The draft that was finally used states: "Intelligence indicates that Miranda is likely to be involved in espionage activity which has the potential to act against the interests of UK national security. We therefore wish to establish the nature of Miranda's activity, assess the risk that Miranda poses to national security and mitigate as appropriate."
The notice then went on to explain why police officers believed that the terrorism act was appropriate.
"We assess that Miranda is knowingly carrying material, the release of which would endanger people's lives. Additionally the disclosure or threat of disclosure is designed to influence a government, and is made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause. This therefore falls within the definition of terrorism and as such we request that the subject is examined under schedule 7."
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said the police assessment represented a "chilling" threat to democracy. "More and more we are shocked but not surprised," she said. "Breathtakingly broad anti-terror powers passed under the last government continue to be abused under the coalition that once trumpeted civil liberties.
"The express admission that politics motivated the detention of David Miranda should shame police and legislators alike. It's not just the schedule 7 detention power that needs urgent overhaul, but a definition of terrorism that should chill the blood of any democrat."