When it comes to the immediate, and the short term, security and liberty can appear to conflict. Indeed government justify their actions by claiming a trade-off exists - it's a callous attempt to scare a population into granting powers that ultimately undermine liberty and security. To think that the Iraq war has made Britain safer is absolute nonsense.
This week sees the anniversary of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot by police at Stockwell tube station in London, after police thought he was a suicide-bomber. He wasn't - he was entirely innocent - and the case was deeply tragic. Although some people have responded with vindictive hatred (aimed mainly at Met chief Sir Ian Blair), and think the general sentiment is that this was a tragic accident, in difficult circumstances. I believe that it's possible to condemn this individual event, whilst maintaining confidence and support for the police's efforts to protect us.
In December 2005 a remarkably similar event occured in America, and
the point of this article is to contrast it with de Menezes. Rigoberto Alpizar was shot dead by US air marshalls at Miami airport, on suspicion of carrying a bomb.
On May 26th 2006 the shooting was declared justified, despite the fact that Alpizar was not a terrorist, was not carrying a bomb, and eye-witness accounts doubt whether he ever said that he had one. He was an innocent man, off his medication, acted erratically, and was gunned down.
Just as charges may possibly be made against the killers of de Menezes, I hope the US authorities and mainstream media calm down their instinctive thirst for excessive force and launch an independent inquiry into this event.
Looking back now I think my worries were justified and proven correct. This week's Economist (a UK newspaper) carries a leader on de Menezes and although it might not be a leader in the US edition, I suspect it is. But where's the campaign for Alpizar? Contrast a Google News search for de Menezes with Alpizar. I know that I am in the UK and therefore would expect sources to be biased, so I hope US readers will add their opinions But it really does seem to me that the UK media continue to hold the UK authorities to account over the de Menezes shooting, whilst the US media have forgotten all about Alpizar. Just as i'd feared:
Although the death of De Menezes is still a major UK news issue, i'm worried that Alpizar's death will just be swept under the carpet.
In both cases the effect on security was negligible, but due to the respective responses I worry for the erosion of American liberty caused by the War on Terror.