There has been widespread uproar at the 9-hour detention of David Miranda, the partner of investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald. Crooked Timber has a useful discussion of the Terrorism Act 2000 which seems custom-designed to allow abuse by UK border authorities whenever its politically convenient.
What is significant about this case is that no crime had to be alleged, or even reasonably suspected, before this treatment was meted out. Much recent UK legislation involves giving powers not just of criminalisation, but of investigation. ‘Lawful’ stops and searches can be made so intrusive that, in essence, the investigation becomes an extra-judicial punishment. This is before we include the loss of personal property frequently involved in such searches. Anyone disliked by state officials can have 9 hours taken from their life whenever they have to go through an airport terminal – no reason given. That’s legal. With penalties like that, who needs courts to gain convictions?