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Civil society called up

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The UK Home Secretary has called on the country to back the surveillance industry at the start of a civil security arms race.

Speaking to a surveillance industry conference today, John Reid described how British society must change in order to protect itself from those peoples left embittered in the wake of the cold war.

He started by redefining the values of modern, liberal democracy for the 21st Century war. The ideal of liberty remained, but transparency and trust had given way to qualified, or "guarded openness".

He reiterated the Blairite idea of a battle of ideas, but said that on our overpopulated planet the battle was being given added intensity by its resources. So we had to battle with our values, he said, "in defiance of the terrorist menace".

We had to "speed the execution of delivery" of the surveillance devices produced by the security industry, Reid said.

"It is vital that our enterprises sustain the delivery of innovation at a pace that outstrips our adversaries," he said.

To sustain this would require more public services to be delivered by the private sector, he said. In the context of security, this meant surveillance and a society wrapped in such a cloak would have to change its rules, he said.

"This involves nothing less than together renewing the social contract," Reid said.

"The whole community must be engaged in the struggle," he added later.

To tell citizens what they should fight for, he drew a contrast between the society of failed states, in which everyone has to muck in to make the most basic services work, and the society of modern western states, in which people's needs are provided by the private sector.

This was reason enough to dismiss the famous warning given by US President Dwight David Eisenhower in his parting address in 1961, that the wealth of our economies had become so dependent on the war industry that we should watch that the war profiteers did not gain undue influence over civil policy.

"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes," outgoing president said, coining this economic dependence the military-industrial complex.

Rather than take Eisenhower's lesson and apply it to the emerging civil surveillance industry (a phenomenon coined the security-industrial complex by Statewatch since military industry was behind most of the new civil surveillance technologies), the current Home Secretary said civil society can learn from the defence industry.

"Competitiveness of markets makes Eisenhower's fears less relevant today," he said.

"In the wake of the cold war," he said, the threat was complex and "ultimate victory" could only be achieved if we all joined together.

Reid stretched the idea of the "enabling state", a euphemism for the private provision of public services, to encompass civil surveillance.

"This will mean the public, private and voluntary sectors partnering and embracing competitiveness as never before," he said.

"Liberty, tolerance and guarded openness are not luxuries but vital to the conduct of a struggle that will be long, wide and deep," he added.®

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