In tomorrow's Times
(well, the article's got tomorrow's date on it) David Aaronovitch comments on Britain's surveillance culture, and in particular the DNA database
, and he does it by making at least one inarguable point: it has helped catch some very bad people.
I think we're coming to a bit of a crossroads in this country, if we aren't there already. Do we, as Aaronovitch does, take the position that CCTV and DNA databasing are valuable tools which help the police? Or do we take the position of Tim Garton Ash, which Aaronovitch quotes, that we'd rather be a bit freer, even if it means being a bit less safe?
I dunno. I really don't. In my heart, all these cameras and DNA swabs are really a bit scary. My head, though, does respond to Aaronovitch's argument.
What I fear is that these issues are going to become political footballs and we will never have a proper discussion about their pros and cons. Each side will assume the position depending on their political affiliation, and the issues will be kicked around as part of a game of political points-scoring. The goods and bads, the rights and wrongs, will get forgotten and all that will matter is who buries whom in the arguments. And this is something which really
matters, something we should be having a nonpartisan debate about.