I haven’t been talking here or anywhere else about the 2012 Olympics in London, despite the constant flow of security-related media reports on the topic: partly because a lot of my readers are outside the UK and aren’t necessarily interested, but primarily because even I don’t have time to cover everything. However, I picked up a rumor recently that moved the topic in my mind from security (ho-hum…) to civil liberties. So what’s the story? While many Londoners are happy about the anticipated revenue from the event, there is a sizeable proportion of relatively local people who are, for various reasons, unhappy about the event, or at any rate the way it is being implemented, and there is an expectation that there will be continuing protests.
However, it seems that some of the activists who regularly exercise their right to protest in and around London believe they will be taken into custody and being safely put away for the period of the Games (possibly on a prison ship) in the cynical expectation that it’s more cost-effective for the powers-that-be to pay substantial financial penalties subsequently for infraction of civil liberties than it is to risk a highly visible protest during the actual games. It’s also said that something of the sort was done a year ago during the Royal Wedding.
Well, I have to make it clear that I haven’t been able to find any real evidence of this contention, though there’s plenty of alarming discussion of intensive military security around the Games including RAF jets moved into the area, and surface-to-air missile batteries installed on some of London’s high-rise buildings that makes me feel slightly relieved that I don’t live around there anymore and am unlikely to be in the area at that time.
In today’s over-connected world, dominated by fear of terrorism (virtual and physical) it’s inevitable that security will encroach on our lives in ways few of us would have envisaged the last time the Olympics were held in London (in 1948), even with memories of a very different conflict still fresh in our minds. Sometimes fear of enemy action leads to the suspension of basic civil liberties in the name of security, but if this rumour turned out to be substantially correct, it would be a small victory for the terrorists, and a potential PR coup for nations that subjugate civil liberties to the maintenance of the status quo. I’ve spent much of my life in IT trying to reduce the impact of Internet hoaxes, but this is one occasion where I’m hoping the story is just paranoid gossip and urban myth.
David Harley CITP FBCS CISSP