Cory Doctrow's post on Boing Boing: http://www.boingboing.net/2009/02/27/tomorrow-is-britains.html
The Modern Liberty site explains why the convention is needed:
We are entering a dangerous period in our country. Economic turmoil threatens profound hardship and disharmony. Disenchantment with politics is growing and even legitimate protest is threatened by an unprecedented programme of challenges to our rights, freedoms and democracy. Sixty years ago Britain was a proud co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Now it is increasingly centralized, abandoning its historic principles some of which date back to the Magna Carta.British liberties and privacy issues might seem irrelevant to those of us in the US. But I see interplays with what goes on in the UK and in the US. For example, the pervasive public surveillance of British society is often cited as a good example for the US. Unfortunately, the lessons learned in Britain about what works and what doesn't with surveillance don't get noticed as well in the States.
The Government’s continued stated determination to extend detention without charge in terrorism cases to 42 days is one symbol of the damage done to our hard-won rights and freedoms. The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), which gives hundreds of agencies access to people’s records without their knowing, is another. The collection of all available records on a huge central database for the use of the authorities is a third.
We believe that such threats can be overcome but only if the public is woken to the dangers. While we may be impatient for action, the issues must be addressed in an open-minded way with as thorough and accessible public debate as possible.
Therefore we invite you to join a Convention on Modern Liberty. It will ask three broad questions:
We are making Modern Liberty a convention not a conference. We want to bring as many people together to see what common ground can be reached in defence of our freedoms. The Guardian is the main media partner. The Rowntree Reform and Charitable Trusts and the Rowntree Foundation are initial supporters. A wide range of organisations are joining the event from across the political spectrum.
- Are our freedoms and rights threatened by an over-powerful state and if so how do we defend ourselves from this?
- Are dangers to our security from terrorism and other threats, from climate change to pandemics being used to attack our rights, and how can we best defend ourselves?
- How can we arouse sustained public interest?
Fundamental rights and freedoms are common to us all. The Universal Declaration recognises ‘the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’. In Britain such values have an even longer history. We are indeed the inheritors of an inspiring tradition of liberty.
At the same time technical advances from information technology to explosives and the threats of catastrophic climatic change have altered the framework of power and fear.
This calls for a renewal of our democratic self-confidence. This is the purpose of the Convention on Modern Liberty. Whether you agree or not we hope you will join us to debate these issues.
Also, with the new US President and Administration, I believe we will see much reshuffling about privacy, security, and liberties. 20th Century concepts of these values might not hold up well in the 21st Century. It will be important for citizens to learn about the issues and get involved. Learning from other countries' experiences can be helpful.
If you are not able to attend the meetings, the Modern Liberty site will have video and photos.
Here's looking at you,
Jonathan D. Abolins