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Editorial: Government’s plan to fight terror is scary

Terrorists use fear to achieve their goals. Governments should not stoop to this tactic.

On the heels of the attacks in Brussels last month, the government has proposed a package of laws restricting our civil liberties. There may be reason to improve anti-terror measures, but the government is insisting that the situation is so urgent that they must push through these measures with a fast-track procedure that limits debate in Parliament.

Under proposals from Interior Minister Sándor Pintér, the government would have the right to look into people’s bank accounts and to spy on people’s phones. To make sure authorities have access to everyone’s phone, the proposal would outlaw encryption software – an intrusion on our privacy that is being fiercely opposed in democracies around the world. Once in place, such measures can easily be abused, which is why this level of domestic spying should probably not be allowed. At a minimum, any legislation regulating this area must be carefully crafted to put in place checks on the authorities that wield such power.

Earlier this year, the government failed to obtain Parliament’s support for a constitutional amendment allowing officials to declare a “terror state of emergency”, which would let them suspend a host of basic civil rights. The government is apparently hoping that fear stirred up since the Brussels attack will make members of Parliament, and their constituents, agree to measures that eliminate our rights.

When a government uses fear as a bargaining chip, that government can become just as frightening as any outside threats that may be worrying us. Whatever anti-terror measures are put in place should be openly debated and achieved through calm, reasoned negotiation