Watch Taking Liberties
Taking Liberties is a hard-hitting British documentary from 2007 that examines the UK's civil liberties in the post-9/11 era. The film features narration from actor and activist David Morrissey, and interviews with a range of experts, politicians, journalists, and everyday citizens. The documentary was prompted by the passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, which sought to heighten security measures in response to the 2005 London bombings. This law, and other measures like it, are examined in depth throughout the film, which asks tough questions about privacy, free speech, and government overreach.
Taking Liberties frames its story around a series of case studies, each of which demonstrates the impact of the UK government's new security regime on individual citizens. For example, we meet Brian Haw, a peace activist who sets up a protest camp in Parliament Square to draw attention to the UK's involvement in the Iraq War. Haw is subjected to numerous attempts by the police to shut him down, using a range of legal loopholes and intimidation tactics.
Another case study focuses on the use of CCTV cameras to monitor citizens in public spaces. UK law enforcement has invested heavily in video surveillance technology in recent years, but critics argue that such measures are ineffective and intrusive. Taking Liberties speaks with a range of experts who explain why such surveillance is problematic, both from a civil liberties perspective and a practical one.
Throughout the film, we see interviews with politicians from across the political spectrum, including Tony Benn, Charles Kennedy, and Downing Street insider Martin Sixsmith. Even the most hardened defenders of government security measures are surprised by some of the revelations presented in Taking Liberties, such as the existence of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, which criminalises conduct that is not necessarily linked to terrorism, and the extradition of British citizens to the US with minimal evidence.
The film also explores other issues, such as the government's use of propaganda to justify its actions, and the treatment of journalists who attempt to report on these issues. One particularly harrowing sequence shows the police brutally breaking up a peaceful protest, using batons and making many arrests.
Despite its heavy subject matter, Taking Liberties avoids being too earnest or preachy. There is plenty of humor and satire on display throughout, including clips of classic British comedies like Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Goon Show. These segments help to punctuate the film's darker moments, and show that these lighthearted cultural products are themselves under threat from the UK government's new security measures.
Taking Liberties is a must-see documentary for anyone interested in civil liberties, particularly in the modern era of terror threats and global conflict. Its stories are compelling, its interviews are insightful, and its overall message is clear: in the name of security, we risk losing our most fundamental freedoms.