News broken in the Financial Times that the National Domestic Extremism Team has been called in to help investigate the alleged theft of emails behind the recent "climategate" scandal is disturbing. The police unit was set up to counter domestic terrorism and extremist organisations, not investigate what may or may not have been a theft at the University of East Anglia.
The development underlines the great danger we face from the extension of anti-terrorist measures and methods into normal life – the policing of our streets, for example, and the hounding of football fans and climate change protestors.
Just as disturbing is the line of questioning by the police of those who made freedom of information requests before the alleged hacking of computers last year. In a letter to the Financial Times, Sebastian Nokes, a climate change sceptic and businessman, said he was interviewed by an officer who "wanted to know what computer I used, my internet service provider, and also to which political parties I have belonged, what I feel about climate change and what my qualifications in climate science are. He questioned me at length about my political and scientific opinions".
The police have a duty to investigate the alleged crime, but this kind of questioning smacks of something far more sinister because a person's political and scientific views are being weighed to assess his likely criminality in the eyes of the police officer.