Osama bin Laden meets Thomas Hobbes

This morning’s Observer column.

Every time I go through airport security nowadays the thought that comes to mind – as I take off my shoes and belt, unpack my laptop and display my toothpaste in a transparent plastic bag – is that Osama bin Laden won hands down. The same thought pops up when taking a photograph outside the London Stock Exchange – or inside an airport or a railway station – and a uniformed jobsworth appears from nowhere to inform me that photography is “not allowed, sir”. And it also comes to mind whenever the home secretary opens her mouth on the subject of the draft communications data bill, aka the snoopers charter. Terrorism – or the perceived threat of it – has turned democracies into paranoid armed camps in which the state feels justified in assuming that every citizen is a potential terrorist.

The intrusiveness and ubiquity of state surveillance is already shocking. But we ain’t seen nothing yet – the technology is just getting into its stride…