What are rights? John Reid's threat to suspend article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights - the one that speaks of a right to liberty - suggests he doesn't know, in two senses.
Sense one. Rights, if they are to be meaningful, are not merely something that governments grant to people through legislation. They have moral force; laws reflect this force, but do not create it.
When we speak of North Koreans, Zimbabweans and Darfur refugees as having human rights, we usually mean that they have moral rights, whatever the laws of their nations say.
This common sense tells us that if Reid insists upon souped up control orders, contrary to Article 5, then he is violating rights. He can abolish law. He cannot abolish morality.
Sense two. Rights are trumps. They over-ride other goals, even success in war: this is why we have rules of war.
The only thing that can trump a right is another right. Reid might argue that the British people's right to safety trumps the right to liberty of shady characters. But in the case of the three men who absconded whilst under control orders, he cannot use this claim, as he's said the three do not pose a direct threat to British people.
Indeed, the success of Operation Crevice shows that the terrorist threat can be countered by good, professional policing.
So why is Reid so keen to violate rights? Is it because he has no confidence in the police and security services? Or is it because this former communist and friend of a war criminal has never had any respect for rights anyway?