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Once again, as they did in December 2004, when they accepted the appeals of Muslim men held without trial in Belmarsh, Britain's law lords have struck a resounding blow for justice, by ruling that government policy towards another group of Muslim men is unlawful.
With the government bracing itself for a parliamentary revolt over their proposed 42-day pre-trial detention, another draconian plank of the current anti-terror practice should already have been exercising MPs. It will now. This one - financial sanctions against individuals - is being carried out without the consent of parliament even being sought.
Why have MPs not been making a fuss about this? It can only be because they didn't even know about it before today's ruling (pdf). This morning in the high court, Mr Justice Collins ruled against the government on the case of five British Muslim men, whose names can not be published, against the Treasury. This is the first judicial challenge to this practice of financial sanctions and its bypassing of parliament.
It is a case that reveals that British officials have constructed for some individuals a minutely-controlled regime of such stupidity, cruelty, and inefficiency that its authors could have come straight out of Kafka. Two years ago, as chancellor of the exchequer, Gordon Brown told the Royal United Services Institute in London that the Treasury "had to become a department for security ... I have found myself immersed in measures designed to cut off the sources of terrorist finance". He was referring to Britain's place in the complex post-9/11 financial sanctions system whereby the UN, the EU, and Britain's Treasury all have (overlapping and partly secret) lists of people suspected of financing terrorism and whose assets are therefore frozen.
In Britain, orders in council adopted under the 1946 United Nations Act, which allows parliament to be bypassed in certain circumstances, have been used for these financial sanctions.
Orders in council are laid before parliament, but not debated or scrutinised. None of the listed men or their lawyers know precisely what they are accused of, nor by whom. None of them have any idea how long this sanctions regime will last. And, perhaps worst of all, none of them can be sure how to interpret the complicated rules they have been told they must live under, but they know that a seven-year prison sentence can result if they, or their families and friends, break these rules, even by mistake.
Brown was surely not aware then, nor can he be now, of the details worked out by his officials to control the spending and the life patterns of these men and their families. He, and MPs, will no doubt be appalled. Perhaps they can change the habit of a lifetime and apologise.
The five men, known as G, K, A, M and Q, are among at least 106 individuals in Britain who are known to be on one or more UN or EU list. Their bank accounts and any assets they have are frozen and their wives have new bank accounts which are monitored and through which most family expenses are managed with debit cards and direct debits.
The men have no money except £10 a week, and their wives must account, with receipts, to the Treasury for every bottle of milk or packet of sweets bought at a corner shop. In a related case recently before the judicial committee of the House of Lords, Leonard Hoffman expressed incredulity at the "meanness and squalor" of a regime that "monitored who had what for lunch".
But these cases go well beyond meanness to a depth of petty cruelty so shaming that those responsible for devising them should be deemed unworthy of holding a job in the public sector.
The men are subject to licensing by the Treasury (and by the security council for those who are also on the UN list) for any expenses. G, for instance, had to wait three months for a "basic expense" licence permitting funds for food and rent, and six months for a license to obtain legal advice about the situation he found himself in.
Collins said during the hearing that it was "totally unacceptable" that G should have to get a license for legal advice about the sanctions from the very body that was imposing them.
It emerged in court that 63 licences have been issued for the five men, covering such everyday issues as the buying of a kitten and anniversary gifts between husband and wife. The treasury has ruled that a husband borrowing a wife's car requires a license, and warned that borrowing a neighbour's lawnmower without a license might constitute an offence.
When one of the men's solicitors wrote to the Treasury asking for clarification about whether buying additional pairs of shoes would count as a basic necessity, the officials said this had to be referred to the minister.
These small examples of the confusion of these men's lives are compounded by the far more serious rule that they are unable to work - it is an offence to pay them any money. In addition, their lives are even further constrained as they do not know whether they can accept meals, lifts, outings for their children to an amusement park from family and friends or whether these parts of normal life too are "benefits" they are no longer allowed.
Not surprisingly, uncertainty, extreme stress and humiliation have meant that several of these have begun to experience mental health problems, which none of them suffered from before. Family ties are strained to breaking point.
These stories are widely known in parts of the Muslim community in Britain, and form part of the backdrop of growing fear and resentment against those in power who are making Britain a different country from that represented by Collins.