Wed, 20 Aug 2008

Counter terrorism videos

Terence Eden streams live from his mobile phone being stopped and searched under Section 44(2) of The Terrorism Act 2000, without the need for any reasonable suspicion, at Waterloo station on 2008-08-19. (Length: 18 minutes 46 seconds.)

S44 stop and search

Omar Ahmet, an innocent man, arrested at gunpoint. He is white, the police were after a wanted black terrorist. This happened in Liverpool on 2005-07-27, six days after the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, and the day before my stop and search and subsequent arrest. (Length: 33 seconds.)


Rizwaan Sabir a student at the University of Nottingham was arrested on 2008-05-14 under the Terrorism Act 2000 and detained for six days without charge for having downloaded a document called the al-Qaida Training Manual, from a US Department of Justice website, for his PhD. He speaks about the 'psychological torture' his experience was. (Length 2 mins 16 seconds.)

Section 41 arrest

Hicham Yezza was arrested with Rizwaan Sabir under the Terrorism Act 2000 and then re-arrested on immigration charges. He recounts how Britain's terror laws have left him and his family shattered (in the comments he adds some clarifications and some further ones).

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Sun, 17 Aug 2008

Saying, reading and photographing

An observation by the UN Human Rights Committee of the sixth periodic report submitted by the UK (via Index on Censorship):

26. The Committee notes with concern that the offence of “encouragement of terrorism” has been defined in section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006 in broad and vague terms. In particular, a person can commit the offence even when he or she did not intend members of the public to be directly or indirectly encouraged by his or her statement to commit acts of terrorism, but where his or her statement was understood by some members of the public as encouragement to commit such acts. (art.19)

The State party should consider amending section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006 dealing with “encouragement of terrorism” so that its application does not lead to a disproportionate interference with freedom of expression.

John Ozimek writes in El Reg on the offence to possess material, such as books, likely to be useful to someone preparing an act of terrorism (section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000):

It is what follows – and the entire thrust of the law - that is questionable. First, the law: If you possess dodgy material, it is for you to explain why. Parliament could have legislated the other way around - it could have made it a crime to possess such material “with intent”. But it didn’t, so now you must prove yourself innocent.

Following Mr Sabir’s release, the police wrote to him. Allegedly, they warn that he risks re-arrest if found with the manual again and add: “The university authorities have now made clear that possession of this material is not required for the purpose of your course of study nor do they consider it legitimate for you to possess it for research purposes.” [...]

What the Police appear to be saying is that you can be given the all-clear as a bona fide researcher of terror material in the morning – then re-arrested the same evening for the same offence. Surely not, one might think, but that possibility is within the bounds of the Law.

It doesn’t help that the list of materials that could assist a terrorist is very wide. It would certainly encompass broad swathes of chemistry, physics and biology – as well as current military training. This has therefore provoked the accusation, in some quarters, that the Act is likely to be applied in a selective and racist fashion – with individuals whose skin is not quite white being far more likely to be asked to justify what is on their bookshelves or hard drive.

The Telegraph asks if our society has declared war on the humble 'weekend snapper' (via SpyBlog):

There is no law in this country that prevents people from taking photographs in public. None the less, Amateur Photographer magazine receives dozens of reports per month from readers who have been stopped and searched by police officers who seem to think otherwise. 'Sadly, many amateurs are not aware of their rights and are resigned to their fate,' says the magazine's news editor Chris Cheesman. 'Once they are stopped, and their name taken, the police have a record. And we only hear about those who are prepared to kick up a stink about it - there are sure to be many others that go unreported.' [...]

Vague laws being enforced by inexperienced officers makes for a dangerous combination. But while officers can be given clearer directives and stricter guidelines, it might be harder to calm the fears of an increasingly sensitive general public. 'I think the public are suspicious of people with cameras and the police sympathise with them,' says Stephen Carroll.

Some related posts:

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Thu, 07 Aug 2008

Is the role of a criminal database to retain profiles of innocents?

The National DNA Database Ethics Group published its first annual report. It contains 11 recommendations. Two of these make it clear that the National DNA Database (NDNAD) is a ‘crime-related intelligence database’ (as opposed to an identity database). This implies that there is indeed stigma of being included in the NDNAD:

Recommendation I: Consideration should be given to further public clarification of the role of the NDNAD and reinforcement of the message that it is intended only to be used for criminal intelligence.

Recommendation J: Consideration should be given to formally announcing publicly that the NDNAD will only be used for the currently described purposes (i.e. criminal intelligence) and will never transform into a repository for the whole nation’s DNA characteristics.

Two other recommendations show the Ethics group wants it much easier for innocents to get off the NDNAD:

Recommendation G: A clearer, simpler and less cumbersome process needs to be put in place to enable those who wish to appeal against the decision of a Chief Constable to retain their DNA profile on the NDNAD.

Recommendation H: Consideration should be given to reviewing the definition of ‘exceptional circumstances’ and ensuring that the reasons for the retention of data and samples are aligned with data protection legislation, human rights legislation and the concept of proportionality.

The Human Genetics Commission (HGC) published the findings of its Citizens’ Inquiry into the Forensic Use of DNA and the National DNA Database. This report contains 29 core recommendations, some mirroring those of the NDNAD Ethics Group. Hear Sir John Sulston, HGC's acting Chair, comment on the purpose of the NDNAD to the BBC:

We need to go back to the basic question - what is this database for? Is it really intended as an ID database, which is perfectly arguable, and then you could use it for many purposes, including solving crime, including the identification of lost bodies. Or do we regard it, as I believe the police do at the moment, as a criminal database? If it is the latter there is a stigma attached to being on it and we have to be absolutely clear about that purpose.

A majority of respondents are also in full agreement that innocents should not be on the NDNAD:

Recommendation 18: If a person whose DNA has been loaded on to the database is found to be innocent or is released, the DNA sample must be destroyed and the profile removed from the database by law. Innocent people on the database should now be removed.

Increased transparency was favoured by a majority:

Recommendation 3: The government should fund the National DNA Database but not own it. The database should be owned by an independent body accountable only to the general public. Lay people should be recruited onto the independent body through equal opportunity processes.

The findings of the Citizens’ Inquiry will help to focus the HGC’s evidence gathering and further consultation, the results of which will be drawn together in a final report expected in early 2009. A consultation for members of the public is open until 2008-11-07.

Using freedom of information requests, Jenny Willott, LibDem MP who last month called for a new regulatory framework to remove DNA samples and profile of innocents, found out that the Home Office approved 25 applications for research projects using DNA profiles from the NDNAD. No one whose DNA is being used in these projects has given their consent. Five research projects were from private companies that refused to release some details because it would harm their commercial interests. DNA samples of innocents taken by the police are being used for commercial gain by private companies.

Some related posts:

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