In considering the issues of pre-charge detention and the possible alternatives, we need to begin by considering the legislative facts and, to some extent, the recent political furore. This puts the recent government proposals for a 90 day pre-charge detention period into a contemporary historical perspective.
The Terrorism Act was passed as a direct result of the Sept 7th attacks in the USA and the perceived threat in the UK. It initially set the maximum detention period for people arrested for suspicion of being involved in a terrorism act, at a period of seven days (Terrorism Act2000). This measure was seen by some as a “knee-jerk” reaction to the passing of the US Patriot Act in the USA although it has to be said that the Patriot Act is overtly and primarily for the provision of a facility for surveillance, whereas the UK’s Terrorism Act has a much greater emphasis on interrogation.
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The Criminal Justice Act then extended this length of maximum detention to 14 days. To put this in perspective, the same Act also extended the maximum period of detention for people suspected of other types of criminal activity from 24 to 36 hours only. (CJA 2003)
During the course of 2005, the Government chose to try to bring in pare-charge detention period of 90 days, which was presented to the House of Commons as being determined on the advice of (amongst others)the law enforcement and prosecution agencies (Mansard 2005). There appeared to be a perception on the part of the Government that this was also in general consistency with the public mood as the feedback from the constituencies suggested that being hard on terrorism met with general public support.
This view was strengthened by the sense of public outrage which resulted from the July 7th bombing attacks in the capital. It is fair to observe that this tangible sense of outrage was replaced by a more considered position a short time later when the realisation appeared that the draconian measures proposed were actually required to defeat the terrorists or whether they would simply serve to create a militant backlash which would be completely counterproductive and simply encourage those who would exhort disgruntled Muslims to sign up to yet more extreme measures. (Adcock P et al 2003),
Mr Blair put his personal authority on the line over the issue by stating his personal beliefs on the subject:
"We are not living in a police state, but we are living in a country that faces a real and serious threat of terrorism, terrorism that wants to destroy our way of life, terrorism that wants to inflict casualties on us without limit." (Blair T 2005)
One of the major planks in the Government’s reasoning was the advice that it had taken, that an arrest “on reasonable suspicion” was not sufficiently robust for its purposes, and that it was necessary in these specific circumstances to extend the definition necessary for detention to include “in consideration of future evidence”. It was the insertion of this particular clause and the implications of the possibility of detaining people first and then searching for evidence on which to convict them, that proved to be the major stumbling block for many MPs as well as a major issue for pressure groups who represented the Civil Liberties movements. In the assessment of many, and indeed specifically articulated by David Howarth, the Lib. Dem. MP for Cambridge, there was very little practical difference between this situation and internment. (Howarth D 2005).
The point relating to the Government’s perception of public opinion being behind the bill was made during direct questioning of the Home Secretary during the Government debate on the issue. Paddy Tipping(Labour MP for Sherwood in Nottingham) articulated his opinion with the comment
Does the Home Secretary accept that people in Nottinghamshire know about the threat and accept that it exists? Will he take my reassurance that my office and my phone have been busy today with people backing the 90-day detention period? They believe that he and the Prime Minister were right, and they would like that to be pursued. (Tipping P2005)
The Home Secretary reiterated his comments with the suggestion that his constituents were also largely of the same opinion. He felt that the MPs were not in tune with their constituents.
I notice that that is what the overall majority of the British people agree, too,……..I regret that some parliamentarians — the front benches of the other political parties ……..are not prepared to listen to the police in this regard, and I think they should." (Clarke C 2005 A)
In considering just why the Government appeared to have misjudged the mood of the general population, there are a number of specific elements that we should consider. Of course, we accept that it may not actually have got its perception wrong and the majority of the “grass roots” in the country may instinctively support almost any measure that they seas a means to combat terrorism. (Ballcock J et al 1999)
One certain fact is that there was a well-orchestrated and well publicised outpouring of criticism form a number of civil liberty-related concerns from pressure groups who each cited their own focus-specific objections to the proposed increase in police powers. To cite a few of these by way of illustration, we could turn to the comments of Livid Zillion the spokesperson for Amnesty International.
As far as human rights are concerned, as far as civil liberties in this country are concerned, yesterday’s defeat was to an extent a pyrrhic victory for human rights, given that the 28-day extension was passed[instead]
He went on to comment that the whole package was :
Ill conceived, draconian and dangerous……. It contained provisions which so fundamentally undermine both the freedom of association and the freedom of expression. (Zillion L 2005)
Other similar groups such as Liberty took a rather different line considering that the Bill, in its proposed form, could “further inflame racial tensions”, their reasoning being that the 90 day proposed pre-charge detention would result in a very severe and negative impact on the community relations in the UK . (Curlew J 2005).
They took the view that the police had powers that were already very extensive. In the context of this essay we should note that they believed that there were “more proportionate ways” in which they could gain more powers to deal with the threat of terrorism in mainland Although, sadly, they drew back from suggesting just exactly what they felt those “proportional” powers might be.
Their concerns relating to a possible escalation of racial tensions were also echoed by other groups, notably The Islamic Human Rights Commission of Britain, who compared what they foresaw happening as a result of these proposed new powers, as being similar to the riots another forms of civil disobedience in France that had occurred over the preceding two months. (Shadjareh M 2005).
They felt that the seminal reasons for the French riots were that the French Muslims had become progressively alienated and excluded from society. This was a situation which could easily occur in this country and he felt that these new powers would simply “fuel the fire”
In the event, the Government was defeated on the issue by a vote of 322votes to 291 and agreed to accept a compromise pre-charge detention period of 28 days.
Critics of the 28 day period still maintain that it makes substantial inroads into our civil rights in relation to our protection from arbitrary arrest, insofar as it allows the police to incarcerate people and then look for evidence after the event. In real terms, this is not a matter of drawing a line that would only affect a very small number of people, as other critics have pointed out, the police even used the power of the Terrorism Act (2000) to justify their actions that allowed them to stop and search a huge number of people who were wearing anti Blair T-shirts at the Labour party Conference as they tried to enter.(SACC 2005).
Although in this dissertation we are primarily considering the issues surrounding pre-charge detention, we should not overlook the fact that this was only one small element of the Act which contains provision for number of other fairly controversial elements such as a charge for the “glorification” of terrorism. This has equally attracted comments from many sources as being a term “too vague to enforce”, but is nevertheless another infringement of our rights to free speech. (Watson et al 2005)
The National Council for Civil Liberties objected on the grounds that the scope of the powers proposed was too broad and this fact alone would lead to miscarriages of justice (Jewell D 2005)
The Lib. Dems. actively opposed not only the 90 extension but also the28 detention period stating that they felt that the 14 day period was sufficient
If we consider views expressed by (admittedly self-professed) terrorism experts, we can discern an expression of similar reservations but these are tempered with a more adversarial and practical realism. The Chairman of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence felt that the police did have a “very strong case” when they put forward the argument to be given more time to question individuals who they suspected of being involved in terrorist activities.
Rather than just simply putting forward a point of view, he backed it up with rational comments. He put forward the suggestion that this extra time was needed because of the sophistication of the computer and other equipment that potentially held a great deal of information and would require substantial amounts of time to assimilate. The provision of 90days pre-charge detention would allow the police to follow up any international leads or complex associations which may require a degree of surveillance.
Having made these comments, he too, accepted that there was the possibility of problems with an already excluded and isolated Muslim community in some parts of the country. In recognising this difficulty he made the comment that it would not be helpful for the Muslim (or other) communities to feel that 90 days was the normal or accepted length of detention and a balanced approach was to be called for as he could recognise the fact that many of these investigations could be completed far more rapidly. (Wilkinson 2005)
Other evidence of the public mood came from more directly involved sources. Two victims of the London bombings were publicised as having completely opposing views on the issue. One felt strongly that these measures would “play into the hands of the Muslim extremists and create an environment where further such acts of violence would be nurtured and the culture of hatred perpetrated” (Tulloch J 2005).
Another was quoted as saying that he was “dumfounded” by Parliament’s rejection of the 90 day pre-charge detention period as he felt that the police did not have sufficient powers to deal with the problem in inadequate manner (Dodge P 2005)
If we turn our attention to the actual views (rather than the frequently reported and attributed views) of the police forces themselves, we can find evidence of a considered argument and real concern that they do not feel that they have enough powers to protect the General Public as well as they otherwise could.
In real terms, we must remind ourselves that the Police are arguing for an effective suspension of Habeas corpus, which has been enshrined in-law since 1679. (Haralambos M et al 2000),
The main thrust of their argument rests on the assertion that the situation has materially changed since the last wave of mainland bombings by the IRA. The IRA agreed to coded alerts to allow police to minimise loss of life. This measure was adopted originally by mutual agreement on the part of the police to minimise death and injury, and on the part of the IRA because they perceived a substantial death Tolland serious injury, as hardening public resolve against them. The current wave of violence is being orchestrated by people in the UK who are “plotting mass atrocity without warning” and who regard mass loss of life and tangible disruption as having considerable propaganda value and in no way consider it to be counterproductive (Blair I 2005).
Sir Ian Blair also pointed to the increased sophistication of the new terrorist networks together with their increasingly international components, which made it significantly harder for the police to intercept or pre-empt their actions in a timely manner. He quoted the fact that, in order to make a proper investigation, it was now standard procedure to sift data, decrypt hard drives, check cell phone records, and chase international leads before they can make proper and reasoned decisions as to whether their detained suspect is either dangerous, and therefore chargeable, or harmless. He pointed to the specific fact that it took a team of officers over two months to scour a waste disposal site in the north of the UK to uncover evidence of complicity of the7/7 suspects. We will return to discuss the relevance of these remarks later in the essay.
Other police figureheads give us further information for consideration. The Chief of the anti-terror squad went on record as saying that in his opinion the police were “seriously hampered by the guillotine of time”, putting forward the statement that the police believe that they had actively thwarted two further terror attacks in the wake of the 7/7attacks. He argued that there was no room for complacency if the public expected the police to continue to do a professional job in protecting them. It was of no use at all in “tying their hands behind their backs “by forcing effective curtailment of their abilities to properly investigate and interrogate the suspects.
He also went on to state his opinion that the police were not asking for the increase in pre-charge detention time simply because it was an easy option, but because it was, in his opinion “absolutely vital if wearer to prevent further terrorist attacks”. (Hayman A 2005)
Thus far in the essay we have established varying view points and, twosome extent, the various arguments that have been advanced both for and against pre-charge detention of up to 90 days. In order to mount rational campaign against the argument for extension, one has to reasonably produce alternative effective measures if one wishes to try to attain the professed goals of both sides, and that is to preserve the necessary protection of the existing civil liberties, to maintain public security and also to detain and charge the right people in connection with terrorist activity.
One expert came up with this assessment of the situation. If we accept that the police’s thinking in support of a 90 day pre-charge detention period is because they currently have insufficient time to complete all of their investigations in a timely manner then an appropriate solution may well be for the country to invest in better analytical capabilities(Ayers R 2005)
The thinking and reasoning being that, rather than having to resort to prolongation in the length of pre-charge detention, does it not make more sense to invest in, and improve the ability of the police to provide a timely and accurate forensic investigation. The problem that the police currently have in getting their investigations completed on time is simply down to the fact that they do not have sufficient numbers of either scientists, of skilled technicians or, for that matter, the actual technology that would allow them to get the appropriate investigations done on time.
Quite obviously, apart from the resource implications involved there is the question of recruiting and training the appropriate manpower and there is a very significant lead time in this respect, but on the faceoff it, it would seem to provide an answer to the increasingly strident and vocal opposition groups who are currently opposing the 90 damper-charge detention period. Ayres agrees with the groups who point tithe fact that it is not right to require citizens to be incarcerated simply on the grounds that “we have not adequately equipped the police to deal with this new 21st century problem it is not adequate to expect them to fight it with 20th century tools.”
The natural sequitur to this argument is the fact that no amount fore-charge detention would have prevented the London bombings and the same is almost certainly true of the Sept 11th attack in the USA, by virtue that none of the terrorists, or those immediately associated with them, had ever been in the custody of the police before the event. And in the London case, all of the available information (at least sufficient to bring charges), was available within the two weeks that were then permitted. (Ayers R 2005)
Other elements of alternative provision to pre-charge detention could be the increased installation of CCTV cameras in public places. There is already a substantial provision in certain areas of the country, primarily in the city centres, but there are still large areas which could usefully be covered. The benefit of CCTV is mainly its evidential value. Ayres also points out that pictures of meetings, acts and movements are largely incontrovertible in court and “it does not take three months to say to a Judge – here is a picture of a bomb suspect meeting with A, B or C.
As the thrust of this dissertation is an examination of some of the alternatives to the extension of the pre-charge detention period, we can also consider some of the Government’s own proposals. We clearly do not know, and probably will not be in a position to know, whether these proposals were drawn up before or after the defeat of the legislation surrounding the pre-charge detention issue. It would seem likely that the main points had been considered previously, but that the fine details may not have been added until after the demise of the Act on the floor of the House.
Other alternatives have been suggested, some by the Government itself. On 15th Dec. 2005, sometime after the Government had actually accepted that their Bill was effectively dead, the Home Secretary Charles Clarke made an interim progress report to the House of Commons in which he laid out some of the Government’s alternative proposals (Clarke C 2005B).
In essence there were twelve different proposals, all of which were published after the Government knew that the 90 day pre-charge detention had been defeated, and can realistically be seen as an alternative to them. We shall consider each of them in turn
1) To reinforce and to extend the grounds for deportation.
This particular measure was introduced largely as a reaction to the rejection of the 90 day pre-charge detention initiative. The Government seems to have taken the view that if we can’t detain and investigate them here, then they will deport them. Although one can initially be sympathetic to this view, careful reflection would have to question the wisdom of sending a terrorist suspect back to the (presumably) fertile breeding ground of militancy and dissidence.
One such ground would be the owning or promoting of extremist bookshops. It is already illegal to own or to distribute any form of literature which could be seen as either inciting or being useful to terrorists. The extension of the law here would be that owning such book shop would now be punishable with deportation
2) To create an offence of condoning or glorifying terrorism.
This particular section actually extends the consideration that an offence has been committed if it occurs anywhere, not just within the confined of the UK. Those that are convicted of the offence in the Kill be deported and those that do so abroad will be refused entry into the UK.
3) To automatically refuse asylum requests to this country for anyone who has participated in terrorist acts anywhere in the world.
The Government have introduced a provision in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill which will effectively bar anybody who has participated in any act classed as an act of terrorism from entering the country
4) To remove UK citizenship from UK nationals who have engaged in acts of terrorism. The Law will be changed to include any person who “has done anything seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom”
5) To streamline extradition orders and to set a maximum time limit for extradition to be effected.
This has the backing of both main opposition parties and also the judiciary
6) To change the rules of evidence in court
The Government has been mindful that the law governing intercepts is often disbarred from being presented in court. They propose to change the law to allow intercepts of communication to be admitted in evidence. There are also proposals to streamline and adapt newer-trial processes
7)To use control orders on UK British Nationals who cannot be deported.
This is primarily to allow the authorities to maintain control or surveillance over a person who they believe is engaged in some form of terrorist activity.
8) To increase the capacity of the judiciary to deal with control orders .
It clearly follows that there cannot be a significant delay in the dealing with control orders as otherwise it will defeat the object of having them in the first place. The Lord Chancellor has agreed to increase the number of judges who will hear these cases, so that delay will be kept to a minimum. New court rooms are being built for these specific purposes.
9) To proscribe the Hizb-ut-Tabir organisation and any other splinter successor groups to the organisation of Al Mujahiroun.
This will make active membership of any of these organisations a criminal offence
10) To increase the threshold for acquiring British citizenship and also to establish communications within the Muslim community to explore the ways in which integration can be better achieved.
The Government appears to now recognise that integration of the Muslim community into the UK community is a positive step in maintaining safe relations within the community itself. To this end it has suggested the setting up of a number of other initiatives in this regard such as:
• the creation of a National Advisory Council on Mosques and Imams
• the training and accreditation of imams
• placing a greater emphasis on citizenship training for children attending madrasahs.
11)To extend the present power to close a place of worship if it disproven to be used as a centre for fomenting extremist views.
The Government proposes to establish a list of clerics who are not considered suitable to preach in consultation with the Muslim community leaders
The Government also reiterated the point that they were firmly of the opinion that one of the ways forward in this respect was to foster and encourage the partnership aspect of the police with all aspects of the community and this was the most politically acceptable method of reducing the role and influence of the clerics who were preaching hatred in the mosques. (Clarke C 2005 A). The Muslim community would be expected to respond by reporting cases of extremist behaviour earlier so that measures could be put in place before significant damage was done.
They also placed great emphasis on citizenship training, particularly of the young of the community. It appears that the Government has also received a commitment from the Muslim community leaders that they wish to be associated with such initiatives
12)To consider expediting the security measures that are currently proposed at the border entry points of the UK
The Government hope to expand the number of countries that will have to provide biometric visa information, and at the same time to compile database of individuals who the government considers to be “undesirable aliens” who are also considered to be a threat to the UK security.
The Government is also considering introducing measures over the next five years to develop an integrated system to check travellers before they enter the UK and ban them at the point of entry. Other, less immediate threats to security will be monitored and the system will record when they enter and when they leave the UK. We shall discuss these measures in some detail further on in this essay.
These alternatives seem to be the basis of the Government’s response tithe defeat of their attempt to get the pre-charge detention extended to90 days.
It would appear, at first examination, that the comments made by Ayres and cited above, are very pertinent to the Government’s security measures. The observation that the 90 day pre-charge detention would not have prevented the London bombings is probably true, but it is probably fair to say that these particular raft of measures proposed byte Government, while although not actually being a direct alternative, may very well represent a reasonable and workable alternative.
It is salient to note that there is a strong emphasis on two different(and some might observe, mutually complimentary) elements in the Government proposals. On the one hand they are tightening up the border criteria and making in more difficult for terror suspects to get into the country and at the same time they taking powers to make it easier to deport and disbar non UK nationals if they are judged to be a threat to security, On the other hand they are clearly pursuing a strategy which is designed to promote racial harmony and general integration of the Muslim community. One could assume that in keeping with current social theory, the more allegiance that a community member feels towards his community, the less likely he will be to perform any act that is likely to damage the community (Watson, West et al 2006).
Clearly there has been a nucleus of Muslim clerics who have utilised their position of power and influence to try to rally the disaffected youth of the Muslim community with varying degrees of success. If the Muslim community leaders can be persuaded to “come on board” and help to police such extremist views themselves, it would be considered far more acceptable by the community at large as well as doubtless being considered far more politically expedient by the Government. (Macadam Pet al 2005)
Because this essay is concerned with the alternatives to pre-charge detention and there is a considerable body of opinion that seems to place a large burden of responsibility for the perceived need for-charge detention at the door of the Muslim community, (Adcock P,2003), we should perhaps spend some element of this examination in consideration of the Muslim perspective on the question.
The first issue is that it is generally a complete fallacy to regards all Muslims as potential fanatics (despite the nonsense frequently pedalled by the tabloids). There is a branch of Islam called Islamism which is a totalitarian ideology and is often the root of much Muslim fanatical ideation. It is the branch which has spawned the Taliban, Hamas and indeed Osama bin Laden. Most mainstream Muslims regard it as being a distortion of Islam. Islamists regard terrorism as a legitimate avenue to achieve their goals. (Lie B et al 2004
In general terms, Islamism requires a man’s complete obedience to the sacred laws of Islam, and to reject, as far as possible, all other outside influences with the notable exception of both medical and military technology. Strict adherence to its precepts demands an intrinsic deep antagonism towards non-Muslims, and a violent antagonism towards western civilisation. It amounts to an effort to subjugate the mainstream teaching of the religion of Islam, together with its vast accumulated culture, into an ideology. (Pipes D 2004)
We have referred to Islamism as a distortion of Islam, but this is not strictly true, as it is better considered a radically different and completely new interpretation of the Islamic codes. It politicises the religious elements of the faith, and tries to turn it into a blueprint for establishing a coerced Utopia. It’s generally accepted programme closely resembles those of fascism, Marxism and Leninism (Pipes D 2001)
To amplify the point made earlier about the Government needing to promote co-operation with the moderate Muslim community, we can cite an extract from an article which appeared in The Minaret, a newspaper which appeals to mainstream Muslims in the English speaking world.
Islamism is a global affliction whose victims count peoples of all religions. Non-Muslims are losing their lives to it in such countries as Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, and the Philippines. Muslims are the main casualties in Algeria, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan.
Islamists have in many cases been involved in violent acts. The reason for resorting to such means appears to be the same over and over again: First, the Islamists try to change the rulers and men of power through intellectual means, but as this seldom leads to anything and as there seldom are any democratic channels to used, violence have been the last resort.
Islamism is perhaps the most vibrant and coherent ideological movement in the world today; it threatens us all. Moderate Muslims and on-Muslims must co-operate to battle this scourge. (Johnston A 2000)
Is it possible to identify just why it is that the Islamists have an ideological hatred of the Western world, and why is it that they don’t target Japan or South Africa for example? One of the major answers to this question is generally cited as being an event just over two hundred years ago in 1798 when Napoleon landed in Egypt. This was the occasion when the Muslim world became suddenly and dramatically aware of Europe. (Wiktorowicz Q 2004),
On the face of it there should be no particular reason as to why there should be anything incompatible with either the two main religions or even the two religion-based civilisations. The problems appear to arise not from a clash of the civilisations but from a more fundamental clash of both ideas and ideologies. (Wiktorowicz Q 2004)
One has to look no further than the confrontation between Ayatollah Khomeini and Salman Rushdie when the infamous fatwa was declared. This was not actually a confrontation between western ideology and Muslim ideology, it was a confrontation between those who supported or sympathised with the Ayatollah, and those who opposed him. (Cantwell Smith W 1969)
The significant point of the argument is that westerners and Muslims were both to be found on both sides of the divide. We make the point here to demonstrate that it is ideas and ideologies that are the root of the problems that we are discussing here – not religion. In basic terms, a consideration of the question “Is Islamism incompatible with the ideologies of the western world?” the answer is a qualified “Yes”. It is clear that a very difficult and intrinsically unstable relationship is currently in place between the two philosophies.
We cited the arrival of Napoleon in Egypt as being a seminal event in the history of Islam. While this is demonstrably true, it was actually symptom of a deeper change that was progressing insidiously at the same time, but over a much longer time span. The Mufti of Jerusalem summed up his view of this deeper problem in 1998 in an address to the United Nations. In essence, the thrust of his argument is that, for over one millennium (from AD 622) the adherents of Islam could basically be described as “winners” by whatever set of criteria one chose to assess the situation, whether it was health, literacy, wealth, culture, influence or power. It was generally assumed that to be a Muslim was to be a favourite of God.
If one considers the situation now (since the events of two hundred years ago), most significant events in the Muslim world have been associated with failure. By consideration of each of the criteria mentioned in the previous paragraph, the Muslim nations have moved from position of dominance to a position of subjugation. In the words of the Mufti:
"Before, we were masters of the world, and now we’re not even master of our own mosques." (quoted in Wilkinson P 2005 pg. 32)
The cultural response to this fairly rapid decline in their fortunes has been analysed on three levels – three different responses to the situation.
Secularisation, which involves integration and assimilation with western cultures, effectively aligning Islam with privatisation. Reformism , which equates with telling the western world that they have gained their strength by stealing from the Muslims and therefore the Muslims have a right to take back from them (effectively a middle ground)
Islamism, the extremist position which ideologically wishes a return to fundamental Islamic principles but, in real terms also wants many of the technological benefits that the west has to offer. (After Della Porta et al 1999),
Is there any evidence to show that Islamists represent only a tiny fringe of mainstream Islamic religion? If this were to be the case then perhaps we could reasonably assume that all of these measures whether they be pre-charge detention of 90 days or the raft of alternative measures outlined by Charles Clarke, are little more than an over-reaction and extreme safety measure. Sadly an examination of the world-wide situation suggests that we have been comparatively spared in the UK if the writing of Jacoby is given any credence
Islamist xenophobia and violence has many faces. In Sudan, the regime uses chattel slavery, forcible conversion, and mass murder as weapons in its ”jihad” – holy war – against black Africans in the south. Islamist gangs in Egypt carry out deadly pogroms against Coptic Christians. This summer, Afghanistan’s Taliban demolished ancient Buddhist works of art, then ordered every Hindu in the country to wear yellow identification badges. Terrorist networks like Osama bin Laden’s and Islamic Jihad place a premium on killing and wounding Americans. Death sentences are pronounced against authors – like Salman Rushdie or, more recently, the American Khalid Duran – who write books the Islamists don’t approve of. The litany is grim, the victims are many, and the threat is global. (Jacoby J. 2003)
In a perverse way, this particular view actually strengthens the arguments against these measures that we have been discussing here. Because of the overt violence and oppression that we can document(above) that has been occurring in other parts of the world, with the exception of the July 7th bombings and the possibility of the putative two other attacks that we are told have been thwarted, the UK appears to have been comparatively secure in its defences against Islamist fanaticism.
Can one therefore conclude from this that the measures that are in place are manifestly robust enough to largely protect us without the addition of further draconian measures? If one feels able to make such an assumption, then clearly the assumption of further powers and implementation of further measures are perhaps quite superfluous.
The major flaw in that rather teleological argument, is that we simply have no idea of the number of attacks that might have been planned and then thwarted by the Islamists, or for that matter any other militant faction that may feel the need to target the UK. In the infamous words of Martin McGuiness after the Brighton bombings, we only need to be lucky once, you need to be lucky all of the time. (Quoted in Brisk, A1996)
Clearly this is not meant to be an argument either for complacency nor for the reduction of vigilance, but on the face of it, it does appear to be an argument that more stringent anti-terrorist measures are not justified on the grounds that we have examined thus far in the essay. Such a comment may well please those involved in the civil liberties movements, but a balanced argument must clearly contain an element that if even one death of injury can be prevented, then the Government owes it to its people to take all reasonable steps to safeguard them against attack. (Classed J (end) 1999)
The response to Charles Clark’s alternative measures has been unexpectedly muted. This may be a reflection of the fact that the groups who can normally be expected to appear with appropriate comments in the various manifestations of the media, may actually realise and accept that the government has to strike a balance between the defence of freedom and civil liberty and the protection of its citizens against foreign attrition or insurgence. Although they clearly considered the imposition of the 90 day pre-charge detention a step too far, they, largely appear to accept that the raft of measures proposed are still within this elusive but reasonable “balance”.
In this dissertation we have spent a great deal of time unashamedly setting out the Islamist position. Our reasoning being that if we are going to make a comprehensive assessment of the possibility of alternative measures that could potentially be employed to combat the threat of terrorist attack and to protect the interests of National Security, one has first to examine the reasons as to just why it is that those particular factions wish to attack us or perceive us as threat. There are a number of other practical options which can be considered but do not yet appear in any Government policy document that we can uncover. Before we discuss these options, there are a number of other relevant considerations that we should address.
A number of observers consider that there is currently a battle for the soul of the Muslim world. Not, as one might imagine at first consideration, between the West and the Muslim states, as we in the West are actually onlookers in this particular struggle, but between the two major Muslim factions, the Ataturk and Khomeini dispositions. If one considers the global situation, one can observe that the ideologies that are in the ascendance in Turkey, with its newly acquired designs on the EU, are actually Imagist ones, whereas the ideologies that are currently dominant in Islamist Iran are actually the secular ones. (Goodwin, J et al 2000)
We make this point to underline the fact that, in trying to formulate and adopt a policy of National Security, one is observing a dynamic and volatile potential threat. Clearly this makes any assessment of the potential effectiveness of the policy exponentially more difficult, as the world observed at the height of the Cold War. (Godin R et al 2000)
The problem with Islamism, as seen from the perspective of a National Security consideration, is that it changes the factions of normal Islamic society, such as politics, the military and socio-economic considerations, from historically fragmented institutions into sustained and coherent entities. (Karman, C 1988)
To quote the Mufti of Jerusalem again “the Muslims are not socialist nor capitalist; they are Muslims." (quoted in Wilkinson P 2005 pg. 43).Again we can make the point that the Mufti is comparing ideologies (ie, capitalists and socialists) rather than comparing Muslims to Buddhists, Catholics or Jews. It is this ability of Islamism to harness and control state power that renders it so powerful a force to deal with. Some observers have analysed it with the comment “an Islamic-flavoured version of totalitarianism.” (White J 2002).
We have attempted to portray Islamism in a role that is relevant to our discussion here about National Security. The aspects of it that need tube understood in order to formulate a meaningful assessment of its threat to our security. It is not an immediately attractive picture to western orientated eyes. In order to fully evaluate the threat, we have also to ask the question, “What, then, makes Islamism so popular to section of the population?”
The fact of the matter is that Islamism is effectively a system of ideology that transforms and modernises the traditional virtues of Islam itself. It has strong and immutable rules regarding the social roles of women in society and living in an urban community. It is not concerned to the same extent with the traditional problems that are experienced by the peasant farmer in the rural community. It is not an evolution of a medieval ideology but one that actively responds to the stresses of modern day living. (Arson, S et al 1990)
One excellent example that we can use to illustrate the point is the drinking of alcohol. This perfectly illustrates the fundamental differences between traditional Islam and Islamism. In the Sudan which was traditionally an Islamic country, Muslims were barred from drinking alcohol because of their Islamic beliefs, but they had no problem with Christian drinking alcohol if he chose to. When the new Islamist regime took power, then all Sudanese were banned from drinking alcohol irrespective of their personal beliefs. This illustrates the point that we made earlier relating to Islamism selectively borrowing from western ideals as this is the way the western, geographically orientated countries are run. Islam is a personal code, Islamism is a geographically applied ideology (Rosenberg, CA 2003)
The salient point is our deliberations here is that, as we try to devise a strategy towards the threat of terrorism, we must constantly differentiate between Islam and Islamism. The UK does not have a policy which militates against religions, it militates against ideologies.
Having made the point, we are now in a position to consider what other measures could reasonably be employed to reduce the threat to our National Security.
In terms of diplomatic pressure we should actively support those states that contain and control the extreme Islamist elements. It would seem clear that keeping them out of political power is in the UK’s national interest and, arguably in theirs as well. We should also put political, diplomatic and socio-economic pressure on those states that are already Islamist and attempt to persuade them to moderate their tendency to aggressiveness, both to their own people and also to the West in particular.
There is considerable propaganda value, particularly amongst the dissident faction in an Islamist state, in publicising and congratulating those nationals who do take an active role in opposing the Islamist regimes. The other side of that particular argument is to prominently label the Islamist groups who engage in atrocities as terrorists, both in our dealings with those particular countries but also with other global players in the international arena. This would have the effect of creating a psychological barrier between terrorist states and non-terrorist ones. It also clearly would have the effect of marginalisation of the terrorist states amongst the international community. (Kawaka, M 1993)
It is the natural sequitur to this statement that Nations such as teak should not engage in dialogue or overt diplomatic relations with Islamists, neither should they co-operate with them. Such moves would seriously undermine policies which were designed to isolate and exclude them. It would also enhance the political standing of the ruling body in the eyes of its population.
One might also be tempted to suggest that encouraging democratisation and the holding of elections might be a positive move in this regard. We purposely have not included it in this particular list of possibilities simply because study of the events of recent (and, for that matter, distant) historical import, would suggest that, although elections may be the tangible and visible evidence of a democracy, the simple expedient of imposing elections alone is unlikely to be effective.
One only has to consider the situation in Algeria where elections were imposed prematurely, the infrastructure was not in place to sustain the result and instability resulted. (Heinemann, S 2002) This, of course, makes for a fertile breeding ground for both ferment and dissent and therefore can effectively be considered counterproductive. We must not assume that such events only occur in uncivilised areas. We only need to look back to the era of the English Civil War and the imposition of the Rump Parliaments to appreciate that exactly the same situation occurred in this country – albeit some centuries ago.
The election process, in order to be both stable and stability enhancing, should ideally be the terminal result of a much longer process of change in the fabric of a state. Changes in the legal system, recognition of the rights of minorities (ethnic, religious or other), the ability of the state not to feel threatened by freedom of speech or freedom of assembly are all vital prerequisites to a stable governing process of which elections are only one, highly visible, part. (Crenshaw, M 2003)
If we examine the experience of other countries who have recently emerged into the democratic system, we can see that the process realistically takes about a generation to achieve. Because of this observation we would suggest that the establishment of elections parse. is not a good candidate for inclusion in our list of potential alternatives to the extension of the pre-charge detention period. Clearly it would be considered as a long term goal but more immediate shorter term alternative objectives should be the encouragement of democratisation. This can be done initially on the level of a civic and integrated society and then later with the emergence and encouragement of identifiable political leaders (Crenshaw, M 2003)
Some observers, when considering the answer to the National Security problems, have suggested economic sanctions as an alternative.(Rubenstein, R 2003). We specifically have not included these in our list of possible and preferred options and the reason is exemplified in our reasoning in setting out the various aspects of Islamism at length. There is very little connection between Islamism and socio-economic factors. It does not actually place great store on wealth or poverty, it certainly is not a response to financial deprivation. It does not therefore make sense to use economic tools to try to dismantle Islamist regimes.
Thus far in this dissertation we have focused on the perceived threat from the Islamist faction, but it would be foolish to think that they were the only group who were capable of causing problems to our National Security. For this reason we should also consider more general measures that either could, or to some extent already partially have been put in place to help minimise the risks further
We have already referred to the difficulties that the police, and their technical staff, have in dealing with the technological side of any communication network that their suspects may be using. Encryption is common feature of the modern secure message transfer and with modern electronics, some of the encryption systems are extremely sophisticated. It could be made an offence not to reveal or release encryption keys to the police. This would require modification to Patria of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA). This would have the effect of either helping the police with their legitimate enquiries or failure to surrender such keys would give them grounds for legitimate charge where they could hold the suspect under the current rule of law.
Certain sanctions could be employed with regard to Internet usage. It might be useful to create an offence whereby it was illegal to use the Internet in the encouragement or preparation of acts of terrorism. Clearly this might be more difficult to regulate and may only realistically be a charge open to police after arrest and after examination of computer records.
In respect to police procedures in general terms, there are a number of improvements which could quite reasonably and easily be auctioned which would have the effect of improving the efficiency of the police to deal with potential threats. One operational problem that the police have is that the current Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) does not allow for “Covert Human Intelligence source or Directed Surveillance “authorities to be authorised by an officer from one force area to be used in another force area.
The National Co-ordinator Special Branches (NCSB) is considering moves to streamline the procedure and to remove this anomaly, at least in respect of Special branch operations. This also would have an effect on cutting down the obstacles that are currently in the way of efficient investigation. The police themselves have asked the Home secretary to consider the option of an “all premises” warrant to cover the search of all or any property that is in the possession of their terror suspects.(Ayers R 2005)
In the same way that there are restrictions on surveillance measures, there are also restrictions on warrants for property searches across regions and national borders (England / Scotland for example). Removal, or at least streamlining these procedures could also be a significant help in the investigation of terrorist activity. As far as overseas warrants are concerned the Security Services have to rely on the Secret Intelligence Service to both obtain appropriate warrants and also to execute them, which is clearly both cumbersome and inefficient.
There is still scope for further control and security measures at ports and points of entry into this country. Lord Carlyle (Carlyle 2005)prepared a review of the situation and concluded that entry points needed “constant attention” and surveillance. Some of his particular recommendations included the installation of CCTV and recognition systems at points of entry. He noted that there was a temptation for Port Authorities to “succumb to commercial pressure” and therefore he suggested that there should be a national requirement to enforce the provision of such measures.
Ports are not the only method of access into this country. The current regulations (Terrorism Act 2000) require that all commercial flights are notified to the police within a designated area known as the Common Travel Area (CTA). The police have stated that they would like notification of all flights , not just commercial ones and particularly those that are of short duration from Europe. There is clearly a possibility of infiltration and possible illegal entry.
In addition to these measures, the police have also suggested that they would require a change in the regulation relating to the problems of disclosure in any criminal proceedings. They would like a change in the disclosure rules to allow for the non-disclosure of any “sensitive techniques or practices” . Other areas where they might be positive scope for change could be in the area of the post arrest interviews. At present, there is a requirement placed on defendants in fraud trials of compulsory answers to questions. In other words, they cannot have the option to not reply and to allow any jury to infer what they will from the silence. This compulsion to answer could reasonably be extended to terrorist interrogations to maximise the impact of potential silence when the jury is deliberating.
Clearly there are any number of procedural measures that could be suggested to tighten up or streamline the both the pre- and post-arrest systems in the country, but all have to be weighed up in the perpetual balance of fairness against expediency.
In this dissertation we have examined the recent legislative furore which has recently erupted over the inclusion in the recent Government legislation of the 90 day pre-charge detention period and its subsequent rejection by the House of Commons. This is only a small (albeit vital) element of our discussion, because it serves as catalyst for the examination of other possible measures that could be available to the Government as it has been deprived of what it publicly considered to be the cornerstone of its anti-terrorism measures.
Our consideration has included those elements that have been proposed by the police and security forces as necessary as well as those measures that have been proposed by the Home Secretary. In order to consider the situation further we have had to consider in some depth the fundamental nature of the Islamist threat to our National Security.
Islamism appears to be currently identified as the major terrorist threat in the western world at the present moment. It is clearly both powerful force and a potent ideology. In terms of global representation, Islamism currently is the majority force in countries such as Iran, Sudan, and Afghanistan. In other countries, while not actually in power it is a significant opposition force for example Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority. (Holden 2003). It is therefore in these countries in particular that the measures that have been outlined in the latter part of this dissertation are arguably the most important. The ability to support the ruling party and to help it to marginalise the opposition Islamist party is seen as a positive step towards UK National Security.
Some estimates of Islamist activity put it at about 10% of the world’s Muslims. This is not a very helpful estimate as they generally represent an extremely active and vocal minority and their influence is out of all proportion to their actual numbers. (Wiktorowicz Q 2002)
We have largely considered the role of the Islamist population in foreign countries, but we must remember that three of the four militants who involved in the London bombings of July 7th were UK born.(Ayers R 2005). To a degree, this makes the surveillance easier but we then return to the issue of the possible alternatives to pre-charge detention . In general terms, the measures outlined by Charles Clarke(set out above) are, in part, designed to deal with the “home grown threat”. Options of criminal conviction if a UK National or deportation if a naturalised citizen are the options that are already in place and, in the case of the London bombers, the law has taken due and proper course and appears to have dealt with the threat more than adequately.
The point about “home grown activists” must not be dismissed lightly. Although we have observed that Islamists account for about 10% of the global population of Muslims, we are at a loss to find any estimate of the number of active Islamists in the UK at the present moment. Some commentators point to the “ vociferous and active minority” ( 1999 pg. 22.) but do not comment about their overall numbers.
Critical opinion seems to suggest that when the Islamists come to powering a country, they create enormous problems for the people that they rule. One has only to consider the examples of Sudan, and more recently Afghanistan, to fully appreciate that despite their obvious authority in the countries, socio-economic disintegration is an apparent hallmark of their administration. This leads to instability and instability poses a problem on the global front, both for their immediate geographical neighbours and also (demonstrably) for the western world –viz. New York, London, Madrid.
Our comments relating to the problems of Islamism in power therefore are not totally self-serving. One only has to examine the problems of oppression of women, the socio-economic upheaval, the abuses in the field of both civil liberty and associated Human Rights, the rapid increase in the carrying of weapons by the population and the violence with which dissent is dealt with, are equally on a par with the threat that is posed by the terrorism aspect of their administration. We shall not consider this argument further because it is really peripheral tithe main thrust of our considerations in this essay. On the global arena, they are considered to be rogue states, demonstrably dangerous to their own population and presumptively dangerous to the western world.. (Weiss H 2002)
Although we have directly considered measures that can be employed to reduce the direct Islamist threat, we have most overlooked more general measures that could be employed against other groups and organisations. Most of these alternatives come under the general heading of procedural changes in the administration of either the police force or the regulations concerning their constraints and behaviour after the arrest of a suspect.
If the whole issue of the alternatives to the 90 day pre-charge detention could be summed up in one sentence or one concept, then it would probably be that it is a clash of ideas and ideologies that area the fundamental root of our current problems with National Security– not religion.
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