This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/3359
February 14, 2008
Lord Chief Justice Lord Philips stated possessing extremist material is not a crime
Britain has become a soft touch for terrorists, leading defence experts warn today.
The world-renowned Royal United Services Institute delivers an unprecedented attack on the Government's security policy.
It warns that a failure to "lay down the line" to immigrant populations is undermining the fight against domestic extremism.
It condemns the country's "fragmented" national identity and obsession with multiculturalism.
And it accuses ministers of a "piecemeal and erratic response" to urgent threats to the nation and of starving the armed forces of cash to the point of "chronic disrepair".
The security think tank, which has unrivalled contact with senior political and military figures, urges ministers to abandon "flabby and bogus strategic thinking" and to make the defence of the realm the "first duty of Government".
The bleak assessment follows two blows this week to Labour's anti-terror strategy.
Appeal judges have given an Algerian pilot the go-ahead to claim compensation which could run into millions for being wrongly accused of training the September 11 hijackers.
And five young Muslim men had their convictions for terrorist offences quashed by the Appeal Court.
Laws making it a crime to possess extremist jihadi propaganda and literature could now have to be re-written and dozens more prosecutions could collapse after senior judges ruled that police and prosecutors must prove to juries that terror suspects not only possessed potentially dangerous material but were intent on using it in an attack. Read more...
In Wednesday's ruling the Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips stated that unless there was clear evidence of "terrorist intent", merely possessing or sharing extremist material did not amount to a crime.
The law was designed to help police catch so-called "clean-skins" - would-be terrorists who have yet to carry out an atrocity but are in the early stages of planning one.
But the effect of the ruling is that the police will struggle to build a watertight case against suspects based on such early planning or research for an attack, and will instead be forced to wait until plans are far more advanced - increasing the risk of a successful atrocity.
Scroll down for more...
(clockwise from top left) Akbar Butt; Usman Malik; Mohammed Raja; Aitzaz Zafar; Awaab Iqbal have all had their convictions for terrorist offences quashed by the Appeal Court
The Appeal Court ruling was the latest instance of counter-terrorist laws being defeated or watered down by senior judges, but RUSI's damning report raises fundamental questions over the Government's ability to protect Britain from the gravest threats.
The work of a panel of senior military commanders, diplomats, politicians and academics, it contrasts the erosion of national confidence with the "implacability" of Islamist terrorists.
The study calls for a radical shake-up of government to take away oversight of security and defence from "the arena of short-term party politics" - in the same way that interest rates are now set independently of politicians.
"The United Kingdom presents itself as a target, as a fragmenting, post-Christian society, increasingly divided about interpretations of its history, about its national aims, its values and in its political identity," it states.
By contrast those who refuse to integrate into British society have a "firm self-image".
"This is a problem worsened by the lack of leadership from the majority which in misplaced deference to "multiculturalism" failed to lay down the line to immigrant communities, thus undercutting those within them trying to fight extremism.
"We look like a soft touch. We are indeed a soft touch, from within and without."
The authors suggest the world is living through a "time of remission" between the September 11 attacks six years ago and a yet-worse future atrocity which will deliver "an even greater psychological blow".
The British people are "uncertain" about wars abroad, fearful over security at home and doubtful over the "muddling" of responsibility for protecting them between Westminster and Brussels.
"Repeated assertions by ministers that all is well, that the matter is well in hand and can be safely left to them to manage in-house, no longer carry conviction," the report warns.
Against this backdrop a serious decline in the armed forces has left Britain "open to ambush", with the military engulfed in an "atmosphere of chronic disrepair".
The RUSI study echoes concerns raised by five former heads of the armed forces who spoke out against military underfunding in the House of Lords last year.
UK presents itself as a target for attacks such as 7/7 bombing in Tavistock Square in 2005
It likens the lack of adequate spending on defence over the past ten years to "a breach made by the defenders themselves in the walls of their own city".
The report particularly condemns the savage cuts to the Royal Navy in recent years, accusing politicians of suffering from "sea blindness".
The Navy has seen its fleet of warships and submarines as well as its manpower drastically reduced in recent years, and is struggling to maintain training in the face of crippling budget pressures.
Britain now has a "bare-bones defence and security establishment", according to the report's authors, yet we lack the knowledge of future threats which would justify such a risk.
New threats are emerging besides Islamist terrorism - "ferocious" Russian nationalism, climate change and competition for resources - while international bodies which Britain relies on such as the United Nations, Nato and the EU are "weakening".
The report urges a return to "traditional alliances with the English-speaking world" - particularly the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Canada - adding: "Foul-weather friends are to be preferred to fair- weather friends; and the British people know precisely which are which."
It calls for oversight of security and defence to be handed to two new committees - one joint Lords and Commons group, chaired by a senior opposition MP, tasked with identifying gaps in security, and another within the Cabinet to coordinate activity across the whole of Government.
Tory security spokesman Baroness Neville-Jones said: "This report sends a powerful message to Government that leadership is badly lacking at a time of significant threat to our country. Conservatives agree that multiculturalism has been a disaster for national cohesion and has increased our vulnerability to the terrorist threat."
With the Government's long-awaited National Security Strategy due to be published within days, the damning attack by such respected experts will add to the intense scrutiny of policies on terrorism and defence.
The Ministry of Defence rejected RUSI's warnings of military decline, saying: "The UK's Armed Forces have the ability to meet the broad range of tasks they may be required to undertake, often at short notice.
"They have a battle-winning capability that is second to none. The broad range of capability gives us insurance against the inherent uncertainty of the future." http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=514523&in_page_id=1770
Has Britain become soft on terror?
padding-top-5 padding-bottom-15">As home-grown terrorists are aquitted, a new report says a lack of national identity has made us vulnerableRichard Woods and David Leppard
In late February 2006 Mohammed Irfan Raja, a 17-year-old schoolboy from Ilford, east London, packed a bag and left home, apparently bent on pursuing Islamist terrorism. On his computer was a martyrdom song and under his mattress a letter he had left for his parents.
It said he was going to fight abroad and promised: "We will meet in the garden of paradise." It added: "PS. Just in case you think I am going to [do] something in this country, you can rest easy that I am not."
In fact Raja headed not abroad but to Bradford, where he met other British Muslims who had been downloading extremist material about suicide attacks and bomb-making. Raja stayed with his new-found friends for three days.
A few weeks later, another group of British citizens began meeting in private, talking about jihad and discussing radical ideas. They were a rather different bunch, though not without military expertise. They included Field Marshal the Lord Inge, Lord Salisbury, scion of the noble political family, General Sir Rupert Smith and Gwyn Prins, a historian.
Hidden among clothing were goods selected and purchased to support the activities of terrorists, a court was told
Last week these diverse faces of modern Britain collided with explosive force. First, Raja and four of his associates were acquitted by the Court of Appeal of terrorist offences, despite the horrible nature of the material they had viewed and downloaded, which included graphic images of US troops being killed in Iraq.
The judgment appeared to be a severe blow to Britain's fight against terror, blasting a hole in laws intended to nip attacks in the bud.
Two days later Prins and Salisbury let loose a cri de coeur entitled Risk, Threat and Security, which was the fruit of their group's discussions. The report, published through the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think tank, declared Britain's security to be at risk and its vulnerability to be down to a "loss of confidence in our own identity, values, constitution and institutions".
Blaming multicultural Britain, the report concluded with a classic soundbite: "We look like a soft touch. We are indeed a soft touch, from within and without."
It was a gift to headline writers. "Soft touch UK", blared one newspaper; "Britain a soft touch for home grown terrorists", read another.
The government naturally rejected the charges, intoning: "The safety and security of our citizens is the government's main priority."
One liberal think tank described the RUSI report as "to use the vernacular, bollocks". Yet a security expert at another think tank called it "one of the most impressive pieces of work I have seen for years".
The public could be forgiven for being confused. What is the reality of Britain's efforts to combat terrorism: impressive or rubbish? Soft or tough?
THE RUSI report and the case of Raja and his codefendants reflect two important strands in Britain's engagement with terror: the strength of our security apparatus and the nation's cultural identity.
Even in the security services few would argue that Britain has been growing soft on terror; rather, the trend has been the other way.
In the past seven years, the government has brought in four acts of parliament dealing directly with terrorism. New offences and penalties have been created, alongside new powers for the police and intelligence services. The measures include detention without charge for up to 28 days which ministers want to increase to 42 days control orders (virtual house arrest), restrictions on protest and free speech, and offences of acts "preparatory to terrorism".
Nor can the security services claim to be short of funds. After the London suicide bombings in July 2005, the budget covering MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, the eavesdropping centre, rose 65% to a figure that will be more than £2 billion this year.
MI5's manpower will nearly double to 3,600 by this April (compared with 2001) and it has massively expanded operations against 200 suspected terror groups comprising about 2,000 individuals.
MI5 has also set up regional offices in Birmingham, Man-chester, Leeds, Cardiff, Glas-gow and other cities. Officials say it is developing what it calls a "rich picture" of local extremism.
"It's basic intelligence work. You need to start from a position of knowing who you've got and where they are on your patch," one official said. "That requires increasing the depth and breadth of our understanding of local communities."
A formidable trio of new officials is set to continue this transformation. Charles Farr, director-general of the new Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, is recruiting 200 hand-picked civil servants to counter Muslim radicalisation. "He has really shaken things up," said an official who knows him.
Jonathan Evans, the new boss of MI5, is seen as a tough and effective operator, as is Bob Quick, who becomes the Metropolitan police's assistant commissioner in charge of antiterrorism in 10 days' time.
The security services claim more than 20 Islamist terror plots in Britain have been thwarted, with only one succeeding. More than 1,000 people have been arrested under terrorism laws and more than 200 of them convicted.
Raja and his associates were caught up in this tough new approach. They were charged with possessing material "for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism". They were found guilty and sentenced to a total of 13 years in jail. Given that they had committed no attacks, it was hardly an example of being soft on terror.
When the Appeal Court overturned that judgment last week the government is considering an appeal to the law lords many people were confused. Why, they asked, were people jailed for downloading child pornography, but not for downloading violent jihadi material?
The answer is that the law on child pornography is clear: it is an offence to take, make or possess indecent photographs of children.
By contrast, the Appeal Court decided the law on what constitutes material preparatory to terrorism is far from clear. Explosives are one thing, jihadi videos another. The judges decided the prosecution had not proven Raja and the others were really going to carry out any attacks.
The acquittals were down to badly drafted law, not softness on terror.
Keith Vaz, Labour chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, said: "We have some of the toughest laws in the civilised world and they are about to get tougher." BUT for Prins the detection and conviction of extremists is the end point of a more important part of the fight against terrorism: disseminating a vision of British values so the various communities that live here do not become radicalised.
Dean Godson, a security expert at the think tank the Policy Exchange, said of the report: "It doesn't deal with specific legislation or whether we need 25 extra battalions or whatever. It deals with vital but unobvious elements. It's very impressive on how soft power such as education can impact on hard power."
The RUSI report presents a damning analysis of the UK, saying the country "presents itself as a target, as a fragmenting, postChristian society, increasingly divided about interpretations of its history, about its national aims, its values and in its political identity".
This is only made worse "by the firm self-image of those elements within it who refuse to integrate".
In short, a weak and flabby national culture has, by bending over backwards to accommodate outsiders, left itself open to attack by strong-minded radicals.
The divide is evident on popular UK websites. Yesterday one called Islambase carried an article entitled Democracy (False Religion), declaring that parliament is "haram" unlawful or forbidden because its laws should not be preferred to sharia Islamic law.
Another article, called Integration, listed "forbidden types of integration" including voting and going to a cinema, swimming pool or nightclub.
Opinion polls have shown that extreme views are held by significant minorities. An ICM survey of British Muslims in 2006 found that a fifth of respondents had "some sympathy with the feelings and motives" of the London suicide bombers.
Critics of the RUSI report say there are more complicated factors at work behind terrorism. Ian Kearns, deputy director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, said: "[The report] is a spurious account of how divided we are. It's even more spurious to say that makes us ripe for being a target for terrorism.
"Their analysis is shockingly poor. It ignores other reasons for radicalisation, including the social exclusion of young Pakistani men."
Nevertheless, Kearns agrees there is a need for an "essential minimum" in being part of British society, including "a belief in democratic values, the rule of law and a commitment to nonviolence".
For many years under Labour, that minimum was lacking. Preachers of hate, such as Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada, were allowed to spout violent antiwestern messages so freely that the capital was dubbed "Londonistan". Britain was soft and, as the historian Michael Burleigh puts it, "in the extremist mind, tolerance equates to degeneracy".
Some politicians have since rowed back from multiculturalism. Gordon Brown has emphasised British values. The government has brought in new rules on citizenship. And Abu Hamza was eventually jailed for soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred; he is likely to be extradited to the US on other charges.
Yet it remains a sensitive topic. The furore surrounding the RUSI report has made some interested parties reluctant to fan the flames. The Equality and Human Rights Commission declined to comment for this article, saying the views of its chairman, Trevor Phillips, are well known. He has said that multiculturalism has led to Britain "sleepwalking to segregation".
But the question remains: after decades of multiculturalism, is there a way back?
Godson believes there is, citing the way the apparently immovable power of the trade unions in the 1960s and 1970s was overcome.
"People said it was inescapable. You had to talk to Jack Jones [boss of the transport workers' union]; you had to talk to Arthur Scargill [the miners' leader].
"Lord Salisbury [of the RUSI panel] was first elected with Margaret Thatcher: he saw that you could have a sea change, that attitudes can be turned round."
The problem is finding the long-term political will to do so. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article3382193.ece
This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/3359