Tag Archives: TWAT

Security sense

This is quite an astonishing news item.

East Lancashire youngsters see film on terrorism danger
More than 2,000 10 and 11-year-olds will see a short film, which urges them to tell the police, their parents or a teacher if they hear anyone expressing extremist views.
The film has been made by school liaison officers and Eastern Division’s new Preventing Violent Extremism team, based at Blackburn….
The terrorism message is also illustrated with a re-telling of the story of Guy Fawkes, saying that his strong views began forming when he was at school in York. It has been designed to deliver the message of fighting terrorism in accessible way for children. (from the Lancashire Telegraph)

(h/t Bruce Schneier’s blog)

No, really. It’s a real news item. You can check. I didn’t make it up.

It seems that the area around Lancashire is quite fertile territory for anyone trying to get kids to do free police-work. This blog item is also about kids being recruited to provide low-level spying services in their community. A Sefton school designed posters for a Community Information Box initiative. These are displayed in libraries, buses and so on. Sadly, I can’t find an image of the winning poster online but I’ve had my attention drawn to one.

The poster presents a list of things that public-spirited citizens should look out for and drop anonymous notes about in their local Community Information Box. The list is bizarrely inclusive: from swearing and dog-crap through to real crimes like physical attacks and terrorism.

(I hope that the anonymity is designed to protect the kids from life-threatening comebacks if they accidentally inform on some really vicious people. However, this only works if you assume that really vicious people are not just vicious but are also too stupid to make inferences about who reported them, from the content, context and timing of information. And I rather suspect some of them may have those skills. So, I hope that they also have a child witness protection programme in place. )

I really hope that the school students generated the volunteer informer’s checklist, rather than some adult with no sense of perspective. Because, although I am still womanfully resisting a fear of terrorism that is used to manipulate us out of any concern for our civil liberties, I can’t help but be filled with the fear of creeping totalitarianism.

What a wonderful tool for any authoritarian state – compliant children, ready to report any odd behaviour or unorthodox opinions to the authorities out of fear of potential terrorism.

So, what a good job that our democracy is so secure. It’s not as if real extremists – say, people promoting a myth of indigenous ethic Britishness, frinstance – are getting any spurious legitimacy as a result of a British population that has been driven half-mad by its fear of dicey expenses claims, or anything……… Well, that’s OK then isn’t it?

Miliband says “sorry about that”

The UK Foreign Secretary has admitted The War Against Terror was a “mistake” in today’s Guardian and even accepts that it was counter-productive

(Well, d’uh.)

Much better late than never, as the saying goes. Still, I wonder why any UK ministers failed to notice this glaringly obvious fact until today?

Miliband didn’t say “I, for one, welcome our new saner overlords” but he could have.

Not before time

Bin Laden’s driver may have helped bring about the Beginning of the end for Guantanemo, according to the BBC.

Well, this is a closure long overdue, to put it mildly. But the repercussions may take much longer to play themselves out. On the subject of the return of Yemeni citizens to their own countries,

..the US is concerned about Yemen’s ability to monitor and rehabilitate them.
Three of the seven men involved in an attack against the US embassy in Yemen in September were former Guantanamo detainees who had gone through the Yemeni rehabilitation programme. (from the BBC)

Hmm. The US government held these people, without trial, in torture conditions for years. I don’t think you can blame the Yemeni government for the ex-prisoners’ desire to harm the US.

This shows that Gitmo was effectively a terrorism training camp. At the very least, it will have massively boosted the will of former detainees to attack the USA. Beyond this, its very existence has boosted the ideological support for Islamic terrorism, in general

In the week of the horrific shootings in Mumbai, this seems a particularly stupid strategy.

Things for the USA to attack

TW’s last post referred to the New Scientist report that archaeologists are displaying common decency and refusing to list monuments to be protected in the event of a US strike on Iran.

Clearly, America hates anywhere that starts with the letters “IR”

And needs help to draw up attack maps. I will do the job that the archaeologists are too humane to do and list places that the US might like to attack:

  • Iraq (Sorry, too late, they already thought of that )
  • Iran
  • Ireland
  • the Iroquois nation (Sorry, too late)

Well there’s only Ireland left. And I don’t think it’s overburdened with recognised world-class archaeological sites to obstruct the handily disposable population. Be very afraid, people of Dublin. (Dublin museum has some fantastic Viking era relics but the site they came from has already been dug up, with an office block stuck over it. The artefacts are all in the museum, in handily lootable form.)

Don’t worry, USA. I checked your own states and only 4 even start with the letter “I” (Idaho, Illinois,Indiana, Iowa) However, I don’t want to worry the citizens of these states but you may be next in the frame after Ireland. Or at least, after wars have been waged against Italy (Luckily for Italy, it has way too much archaeology to be a first strike choice), Iceland, Indonesia and the Isle of Man. Oh, and Israel… (well maybe not that one.)

A few more suggestions for quick and easy wins, thanks to online dictionaries and wikapedia:

  • Irish stew (an Irish excursion should do for this without using any extra firepower)
  • Iridium (some sort of chemical. No idea if this is actually part of weapons tech but that would be killing two birds with one stone if it was)
  • Ira Gershwin (He seems to be dead though.)
  • Irenaeus 2nd century bishop of Lugdunum, Gaul (He’s likely to be already dead too. He may even count as archaeology.)
  • Irapuã – a municipality in São Paulo state (seems to have population of 6,000 or so, barely worth the effort)
  • Irony
    (Not much good. You can’t wage war on an abstract noun, can you? Oh sorry, yes, you can. Terror. Drugs. Obesity, even. Ok irony stays in)

Swedish surveillance

Last bastion of progressive liberal democracy, Sweden? Sorry, no.

Not to be outdone by the UK and Germany, the Swedes are also now jumping on the “get as many repressive powers as you like, cos the TWAT justifies everything” Euro- bandwagon. According to the Register the Swedish parliament has just passed a law that will allow bugging of all comms.

Sweden ushers in bugging for all

(one commenter on the Register mistook the fourth word in this headline for a longer, although possibly apt word.)

This story might give you an uncanny sense case of deja vu, if you live in the UK (or pretty well anywhere else )

Under the new law, all communication across Swedish borders will be tapped, and information can also be traded with international security agencies, such as America’s National Security Agency…..Key members of parliament who were likely to vote against the proposition were put under pressure by their parties, according to some reports.

The Register had earlier reported that Parliament had defeated the law. Hiowever, the government got the vote by making a few concessions. It’s setting up an agency to monitor the granting of permissions, though , so these powers will never be misused then…. (*sarcasm*)

Despite receiving copies of George Orwell’s book 1984 from protesters earlier this week, MPs from Sweden’s ruling party believe the law does not constitute the final nail in the coffin of democracy.

Well, duh, 1984 is starting to become a blueprint.

An external group comprising members appointed by the government will monitor privacy and integrity issues

Oh, so impartial oversight is in place then. My bad. (*more pathetic sarcasm*)

Last irony on 42 days

BBC News24 interviewed the representatives of the “winners”, Keith Vaz and the leader of the parliamentary DUP.

Keith Vaz looked like someone who was eating a mouthful of shit while trying to cover up his innate gagging response. He claimed he would have voted against it, if not for the “concessions.” He’d better hope he gets paid back handsomely for his vote in the next reshuffle or he’ll have shown himself to have been spineless rather than merely careerist.

On the other hand, the DUP representative looked like the cat who’d just swallowed a bowlful of cream. (Possibly with a delicious dead mouse chaser.) He said the DUP voted with the government as a matter of principle. Oh yeah? He denied there was any sweetener for Northern Ireland. Although, if there just happened to be extra wodges of public money coming NI’s way, he would welcome it. He didn’t even try to keep from grinning.

(Vaz only stopped gagging to be caught in a snigger when the DUP guy said that, although their votes weren’t bought, the NI parliament would welcome any coincidental gift from the government.)

Government won by 9 votes. DUP miraculous conversions to Labour votes were … oh, let me see if I’ve got this right… Hmm that will be 9.

With supreme irony, he said the DUP voted with the government because the NI troubles meant they knew about terrorism. Well, almost certainly, they do. Most of us on the mainland find it very hard to distinguish between Unionist politicians and Protestant terrorists, for a start.

Maybe, I don’t understand this boring political stuff. But, this looks disturbingly like a government pushing through its 42-days TWAT measure by buying off a terrorist front organisation to defeat the opposition of 36 principled Labour MPs (and principled Tories and Liberal Democrats. Credit to all)

Tony Benn said that he’d never dreamed that he’d be present in Parliament to see the rights gained by Magna Carta being unmade.

Absolutely spot on, but, if he was less statesmanlike he might have added, “through an alliance that would fit seamlessly into a plot synopsis for Godfather IV.”

*****************************
I almost promise this will be the last on this fiasco. It has driven both T_W and me to distraction (along with Amnesty International, Liberty, the Tory and Liberal Shadow Home Secretaries, the thinking broadsghheet editirs, brave Labour MPs like Grogan and Abbott, long-time Labour stalwarts like Benn, old Uncle Tom Cobbley and all…) It’s probably going to be defeated in the House of Lords, anyway, but I will try not to not mention it until that happy day.

Miss Marple under threat

Blogging comedy gold uncovered. The slim grasp on reality that we associate with Wingnut Daily is yet again proved to be truly anorexic. According to worldnet daily

Picturesque villages now terror ‘hot spots’
Al-Qaida suspected of moving cells into British countryside

This article, which asks the (by definition) gullible reader to cough up $99 to read the full report, suggests that sleepy villages in the West Country and the Cotswolds are in imminent danger.

The British intelligence service MI5 has redrawn its electronic map of Britain’s “hot spots” terrorist targets – to include provincial university towns, colleges and picturesque villages close to high-security installations

Well, Worldnet Daily, maybe you need to grasp the most basic facts about English demographics. Picturesque Cotswold and West Country villages are incredibly expensive to live in, without offering many ways to make a living that bring even the minimum wage. (Sting and Madonna are the sort of people who can afford to buy houses there. These villages are “picturesque” and historic and remote, remember. The rest of us can only dream of living there.)

The handful of Muslims living in them are therefore very rich and generally, almost by definition, not keen on extremist politics and, well, suicide. They aren’t alienated and uneducated youths on the London-tube-bombings model.

And even if they were, they could hardly engage in plotting subterfuge without it being noticed by everybody in their villages. These are not inner-city neighbourhoods where you don’t recognise the person who lives next door. Like country people the world over, the local residents probably know which brand of toothpaste you use, after you’ve lived there a week. And, mass immigration having largely passed these villages by, they aren’t so used to Islamic residents that they wouldn’t pay obsessive attention to them.

And yes, there are high-security installations dotted around these areas. They are protected by security professionals. That’s why you can call them “high-security installations”, Wingnut Daily. The clue’s in the name.

These picturesque villages represent England to many people in the US, thanks to Miss Marple and several other fictional detectives. Books, movies and TV shows give the impression that Baltimore would be hard-pushed to rival the murder rate of the real-world versions of fictional villages like St Mary Mead and Midsomer Norton.

It almost pains me to have to report that this is fiction. You know, Worldnet Daily, “made-up stuff”. Like the idea that large numbers of crazy terrorists are operating in these places, unnoticed by the rest of the local population.

Deutsche malware

A Nelson-esque “Ha Ha” if you thought that other EC countries might be havens where the seemingly outdated Euro-values (justice, tolerance, protection under the law, presumption of innocence, free speech) are still observed.

The government of Germany (that’s the combined former East & West Germanies. Remember East Germany? That’s the one with the Stasi and a population that was so avid for freedom 20 years ago) has approved what the Register calls a Plod-spyware law.

This handy law will give the German government the “anti-terror” powers to monitor private homes, phones and computers. Don’t you just love the TWAT? Any government in the world can now take any powers they fancy just by invoking its name.

Instead of tapping phones, they would be able to use video surveillance and even spy software to collect evidence. Physically tampering with suspects’ computers would still not be allowed, but police could send anonymous e-mails containing trojans and hope the suspects infect their own computers (from the Register story)

Wow, government spam that carries malware! Did I put enough exclamation marks there? Here are more!!!!!!!

These powers will only be used in exceptional cases, yada, yada, usw. Oh yeah?

There have been already been several recent scandals about over-the-top surveillance in Germany (Lidl, Deutsche Telecom, usw) Although, unlike the UK, at least the Germans don’t yet seem to lose personal data on a biblical scale. But, if the Lidl surveillance is any guide, they see information on the dates of surveillees’ menstruation as worth gathering

XanderG made a beautifully phrased comment on a WgyDontYou post a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve never understood how we’re supposed to find a needle in a haystack, by chucking in more hay. So many of these measures simply add dead-ends and wild goose chases to an already massive monitoring system. How are we going to catch anybody with real malicious plans? (XanderG)

If a government REALLY cares about preventing terrorism, it is blatantly illogical to collect massive amounts of information on the general public. It’s well nigh inconceivable how much information is flying around in a noughts-and-ones format.

For instance, almost every person I passed in a half-hour walk was having a mobile phone conversation – including three dog-walkers and two cyclists. (Cycling, in traffic, ffs. Unselfish people, trying to cull themselves for the good of the gene pool) Pretty well every house in my low-income street has a relatively-fast broadband connection. There are enough traffic cameras and public CCTV installations in a 500 yard radius to provide a year’s 24-hour broadcast reality tv on every known channel.

Scale this level of data traffic up to the population of the UK and Germany. Unless half the population is engaged in monitoring this hurricane of electronic noise – using the most advanced pattern recognition and cryptographic algorithms known to science – anyone who is gathering this data might as well not bother.

Well not if they care about detecting real social threats anyway. It might come in very handy for finding people who are spoofing their address to get their kid into a school slightly out of their area. Or it might catch someone who hasn’t paid their car tax or is claiming invalidity benefit while working (as the threatening TV and billboard ads keep telling us).

It might not seem to make sense but I have finally figured it out, with the help of the Matrix and the Church of Scientology.

Clearly, the earth is threatened by a monstrous alien intelligence that eats human data. It can only be kept at bay by feeding it gargantuan stores of bytes. Earth rulers are doing us a favour by collecting all our data and recycling it as xenofood to stuff in the gaping maw of the evil extraterrestrial overlord Zarg. They can’t tell us the truth because there would be a global panic.

A question for the lawyers out there – Sending malware in spam may not be a crime if the German police are doing it. But would installing this malware become a crime if the recipient of a German-police email were to forward the spam to, say, a member of the German government? The government of another country? A major corporation? At what point?

The art of war

As a reminder of the UK’s old TWAT, there are some amazing photos of Belfast’s militant art in the Belfast set on the Flickr site of Gerry Ward.

I have been told that many of these Northern Ireland murals have been painted over as part of the peace process, which is a pretty powerful artistic metaphor for political processes that are painting over the old sectarian divisions.

I feel completely ambivalent about these images. I’m not exactly convinced that seeing adverts for murder – with direct sentimental appeals to religion, nationalism, a sense of injustice – can be anything other than spurs to cultivate hatred. I am, deliberately, putting this in too mealy-mouthed a way. In reality, this is propaganda that helped to foster violence for decades.

At the same time, I don’t like the idea of erasing history. And many of these murals are chillingly beautiful. On balance, I would like to feel that the NI population is reaching a condition in which they can appreciate the paintings as historical truth, while marvelling at the alienness of the world-views expressed in this art of war.

But, what has the UK government learned after 30-odd years of homegrown warfare? Nothing like enough, it seems. Gordon Brown seems to think there is no comparison with the current TWAT, almost presenting the IRA/UVF with the same self-deluding nostalgia as the lunatics who talk about the era of the Krays, as if they were lovable cockney villains.

One lesson is surely be that repression fuels resistance. As in the instance of the murals, repression can spark awe-inspiring levels of creativity in the expression of resistance. But, repression, in itself, is pretty bad at dispersing the will to resist. (Think French Resistance or Yugoslav and Italian partisans in World War II.) The only road to peace is conflict resolution. It always comes to that in the end, unless we are going to make war on abstract nouns for ever.

Brown crap

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has a guest spot in the Times in which he continues to argue for 42-day detention without trial. Even the headings take your breath away.

42-day detention; a fair solution
The complexity of today’s terrorist plots means the Government needs more powers

“A fair solution”? I detect a new and specialist use of the word “fair.” It obviously isn’t going to be “fair” to any falsely accused suspects. So, it’s hard to see who is meant to benefit from this concern for even-handedness.

“Solution”? Solution to which problem, exactly? To the problem of detecting active terrorists? Clearly not, that is an intelligence and policing issue. How will these activities be made any more effective by capturing random people, when there is no evidence against them, and and waiting for them to crack? The text claims that it’s fair to the police because it takes ages to root through computer files.

Oh, ffs. Are terrorists really so stupid that they write all their plots down in Word documents and store them on their PCs. Let’s assume, for a moment, that is the case. It wouldn’t take a criminal mastermind to decide to stop doing that, the very first time such evidence got any of them arrested.

It certainly can’t be a “solution” to the problem of their being alienated groups of people with the will to commit terrorist acts. As far as I can see, it’s actually a quick way to manufacture terrorists. Every falsely detained person will mean more and more people become alienated from UK society.

“More powers”? That is, powers that go beyond ubiquitous video surveillance, monitoring every email message and phone call, ID cards and photographing almost every journey? Would it it even be possible to come up with many more “powers” short of plugging our brains into a national monitoring system and modelling policing on Minority Report?

Brown says:

Britain has lived with terrorist threats for decades. But I am under no illusion that today’s threats are different in their scale and nature from anything we have faced before. Today in Britain there are at least 2,000 terrorist suspects, 200 networks or cells and 30 active plots.

Yes, Britain has lived with terrorist threats for decades. Not just threats. Major terrorist actions. So, when Briown says, he is “under no illusion that today’s threats are different,” I first assume that he means that he realises that the current “TWAT” is not really different from the Irish bombing campaigns. (Which were addressed without a 1984-style social transformation. And were ended through concessions and negotiation. And provided the example of how internment served to consolidate support for PIRA… A lesson that the current government seems willfully determine don ignoring )

No such luck. He is really saying – in the face of English grammar – that he is under that very illusion.

Then the numbers. They really annoy me, these “30 active plots” and “200 terror networks”. I have mentioned these spurious statistics before. The very specific numbers have been going the rounds for the best part of a year.

Are we to assume, then, that our police are so stupid that they KNOW there are 30 active plots and they can’t do anything about them? They KNOW about 200 terror networks and they somehow can’t gather the evidence to stop them? What on earth would we be paying these people for?

This is not just nonsense. It insults both the competence of our police and the intelligence of the public.

Brown has apparently started phoning up the public, getting ever more desperate in his attempts to capture the Daily Mail vote, after catastrophic Labour results in the local elections.

This Times guest column appears as his response to an imminent Commons revolt that could put a stop to the 42-day detention plan. Brown has been criticised by friends of the increasingly repellent Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, for not supporting her on the issue.
He is trying to pull in the big guns – the fearful Great British Public – to put the fear into any members of the Parliamentary Labour Party who are going to do the decent thing in next week’s vote.

I say to those with legitimate concerns about civil liberties: look at these practical safeguards against arbitrary treatment. With these protections in place, I believe Parliament should take the right decision for national security.

This would be rather more convincing if there weren’t examples of exactly how well the “protections in place” work, such as in the cases of the student and university staff member and the forbidden manual downloaded from a US government site.

Finally, a good MP

There was a depressing 1984-in-2008 story that wasn’t already blogged to death here (because there are far too many. I have to pace myself.) Here’s the Register’s version. The Register heading and sub-heading give you the flavour of the story:

The New Order: When reading is a crime
Download a book, get arrested

A student downloaded the AlQaeda Training manual, which was on his Politics reading list. He asked his friend – who was on the University staff – to print it for him. The University spotted it in the print queue and called the police. Student and staff member were detained for a week and the member of staff is now about to be deported for “irregularities” in his application to live in the UK, after ten years here. (Yes, you’ve guessed it. They were muslims.)

I’m not going to go into the civil liberties aspects of this. They speak for themselves. Some of the comments on the Register article expressed them better than I can.

Instead I’m going to look on the bright side. This grim and shameful affair has highlighted the fact that there is still a sane and courageous UK Labour MP. No really. Alan Simpson, MP for Nottingham South.

He described the original arrest as a “dreadful cock-up”. The subsequent deportation was a blatant attempt “to try to justify the abuse of that power under the Terrorism Act. If we allow this to be done in our name, in our silent collusion, we become the architects of our own totalitarianism. We live in fear of speaking openly. We live in fear of enquiring and researching openly… We live in fear of the quiet unannounced knock on the door and we live in fear of our own shallowness, in terms of the willingness to stand side-by-side with each other in order to defend the very basis of an open democracy that we claim that terrorism is a threat to.” (From the Register)

Somebody make that man Prime Minister.

This is his home page. I was even deliberately looking for something to stop me posting a fan-post here – to spare my own shame at having to applaud a politician. As far as I can determine (there’s only so much you can read on an MP’s website, ffs) – he doesn’t put a foot wrong. For example, here is a 2007 article he wrote about the Blair and the Iraq War.

However, I found out, from an article in which the Independent was singing his praises last year, that he is resigning at the next election. He is “to carry on campaigning on “green” issues outside Parliament.”

Bah.

An Anonymous Coward comment on the Register article:

don’t believe that this bloke is really “New Labour”! That is the first and only anti-Stasi/ Stalinist/ Big-Brother statement I’ve ever heard from New Labour – it is obvious that he’ll never make the cabinet and that he’ll brought back in line by the Whips.
It was nice while it lasted…

Photographers become new enemies of the state

Greetings, any time travellers who’ve accidentally crash-landed in the present. If you’ve come from ten years ago, say, you really have my sympathy. You may find some things are a bit of shock. I bet this little story will come as a surprise, for a start, but this is just one of the subtle but wonderful improvements we’ve made to your superficially identical world.

Labour MP Austin Mitchell has tabled a Parliamentary motion in support of photographers’ rights.

As a time traveller, you may have idly wondered about the elongated metal rectangles and darkened globes that you see everywhere. They are not uninspired art pieces. These are cameras. CCTV cameras. They don’t need any “rights” because they already have them all. (They are theoretically under the control of some data protection law that says you can have any footage of you but Dom Joly showed, on television last week, that you have a 0 out of 35 chance of getting it.)

It turns out that it’s only the meat-based photographers who are short of rights. The humanoids with visble cameras, with lenses and lens caps and a carrying strap and a bag full of odds and ends. These humanoids are increasingly being challenged for taking pictures. Camerabots are free to take pictures of whatever they want. I think it’s guaranteed in Asimov’s Forth Law of Robotics or something.

The BBC page mentions a photographer who was stopped from taking a picture of a soap star switching on Christmas lights. (I will pointedly not wonder why anyone wants a picture of a Y-list celeb showing that they are capable of operating an On switch.)

The 49-year-old started by firing off a few shots of the warm-up act on stage. But before the main attraction showed up, Mr Smith was challenged by a police officer who asked if he had a licence for the camera.
After explaining he didn’t need one, he was taken down a side-street for a formal “stop and search”, then asked to delete the photos and ordered not to take any more. (from the BBC)

A licence? To take pictures in public place? Where do we get these handy licences? I might need to pick one up when I get my next mp3-player operation licence and my permit to read on the bus.

Even Austin Mitchell has found that he’s been stopped from taking pictures:

Mr Mitchell, himself a keen photographer, was challenged twice, once by a lock-keeper while photographing a barge on the Leeds to Liverpool canal and once on the beach at Cleethorpes.
“There’s a general alarm about terrorism and about paedophiles, two heady cocktails, and police and PCSOs [police community support officers] and wardens and authorities generally seem to be worried about this.” (from the BBC)

The BBC shows a Metropolitan police poster that asks the public to be vigilant about people taking photographs. (I couldn’t find mention of it on their website.) Hmm, that will be people taking photographs in public in London. That was “London”:a popular (if sometimes inexplicably so) global tourist destination. Tourists: you know, the ones with the cameras.

And the shamelessnessness of constantly using the terrorist/paedophile-kneejerk-panic-effect to get us into line. Terrorists with any intelligence would take their pictures on a phone camera or a hidden camera. They wouldn’t walk round with a big obtrusively-lensed Nikon slung round their necks. And I suspect that there is nothing magic about photos for paedophiles, either. If they can see a kid in the street, they can see a kid in the street, whether or not they’ve taken their picture. Do kids magically become invisible to paedophiles when they aren’t in digital format?

*********Asides – related and random***************

1. In a charming irony, there is an incredibly expensive (£250 million, almost $500 million) and laughable plan to get all the Metropolitan police electronically tagged, like so many absconding juveniles. Who watches the watchers indeed? Well, you can watch them with a GPS but you’d better not take their pictures.

2. The Mr Smith story above reminds me of the orchestrated Daily Mail-style clamour for an extension of “stop and search” powers. This man was pulled out of a crowd and searched, apparently on the basis of being in possession of a photographic device with intent to use it.

It’s pretty obvious that Mr Smith didn’t look “a bit muslim” (unlike Jean Charles de Menezes) or the story might have been much worse. And just imagine what would have happened if he didn’t understand enough English to know that he was being “stopped and searched” so he’d just carried on taking pictures at will.

3. This blog gets many more hits when we don’t actually post. (That speaks volumes for the quality of the prose. Yes, I know.)

The WAT isn’t working….

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith seems to have accidentally condemned her own anti-terror strategy in an interview with scandal-sheet New-Newspaper-of-Record,the News of the World.

She claimed that the threat of terrorism is growing:

Ms Smith said: “We now face a threat level that is severe. It’s not getting any less, it’s actually growing.
“There are 2,000 individuals they are monitoring. There are 200 networks. There are 30 active plots.

With the tenuous grasp on logic with which she is increasingly becoming associated, she treats this as a justification for the plan to extend detention without trial for 42 days. She claims the current strategy isn’t working, to the point at which the danger is actually increasing? Why call for a extension of the same strategy?
The BBC reported that MPs of all parties are increasingly unwilling to sign off on this.

Keith Vaz, Labour chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, said ministers did not have enough support in parliament to carry the plans.

Way to go, Jacqui! You can’t get MPs to agree to this doomed and self-defeating nonsense, although you’ve been pushing it for a long time. So, you go straight to the critical-thinking-challenged among the masses and try to fill them with more fear, in a last-ditch attempt to get support for a policy that defies logic.

Jacqui Smith’s nice round numbers raise instant suspicion. 30 active plots? Either a plot exists or it doesn’t. If a government knows about a terrorist plot but ignores it, is it doing its job at all? And haven’t there been “30 plots” for months now? Haven’t any been attempted or abandoned in the interim?

Maybe, there’s a shortage of evidence. In which case the words “suspected plots” might have been more appropriate. And how would the blurry details of these suspected plots become magically clearer if the suspected protagonists are to be held without trial for 42 days?

Selfish human that I am, I don’t like the idea of getting suicide bombed on the Underground. I expect my government to be working to provide some reasonable level of security.

It’s just that I don’t see how this can ever be achieved by strengthening extremism by:
* Carrying out foreign policies that actively make the world more dangerous;
* Supporting communal division by encouraging faith schools;
* Fostering enmity amongst the friends and families of the falsely accused.
* and so on…… I can’t keep repeating this stuff.

Plus, of course, bringing in repressive laws to “fight terrorism” then blithely using them at will…..

“Concentration camp for children”

Mountain Rock Church seem (insert your own appropriate words. My linguistic range is too limited.) There are preview clips of a compelling, if very disturbing, movie about escapees – especially what happened to their children – on joinusthemovie.com.

The footage of the cult-leader’s wife was amazing. She used so many verbal mechanisms to manipulate weaker characters, in so masterly a way, that I almost assumed this whole section must have been scripted by a genius. Her use of emotional blackmail, aggression and misdirection certainly went some way to answering any questions about whether violence alone could have subdued these people so effectively. It looks more like power backed up by ideology.

One of the anti-cult people described the church as a “concentration camp for children.” There certainly seem to be some universal patterns to the way this sort of inhumanity is expressed, from the concentration camp to the child jail.

In fact I wonder if the Mountain Rock church might choose to relocate to Jersey as the behaviour sounds so similar. Terrifying kids, beating them up, dragging them by the hair and locking them in cellars. (I couldn’t watch that BBC Panarama clip, by the way. A minute or two was more than enough.)

What’s the difference? Well, there’s clearly a difference on the level of damage done, and, on the movie evidence, the Mountain Rock kids were “just” physically abused. Their parents were present, though this is perhaps even more disturbing, given that these adults let their lunatic faith override even the most basic animal instincts to protect your young.

The main obvious difference is in the “religious” justification of the Mountain Rock stuff. There could be blog-pages of discussion here as to whether abuse is inherent in religion itself or whether “religion” is just a subset of a general category of ideological support for criminal actions. Religion is certainly up there as the number one smokescreen for abusing other humans. Its effectiveness rests on a whole handy supporting belief structure, in which the human is basically required to pay constant slavish and adoring obeisance to an all-powerful superbeing who will smite whenever his wishes aren’t followed.

It may be that the Haut la Garenne child torturers had enough real power over the kids in their “care” to be able to do whatever they chose, without needing to resort to some belief system. They seem to have had control over many of the local state institutions for a start… Even so, they were supported by a generally authoritarian Jersey mindset. Plus a UK culture that demonises some children and refuses to see any disturbing reminders of how damaged they may be.

This sort of leads me to a more general point about torture. Not the torture carried out by the secret child-abusers, but the increasing resort to the same dishonourable justifications for places like Gitmo, interrogation techniques like waterboarding. So I’ll have to labour the metaphor about how society deals with troublesome kids.

Bullies, thieves, gun-toting gang members, and so on. Most of them got that way through the malevolence, greed, carelessness or stupidity of adults. When they fight back by becoming at least as repellent as the people who created them in their own image, we seem to think it’s OK to do whatever it takes to subdue them. If it sometimes involves brutality and torture, so be it. We then fail to see that this just makes the problem of there being people with no respect for others infinitely worse.

Hmm, painfully laboured metaphor coming – war on terror…….. Fill in the gaps.