The new powers
Counter-Extremism Strategy – Extract from the Foreword by David Cameron
Over generations, we in Britain have built something extraordinary: a successful multi-racial, multi-faith democracy. Our country today is more vibrant, buoyant and diverse than ever before in our history. There is still more to be done to defeat racism, promote genuine equality of opportunity and build a more cohesive society. But I believe it is right to say that Britain is on the rise, strong and growing stronger with each new day.
One of the greatest threats we face is the scourge of extremism from those who want to divide us. We see it in sickening displays of neo-Nazism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and, of course, Islamist extremism.
We will disrupt extremists, aggressively pursuing the key radicalisers who do so much damage. And we will seek to build more cohesive communities, tackling the segregation and feelings of alienation that can help provide fertile ground for extremist messages to take root.
Defeating extremism in all its forms is not something the state can do alone. We need the help of everyone, including our faith communities. We must be absolutely clear that when it comes to countering Islamist extremism, our strategy is not about criticising or attacking the religion of Islam or its followers. Our aim is to work in partnership to isolate the extremists from everyone else – and to stop them from driving a wedge between British Muslims and the rest of our society.
If we implement this strategy, if we build that partnership, I am confident that together we can defeat the extremists and build a more cohesive country for our children, our grandchildren and for every generation to come.
Government policy: counter-terrorism – CONTEST
The aim of CONTEST is to reduce the risk to the UK and its interests overseas from terrorism, so that people can go about their lives freely and with confidence. The scope of the CONTEST strategy covers all forms of terrorism. Counter-terrorism strategy will be organised around 4 work streams, each comprising a number of key objectives:
* pursue: to stop terrorist attacks
* prevent: to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism
* protect: to strengthen our protection against a terrorist attack
* prepare: to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack
Education Scotland – Preventing terrorism
Prevent duty guidance is about keeping people and communities safe from the threat of terrorism. It aims to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism and provides guidance for local authorities on their duties within the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015. It is one of four elements of CONTEST, the UK Government’s counter-terrorism strategy.
What happens in Scotland?
The delivery of Prevent duties in Scotland seeks to tackle all forms of violent extremism and terrorism. It has a primary focus on international terrorism influenced by Al Qa’ida/ISIL and also terrorism linked to the troubles in Northern Ireland. It also has a focus on domestic extremism, in particular on extreme right-wing groups.
How does Prevent stop people from being drawn into terrorism?
It provides practical help to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism and ensures that partner agencies work together to give individuals the correct support.The collective focus is always on the early identification of risk to individuals and guiding them towards a more positive destination. The support provided could include signposting individuals to community projects, sports or arts programmes. It may also involve or providing access to educational, employment and housing services.
Government’s Counter Extremism Strategy poses a serious threat to religious freedoms as call for evidence opens
Government plans to defend British values and “systematically confront and challenge extremist ideology” would undermine the very democracy that they seek to protect. The Evangelical Alliance is calling for members to submit evidence on the Counter Extremism Strategy now. Many out-of-school education settings, including, churches, youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, home schoolers, volunteers and anyone else who comes into contact with children could be inspected by Ofsted as a result of proposed anti-extremism legislation. More here:
Muslim Council of Scotland Looks at Counter-Extremism Policy
The Muslim Council of Scotland held a seminar on countering extremism on Wednesday 2 March. The seminar, attended by about 30 invited participants, took place in Glasgow City Chambers.
Michael Matheson MSP, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Justice, spoke about the duties created under the statutory Prevent strategy, saying the “duty is to keep people safe.” The Prevent Duty Guidance for Scotland was issued jointly by the UK and Scottish Governments under the UK’s Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015.
Asked why there had been no Scottish involvement in the Westminster debate on the Prevent Duty Guidance for Scotland (no Scottish MPs had been invited to participate in the debate), he said he could not comment on Westminster matters.
He was asked at the same time why, in view of the Scottish Government’s acknowledgement that Prevent involves devolved as well as reserved functions, there had been no debate at Holyrood and, in particular, why the statutory Prevent guidance had not triggered a Legislative Consent Motion (Sewel Motion) in the the Scottish Parliament. He said that a Legislative Consent Motion was not possible because terrorism policy is reserved to Westminster.
Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) Chair Richard Haley addressed the seminar. This is the text of the speech, corrected from memory. It may differ slightly from the speech delivered:
* “Barking up the wrong tree – the Prevent strategy and the Muslim Community”
Other speakers on the panel were Mazhar Khan (representing MCS), Haq Ghani (speaking about the role of mosques), Sajid Quayum (representing the Islamic Society of Britain), Khadija Elshayyal (representing Al Waleed) and AbdulAhad Hussein (representing FOSIS).
Unionist response to threat
Terrorists are the only people who won’t be affected by Cameron’s surveillance plans
As with all intrusions into British people’s privacy, the surveillance powers being proposed by Theresa May today are justified on the grounds of defeating terrorism. Occasionally paedophilia makes an appearance as well, but generally it’s a terror argument.
So it’s worth considering for a moment how profoundly ineffective these measures are when dealing with terrorism. If media reports are accurate the government has dropped plans to ban encryption technology. There’s good reason for that. Doing so would mean that either companies like Amazon and Apple, which use encryption, would have to drop it because David Cameron said so. Or, more likely, they would stop operating in the UK.
It was, of course, tosh. Cameron blurted out some authoritarian rubbish about how important it was that the state could see people’s communications and only bothered to check whether it was possible afterwards. It wasn’t.
Having a home secretary sign off on these warrants is completely archaic. They don’t do it in Europe. They don’t do it in the ‘five eyes’ countries like the US, Canada and Australia who we share information with. And for good reason. May signed off on 2,345 intercept warrants in 2014 alone. Either they were not properly scrutinised, or she was failing to give her other responsibilities appropriate attention. The current system just doesn’t make sense and justifying it by constantly referring to judges as ‘unelected’, as ministers have done, will not make any more sense.
Even on this minor issue, the Home Office wasn’t prepared to compromise in order to convince foreign firms to cooperate. On the actual ways in which people can operate secretly online, they have done nothing. Instead, they are casting their net far and wide in the areas where the majority of non-terrorists operate: the mainstream internet and normal internet usage.
Communications companies will apparently be required to store records of customers’ phone and internet use for a year, according to the briefings given to the press. Police will be able to access people’s internet connection records, a power currently banned in the US and all of Europe.
GCHQ’s existing powers will be enshrined in law, including those allowing it to sweep up the contents of a laptop or smartphone, to track your location, listen in on your calls, or take photos of the people around a device.
Authorities’ power to see which websites you’ve been visiting will also be present. Anderson was very sceptical about this, insisting that a “detailed operational case” needed to be made with a “rigorous assessment” of its lawfulness. That hasn’t happened, but the proposal seems to have made its way into the bill anyway.
These measures will affect the public but not the terrorists. Any terrorist capable of carrying out a terror attack knows how to use Tor, or encryption software, or a library computer, or an internet cafe. They are not organising terror attacks on Facebook Messenger. These moves are not aimed at terrorists. They are aimed at us. This is a programme for the mass surveillance of the British public. Terrorism is just an excuse.