The Terrorism Arrests that Weren't

Remember those terrorism arrests that the UK government conducted, after a secret document was accidentally photographed? No one was charged:

The Crown Prosecution Service said there was insufficient evidence to press charges or hold them any longer.

The Muslim Council of Britain said the government behaved "very dishonourably" over the treatment of the men should admit it had made a mistake.

Of the 12 men arrested in the raids, 11 were Pakistani nationals, 10 held student visas and one was from Britain.

Posted on April 24, 2009 at 1:27 PM • 25 Comments

Comments

AnonymousApril 24, 2009 2:07 PM

Oh come on, they didn't find ANYTHING??? Not even some Mary Jane, or bestiality porn or something? I mean they were STUDENTS!

SimonCApril 24, 2009 2:42 PM

Just because it wasn't highlighted in Bruce's snippet, I would like to point out that the foreign nationals involved now face deportation, despite the complete lack of charges being brought.

Clearly there's no particular right to stay in the UK on a student visa, and the standard of evidence required for deportation is considerably lower than that for criminal charges, but you do have to wonder whether deportation isn't simply expedient, rather than just.

NickApril 24, 2009 2:58 PM

@SimonC
"I would like to point out that the foreign nationals involved now face deportation".

Maybe you should have read a bit more carefully.
The text adds one little word making one heck of a difference. The word is "possible".

AlApril 24, 2009 3:13 PM

@SimonC
Gota love the quality reporting at the Beeb again ;-)

@nick
The Independent is reporting that the Home Office are going to deport the 11 Pakistani men, no "possible" about it.

TanukiApril 24, 2009 3:25 PM

Truth is, giving credibility to the protests of the 'muslim council of britain' is a bit like following King Herod's guidance on infant-care.

dragonfrogApril 24, 2009 3:33 PM

Well of course they may as well be deported now - they're just going to flunk out of their programs of study if we let them stay. They've just missed two whole weeks of school right before finals! Hardly a sign of diligent studiousness, is it?

SimonCApril 24, 2009 4:51 PM

@Nick, I saw that it is described as possible - this to me is still "facing" deportation, whether certain or not. Had it been definite, I would've used stronger wording.

I see your point though, the Beeb used the formulation "face possible deportation" - it was not my intention to strengthen my point by omission.

NickApril 24, 2009 4:59 PM

@Al

The article: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/... also states the following making it seem like there is plenty of "possible" for everyone.

"What happens next?

The Home Office says it will deport the 11 Pakistanis on grounds of national security. It is understood that the men want to carry on their studies in the UK and their lawyers are expected to go to court to contest this action.

Who will win?

It's hard to say. The Home Office must show that the men's presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good or that they represent a threat to national security. Their lawyers will argue that no evidence has been provided to support such a claim. The case is expected to end up before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) which can hear evidence in secret. "

Another DissidentApril 24, 2009 5:07 PM

Tanuki has made possibly the most bigoted comment I've ever seen on this blog.
'The Muslim Council of Britain said the government behaved "very dishonourably" over the treatment of the men'. Well, I agree with that. In the credibility stakes, I'd rank the Muslim Council of Britain rather higher than the British Government, not that that's saying much, of course.

AshokApril 24, 2009 5:10 PM

Wednesday's Guardian article puts it as:

| The nine were due to be deported after being handed over to the
| UK Border Agency. Two remaining suspects are still being
| questioned by Greater Manchester police. The move came after
| investigators spent 13 days searching for evidence following
| the arrests from a number of addresses in Greater Manchester,
| Liverpool and Lancashire under the Terrorism Act.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/22/...

"Face deportation" seems like a fair description.

SimonCApril 24, 2009 5:27 PM

To be fair, Another Dissident, I increasingly hear complaints from Muslims that the MCB's default position as the voice of Islam in the UK is a source of annoyance. While they seem to be the nominated "community leaders" (as chosen by the government), it seems they don't really have a great deal of legitimacy from a ground-up perspective, and it's easy to see how their ubiquity could grate with someone who doesn't share their views.

This is not to say they're wrong on this issue, of course, but the media treatment of MCB utterances as if they were pronouncements from the UK Muslim monolith deserves challenging, I think.

I'm not sure if this is what Tanuki meant, of course, but it is a point worth considering.

AnonymousApril 24, 2009 5:33 PM

My guess is that they are all deported, it's a good way to sweep the problem under the rug. I wish we knew the evidence they had against them. The articles I have seen seem to cast them as innocent students.

KingApril 25, 2009 5:08 AM

There has been a recent uproar here in the UK about the number of bogus student visas that have been issued:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/...
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/...

I have not read every single story since I'm here on a (legit) student visa myself and have been a little busy ;-), but this story seems to have been more about Bob Quick exposing the info than what the students were actually up to, if anything.

However, if they were up to something, even unprovable, then they probably were not attending class -- which, by itself, would make them deportable, completely unrelated to any investigation.

Clive RobinsonApril 26, 2009 6:05 AM

As I predicted on the earlier blog, no evidence was to be found and no charges would be made.

And as I further suspected from the fate of the youngest who was released early on, they would get handed over to what was imagration to be removed as quickly as possible to save further read faces amongst the Politico's and Flat Foots...

As point of note, it was a Police and Political move to arrest these people, and went against the advice of the more traditional intelegance services.

MI5 did not want them arrested at all for several reasons, firstly the suposed evidence against them did not realy stack up as high as speculation. But worse, if they were arrested it would expose a number of covert operations that where ascociated and alert the sponsors to the fact.

So very much an own goal for Number 10 and the Met Police, yet again (I've lost count for this month, there was G20 and other Met Police cover ups, charecter asasination by Brown's senior advisor, Brown's attempt to convert politicaly embarising MPs expenses to an even more discredited attendance alowance... )...

With regards to the MCB they are a political organisation with some rather dodgy links to other questionable entities, and have had ill advised backing from one or two Politicos close to the Labour party.

Some commentators have likened them to the "Muslim BNP"... and as has been noted by others here they do not realy have the support of the vast majority of those "they claim to represent".

sooth sayerApril 26, 2009 12:43 PM

Yes .. but what's the news here?
We know that the legal standard for criminal conviction is very high, so in a lot of cases you just left them go - in this case safely throw them out of the country - but to say these people were innocent might be the stretch the in the other direction.

If the standard for police should be that they can't arrest someone till they have actually committed the crime - we should ban all intelligence gathering, beef up the police and wait for innocent people to be slaughtered before we dare accuse someone ..

I am sick to the stomach seeing it come from a "security expert".

BF SkinnerApril 26, 2009 3:49 PM

So perhaps what's really needed is good police work that develops cases based on fact and evidence? Cause if you don't accept the American model that anything different is evil a court may bounce all your protestation that these are REALLY bad cats?...and this was ENGLAND? England courts bounced the cases?

Wow.

There may be hope.

uk visa lawyerApril 26, 2009 9:52 PM

The Muslim Council of Britain said the government behaved "very dishonourably" over the treatment of the men should admit it had made a mistake.
I think the Muslim Council are absolutely right.

Clive RobinsonApril 27, 2009 12:19 AM

@ sooth sayer,

"If the standard for police should be that they can't arrest someone till they have actually committed the crime - we should ban all intelligence gathering, beef up the police and wait for innocent people to be slaughtered before we dare accuse someone .."

Ouch bad argument to put it mildly.

First off the police are set up and designed to be used as a reactionary / preventative organisation to protect society not the other way around.

That is they should only be used to arrest people either "as they commit" or "after they commit" criminal acts and at no other time, otherwise it undermines their standing in society which gives rise to real National Security issues.

Other "organs of state" are supposed to do it the other way around and "nip it in the bud" "just in time" or even alow lesser evils to prevent greater evils. This is what the so called "domestic intel" organisations are supposed to do.

For many years in the UK there was a semblance of balance and propriety on these roles and it (appeared) to work well.

However with the "Irish Problem" and "Special Branch" the Police role started to change. This was a political choice not an operational choice by either the Police or Intel community.

What has become apparent is that the closer the Police and elected representatives become the worse things (apparently/visably) get.

What is by no means clear is if it is cause or effect, or other changes in society (such as the availability of technology).

Personaly I would like the line between the Political asspects of the state and the judicial aspects of the state kept very clearly apart and the role of the executive to be subject to truly independant oversight (yes I know it's at best fraught with problems).

However where it all starts to get very messy is when it involves the many facits of "National Security".

For a number of reasons threats to NatSec are by no means "criminal" in nature nor political in any form and are often "broad tail" issues.

Even when some asspects of a Nat Sec threat are criminal, a larger part of the threat may well be not. Which is a problem with non political issues such as organised crime.

Further you then have other NatSec threats which are semi-political in nature and also involve crime such as "terrorism".

Moving through to political activities that are not criminal in nature and are not NatSec issues, but those politicians currently in charge see them as a threat to their position and want them treated as criminal acts and thus decree them to be NatSec issues...

For obvious reasons we need to deal with serious organised crime, and commercial activities (monopolistice cartel etc) that are real NatSec issues as well as terrorist organisations.

What we don't need is politicaly inspired curtailment of non NatSec and otherwise legitimate activities.

It is a very gray area and needs to be carried out in a manner that is clearly seperate from both the Political Government and the general enforcment of criminal activity by the Police.

Unfortunatly these activities by their very nature are difficult to legislate against and we have very messy "anti" cospiracy / monopoly / cartel etc legislation that is based on "percieved intent" of those under investigation. And as is currently seen the legislation is used not for it's original stated intent more often than not (war on photography etc).

Investigating "anti" crime is very difficult at best and is an area ripe for turf warefare, political patronage and lack of clear oversight by the judiciary. How we go about it says more about the society we live in and the lack of morals of those we elect than most would care to think about let alone admit.

In this particular case involving the Police under "anti-terror" legislation was to put it mildly a significant mistake by both the senior Police officers and Politicians involved.

There where better and easier ways of dealing with it. The majority of those arested where in the UK on student visas, and it would appear that most where clearly in breach of the terms and conditions of such visas.

As and when their usefulness as "Intel observation targets" was over a simple series of visa violation raids would have pulled them into custody (as well as a good few others as cover).

The heavy handed tactics deployed by the Police have (possibly) destroyed the Intel value these people had and if actually those involved with terror plots alerted those that control them.

As has been noted in the past a lizard can shed it's tail crawl under a rock and live to fight another day.

If you want to kill a lizard you have to seperate it's heart and brain, usually by chopping off it's head.

Entering into a war of attrition by repeatedly chopping of the tail will make the lizard smarter and the tail so short it will be difficult to find. Each of which make it even harder to kill the lizard...

But in this case it appears worse in that the police thought the "worm" the lizard was about to consume was the lizard's tail, so the lizard has got smarter without lossing any part of it's tail...

Danger MouseApril 27, 2009 5:16 PM

A recent comicly reported news story from an troubled nation alleged that

Suspects Receive 4 years in Prison, and those involved may receive much longer sentences.

This sort of definition creep of the word suspect, if left up to administrative authorities,
seems to suit their purposes even better than an out-of-uniform law.

StephanieApril 28, 2009 9:37 AM

Deportation beats what was done to the Guildford Four. I'd prefer deportation to torture induced confessions any day. These fellows are thanking their God they weren't Irish Catholics, we've seen how the Irish problem has been managed.

RogerApril 28, 2009 4:27 PM

@Rich:\
> As always the excellent former ambassador Craig Murray can be counted on for accurate comment ...

I am afraid Craig Murray cannot be counted on for accurate comment at all. He is, for example, the apparent source of the widespread (and quite false) claim that none of the people charged in the "Transatlantic Liquid Bomb Plot" had passports.

AnonymousApril 29, 2009 7:26 AM

Strangely enough, I figured nothing would come of this -- it's not exactly the first time it has happened.

There was that time when the government were trying to get their insidious ID card bill through, so they manufactured a plot to blow up a football stadium, made some arrests then released them later after failing to show any real evidence.

My first reaction therefore has to be to look at any bills the government is trying to pass at this time that might need to scare people into losing more of their few remaining freedoms.

Perhaps now would be a good time to release a "consultation" document about vital powers to snoop and store communications data. After all, it could help prevent non-existant bombs like this from going off.

This lot are clearly a threat though, I mean the last lot only had tickets to the football match, these guys actually [gasp] took photos in a shopping centre -- even the BBC TV news made a big point of passing on this government sound bite by remarking on this very strange behaviour.

I mean honestly, do these students expect us to believe they were just taking pictures of their mates in a public place or something.

Perhaps the police should have looked in their cars, they may have found incriminating evidence, maybe a GPS unit, and we all know terrorists have a large supply of GPS guided bombs ...

Hang on a minute, I should be entering this into the fourth annual movie plot competition.

Craig MurrayApril 30, 2009 2:56 AM

Roger,

It is you that has difficulty with accuracy. I said that SEVERAL of the alleged plane bombers did not even have passports. That was completely true.

RogerMay 3, 2009 5:14 PM

@Craig Murray:
Well, I apologise for perpetuating a widespread misquotation; you have been widely quoted on the interpipes as saying "none." (Many of these quotes are now unattributed, but if you take the trouble to trace them backward, as I did at one point, they appear to originate with your commentary.)

Having said, that "SEVERAL of the alleged plane bombers did not even have passports" is still an exaggeration. Every dictionary I just checked agreed that "several" means "more than two"; most agree that it means "more than three." Of the persons charged with being intended bombers on the planes, the actual number who had not yet received their passports at the time of arrest was 2. Most of them not only had passports, but had actually travelled overseas within the previous year (more than half of them to Pakistan or Afghanistan.)

Moreover, the apparently intended implication -- that the bombers were in no wise prepared to make an attack -- is highly misleading. They had already assembled bombs -- this was conclusively proven at trial -- and Abdullah Ahmed Ali had begun researching additional targets, even though the bombs were clearly specifically designed to attack passenger aircraft. While it has not been proven, it seems extremely likely that this was a backup plan in case the missing passports did not arrive in time.

Even more significantly, when Rashid Rauf was arrested in Pakistan, he had been on a shopping trip -- for forged passports.

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc..