Tag Archives: terrorism

Fears of academic freedom being affected by new counter terrorism bill

Theresa May’s proposed counter terrorism bill has come under fire from activist groups and teachers unions.

Home Secretary Theresa May’s speech where she proposed a new bill to fight terrorism within the UK has been criticised by the Open Rights Group and the Human Rights watch.

One of the proposed measures for the bill is a new statutory duty on colleges, schools, prisons, probation providers, police and councils to prevent individuals being drawn into terrorism. Ministers will have powers to issue directions to organisations that repeatedly invite extremist speakers or fail in the duty in other ways.

Mary Senior, Official for the Scotland University and Colleges Union (UCU), said:

“Universities and colleges have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their students and staff and not to allow activities which are intended to foment hatred or violence, or to recruit support for unlawful activities such as terrorism.

“At the same time, universities and colleges rightly cherish, and must continue to promote, academic freedom as a key tenet of a civilised society.  It is essential to our democracy that all views are open to debate and challenge within the law.”

Tom Lawrence, from the Home Office Press office said:

“The purpose of our Prevent programme is stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. It deals with all kinds of terrorist threats to the UK.

“Prevent activity in local areas relies on the co-operation of many organisations to be effective. Currently, such co-operation is not consistent across the country.

“The new duty will require specified authorities to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism. This will include local government, the police, prisons, providers of probation services, schools, colleges, universities and others.

“Universities’ commitment to freedom of speech and the rationality underpinning the advancement of knowledge means that they represent one of our most important safeguards against extremist views and ideologies.

“However, extremist preachers have used higher education institutions as a platform for spreading their messages. Universities must take seriously their responsibility to deny extremist speakers a platform.

“This duty is not about the government restricting freedom of speech — which the government is committed to – it is about universities taking account of the interests and well-being of all their students, staff and the wider community.”

The bill, which will be published tomorrow, will also give police the power to seize passports and travel documents for up to 30 days, from people thought to be leaving UK to engage in terrorism-related activities, and force internet services providers to release Internet Protocol addressees to the police in order to target individuals.

Edinburgh Marathon goes ahead

In the wake of the bombing of the Boston marathon last night, the implications for marathon events in the UK are under scrutiny.

edinburgh marathon

Neil Kilgour, director of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival, released a statement this morning: “We are shocked by the events we’ve seen unfold in Boston and our thoughts are with the injured and their families.

“It is a sad day for the running community. Runners’ safety is our primary concern. We work very closely with the police and emergency services when organising all the events over the Edinburgh Marathon Festival weekend and follow their advice.”

The FBI have today opened a ‘potential terrorist inquiry’ into the attack, after the explosions left three dead and at least 170 injured, several critically.

UK police have reassured spectators and runners that the London Marathon will go ahead as planned this Sunday, but it is understood that security will be stepped up considerably.

Around 27,000 have registered to take part in the 2013 Edinburgh Marathon, which takes place on the 25th/26th of May.

image by Lesley Martin for Edinburgh Festival Marathon

“Damn Right” we waterboarded suspects, says Bush

By Claudie Qumsieh

Former US President George W. Bush has admitted authorising the illegal practice of waterboarding during the interrogation of terror suspects. Bush claims the technique “helped break up plots” on both US and British soil, including Heathrow airport and Canary Wharf in London. Bush made the admission in his memoirs “Decision Points” which is released today.

Waterboarding is a controversial interrogation technique which simulates drowning. Amnesty International have said waterboarding is “absolutely prohibited under international law”.  Amnesty’s UK Director Kate Allen said Bush’s comments were “self-serving and misguided” and pointed out that information gathered through those illegal means is “notoriously unreliable and inadmissible”. Downing Street today reiterated that waterboarding is illegal torture. President Obama banned the practice soon after his inauguration. Bush denies it is torture saying it is just one “advanced interrogation technique”

In an interview with The Times, which is serializing his memoir, Bush was asked if the technique was used with the man behind the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Bush said: “Damn right […] We capture the guy, the chief operating officer of al-Qaida, who kills 3,000 people. We felt he had the information about another attack”

Human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC said that Bush could face prosecution for his admissions, saying he “has confessed to ordering waterboarding, which in the view of almost all experts clearly passes the severe pain threshold in the definition of torture in international law.”

Bush is unapologetic “I knew an interrogation programme this sensitive and controversial would one day become public. When it did, we would open ourselves up to criticism that America had compromised our moral values. I would have preferred that we get the information another way. But the choice between security and values was real” Seemingly impervious to criticism, Bush told The Times “It doesn’t matter how people perceive me in England. It just doesn’t matter any more. And frankly, at times, it didn’t matter then”

Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact (St. Petersburg Times) researched claims that the U.S executed Japanese Prisoners of War for waterboarding and found that “After World War II, an international coalition convened to prosecute Japanese soldiers charged with torture. At the top of the list of techniques was water-based interrogation, known variously then as ‘water cure,’ ‘water torture’ and ‘waterboarding,’ according to the charging documents. It simulates drowning […] A number of the Japanese soldiers convicted by American judges were hanged, while others received lengthy prison sentences or time in labor camps.”

Bush relinquished responsibility in an interview with NBC’s Today programme saying “The lawyer said it was legal. He said it did not fall within the anti-torture act. I’m not a lawyer. But you gotta trust the judgment of people around you, and I do.”

Torture saved British lives says Bush

By Michael Mckeand

George W. Bush's memoirs have brought a new light on interrogation methods adopted by the former president

George Bush has claimed that information obtained from terrorists through the interrogation method of ‘water-boarding‘ saved British lives. In his memoirs he claims that the controversial technique, which simulates drowning, helped to break up plots on Canary Wharf and Heathrow airport.

Bush confirmed his actions in an interview last night with The Times newspaper. He explained how he authorised the use of water-boarding to extract information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. When asked if he had by the interviewer, he responded: “Damn right!”.

Bush said: “Three people were waterboarded and I believe that decision saved lives.”

In his book, ‘Decision Points’, the former president explains how the interrogation method helped break up plots in London as well as on US diplomatic facilities abroad and also on multiple targets across the U.S. He also defends his actions by claiming that water-boarding is not torture but is in fact one of a number of “enhanced interrogation techniques”. Nonetheless, the method was banned by President Obama who does regard it as torture.

Bush refuses to accept this definition. In an interview with NBC’s Today Programme, he said: “The lawyer said it was legal. He said it did not fall within the anti-torture act. I’m not a lawyer. But you gotta trust the judgment of people around you, and I do.”

When asked about allegations that lawyers were pressurised into giving the president the answer he wanted to hear, Bush directed people to read the book. An identical answer was given when Matt Lauer from NBC asked if it would be legal for another country to water-board a U.S soldier.

The technique was first approved for Abu Zubaydah, an al-Qaida figure arrested in Pakistan in 2002. He was suspected of involvement in a plot to attack Los Angeles International airport.

Bush writes “His understanding of Islam was that he had to resist interrogation only up to a certain point. Waterboarding was the technique that allowed him to reach that threshold, fulfil his religious duty, and then co-operate.”

Bush also admitted that water-boarding would have been used on others if the right people were captured. “Had we captured more al-Qaida operatives with significant intelligence value” he says, “I would have used the programme for them as well.”

The claim that Water-boarding prevented attacks on London though has been challenged by Kim Howells, the former chair of the Commons intelligence and security committee. Talking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, he said “we’re not convinced that waterboarding produced information which was instrumental in preventing these plots coming to fruition and murdering people”. Instead, Howells believes that Bush was simply trying to “justify what he did to the world”.

In the same programme, former shadow home secretary David Davis shared similar beliefs. He said that torture does not work. “People under torture tell you what you want to hear,” he said. “You’ll get the wrong information and … apart from being immoral, apart from destroying our standing in the world, and apart from undermining the way of life we’re trying to defend, it actually doesn’t deliver.”

The British Government have long rejected the use of water-boarding, considering it a form of torture.

In a speech last month, chief of MI6 John Sawers insisted that MI6 had nothing to do whatsoever with torture which he described as “illegal and abhorrent”.

Bomb scare threatens ‘reformed’ Northern Ireland

By Bryanie Kane.

A pipe bomb, along with flammable liquid, found in a silver Toyota car in Belfast International Airport on Saturday at 14:30BST, is said to have been there for up to a year. This has caused a fear of revived dissident threat.

Police and army bomb experts were alerted to the scene on Saturday afternoon, when the the vehicle was reported as being suspicious whilst being prepared to be taken away from the long stay car park of the airport. The device has since been removed and examined in a bid to discover how long it was there. It is believed by some that it could have been there for as long as a year, leading to an unimaginable disaster. Sheron Kane, who was flying into Belfast International was “appalled at what was going on. There were a number of police vans and also heavily armed police officers. There was a rumour going around that it was all down to dissident Republicans, the Real IRA. We were all terrified.” The alert went on until 02:30 on Sunday morning. Many passengers returning home were unable to retrieve their cars and those who lived too far away were put up by the airport in a hotel until they could get it back into their possession.

The airport is reported to have been subject to another security breach on Sunday evening around 19:30. Security alarms went off and people were ordered to evacuate the building. Stephanie Shields, who was going through security at the time said: “The alarm went off and everything stopped. They said they’d have to evacuate but never actually moved anyone. The atmosphere was really strange, everyone including security personnel had a look of total shock, especially after what happened yesterday. No one knew what was going on and no one told us passengers anything.” The airport itself have refused to comment on this situation, as have the police. The South Antrim DUP MLA was unavailable to comment and other members of the constituency refused.

This comes after a 40kg bomb was discovered on Friday in Lurgan, County Armagh. Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland said both devices “were left in places used by the public and with no regard for the public; it is thanks to the vigilance of individuals that no serious harm has been done.” This new outbreak of Northern Irish terrorism is having an adverse effect on the tourism which brings a lot of money to the country. The public are condemning the “stupid and cowardly people,” who are causing such strife. The Alliance Party have said: “This is exactly the type of news Northern Ireland needs to avoid.”

These scares are not the only ones to have occurred within the last week. Two other devices were found on cargo planes at East Midlands Airport and in Dubai, causing a national declaration of outrage. The Prime Minister, David Cameron commented, saying the government is working with its Arab partners to cut out the “terror cancer”.

During talks of a more peaceful and united Britain throughout this difficult time, these threats have had a major effect on public morale and the faith the Northern Irish people have for things to get better.

World News In Brief

At least seven people have been killed in the capital of Nigeria after two cars exploded outside the justice embassy today. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), a militant group based in the south of the country, had earlier threatened attacks on the day that Nigeria celebrates 50 years of independence from the UK.

Ecudorean soldiers have rescued the president of the country after he was taken hostage by protesting police. Rafael Correa had tried to negotiate with furious police and rank-and-file soldiers, who are revolting against a new law that means they will no longer receive medals and bonuses when promoted.

A British citizen suspected of planning a terrorist attack in the UK has been killed by a US drone in Pakistan. The man, who was in his 20s and is believed to be a part of a terror cell with other Brits and Germans, was allegedly masterminding a Mumbai-style siege of a UK city.

News in brief

By Nichole Guthrie

  • Troops out of Iraq by summer

On a visit to Basra yesterday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated that British troops will end combat operations on May 31 2009, although they will provide a two month stay of grace before the majority of the 4,100 troops will withdraw from Iraq.

  • Dentists overcharging patients

NHS dentists are under the spotlight for allegedly overcharging patients to the tune of £109 million. The Conservative party states that dentists are finding loopholes in the system to charge patients twice.

  • Church of England to split from state

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams thinks there are benefits from being detached from the state. He said there would be a “certain integrity” to decisions in the church not being run by parliament first.

  • Millionare sex romp at Gleneagles

Millionaire property tycoon Philip Anderson was arrested along with his girlfriend after being aggressive towards the people complaining of their drunken behaviour at Deseo restaurant in Gleneagles.

  • 20 year Lockerbie bombing anniversary

The 20th anniversary of the bombing of  PanAm flight 103 this weekend sees the locals planning a low key ceremony running parallel to a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC. Steven Spielberg is also planning to make a film about the tragedy.

  • Glasgow bomber jailed for life

NHS doctor Bilal Abdulla was jailed for life to serve a minimum of 32 years yesterday. He was convicted of terrorist attacks on London and Glasgow.

  • Rwanda genocide killer jailed

Former senior defence official Theoneste Bagosora has been convicted and sentenced to life in jail for plotting the 1994 genocide that killed more than 800,000 people. This conviction marks the first time Rwandan courts have convicted anyone for the killings.

  • Sky 3D television

Satellite broadcaster Sky has revealed it’s trying out a new 3D television platform that could see viewers watching the 2012 Olympics in this new dimension. Viewers will have to wear polarised glasses and have a 3D enabled television.

England postpone India cricket tests

By Ross Hart                     

Anthony Devlin/PA
Picture courtesy of Anthony Devlin/PA

The England and Wales Cricket Board have postponed England’s final one day matches against India in the wake of the terror attacks in Mumbai.                                     

101 people, including six foreign nationals, are reported to have been killed in co-ordinated attacks by gunmen across the city, which was due to host a test match between the two countries from December 19.

The England squad will remain at their hotel in Bhubaneswar, 580 miles east of Mumbai, for at least 24 hours as the ECB and their Indian counterparts continue talks as to whether the remaining games will be played.

In a statement, the ECB’s managing director Hugh Morris said: “On behalf of the board and the England team, we would like to express our condolonces to the families and friends of those people who were killed or injured in last night’s attacks.”

Mr Morris added that “the safety and security of the England team is of the utmost importance to the ECB”. They will continue discussions with Indian officials over the next 24 hours.

England are 5-0 down in the seven match series, with the sixth game due to take place on Saturday and the final match scheduled for December 2.

Kevin Pietersen’s side are also due to play a three day match from the 5th of December before taking on two test matches from the 11th, but the future of these remains uncertain.

The inaugural Twenty20 Champions League tournament due to start in Mumbai next Wednesday has also been postponed in the wake of the attacks.

English county side Middlesex were due to take part in the competition but delayed flying to Mumbai, while two participating Australian teams were stopped from travelling by the Australian cricket authorities.