Monday, March 28, 2005

Meeting a soldier? Watch your back...

A curious one, this. BBC news reports that one Abu Baker Mansha has been charged under the Terrorism Act, "after allegedly being found with a soldier's name and address written on a piece of paper."

No other details, although hopefully Google News will turn up some goods soon. It'd obviously be stupid to infer anything in either direction with such little info, and it's hard from the report to tell if the address was actually "written", or otherwise. (The Beeb say the former, then claim the charge says the paper merely contained the name and address.) The form of the address may lend some clue to how it was obtained and, therefore, maybe what it was being used for (think about when you write an address down as opposed to when you have a printed copy), but naturally it wouldn't be good to speculate... At least, that's what common sense dictates. The intelligence agencies may say different.

Furthermore, why was he charged 4 days after being arrested? I'm not a Policeman. Do these things usually take that long?

The trial should be tomorrow (Tuesday). Meanwhile, all soldiers have been relocated and had their names changed to protect the security of this glorious nation*. Huzzah!

(*quite possibly not true)

Update: Thee BBC link above now mentions article 58 (1b) of the Terrorism Act, which says:

58. - (1) A person commits an offence if-

    (a) he collects or makes a record of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or

    (b) he possesses a document or record containing information of that kind.

It goes on to say:

(2) In this section "record" includes a photographic or electronic record.

(3) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that he had a reasonable excuse for his action or possession.

Hmm, note that "reasonable excuse" is a defence after the charge has been made, not a reason for not charging in the first place... (IANAL... is that right?)

I'm having a little trouble finding out just what "information" is "likely to be useful" to a terrorist. The Act itself doesn't seem to define it.

It's probably also worth looking at section 103 too, which runs along similar lines as the charge above, only more vague:

103.- (1) A person commits an offence if-

    (a) he collects, makes a record of, publishes, communicates or attempts to elicit information about a person to whom this section applies which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or

    (b) he possesses a document or record containing information of that kind.

The people in question, that it's illegal to write down information about, or tell anyone else about, are: constables, members of Her Majesty's Forces (e.g. soldiers), holders of a judicial office, officers of any court, or full-time employees of the Northern Ireland prison service. Oh, "information" also includes a photograph. So those photos of my mate's sister, who happens to be a police officer, are illegal?

Furthermore, you're liable, if charged, for this information if you were "on any premises at the same time" as it, or if you regularly visit(ed) those premises. Ignorace of such evidence has to then be proven by you, i.e. somehow, you have to work out a way of saying that you weren't aware of something. I suggest that students of philosophical logic should start applying as Barristers now.

Man, if they want you toasted, you're toast. To quote... "In fact, you're gonna have to work very hard to stay alive."


Watching Them, Watching Us said...

If "Name and Address" information on even a single person is considered to be "information of use terrorists", then does that not totally undermine the Nu Labour Government's plans for a compulsory centralised National Identity Register and ID Card ?

Scribe said...

Second update in comment form...

The Scotsman has new details:

"It is alleged he was found with a newspaper cutting referring to a decorated soldier and also personal details including that soldier’s address."

and the fact that Mansha was "...remanded in custody for one week to reappear before the court on April 5."

I still have difficulty seeing how this is related to "terrorism" at all. Stalking, perhaps. Isn't that what ASBOs are for? ;)

Watching Them, Watching Us said...

"Mansha, of Harold Wilson House, Arnott Close, Thamesmead, south-east London,"

So now multiple newspapers and websites and search engines, and potentially millions of people, have the "information" consisting of the suspects Name, and Home Address linked with the word "terrorism".

Surely Mansha's Name and Address is also "information of use to terrorists" or vigilantes ?

Scribe said...

Surely Mansha's Name and Address is also "information of use to terrorists" or vigilantes?

You mean, in terms of getting touch with him to send letters of support? I guess so. "Useful" could mean good or bad. Should they be allowed access to Directory Enquiries? In fact, DE is a terrible leak, now I think about it...

I still fail to see how even targeting a single soldier could be construed as "terrorism" too. As the Lords have pointed out (IIRC), the danger of the country coming to a standstill through a single (or even multiple) death is pretty slim, although the judicial line for defining "terror" seems to well and trule on the thin side.

This isn't anything to do with terror, it's a cultural/religious battle without geographical territory, in which anyone standing in the way of Employment of Force is a "crimnial". We decide things for you, for the good of blah something greater blah, and if you disagree with our Use of Weapons, you'll be suspended. (Probably from a rope.)

Scribe said...

More details emerge from This Is London.

So far, the details published aren't that amiss from someone, say, who had been abroad, seen what was going on, and wanted to get a soldier's perspective of the environment. Not that I doubt our intelligence forces, but if I were an intrigued, even journalistic type, then I'd probably have roughly the same documents "in my premises". I'll just have to remember to burn them next time, although then, I suspect, the onus would be on me to prove that had I never had such documents near me in the first place.

Hum. Time to start keeping a list of all the things I've never seen.