Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Thought Crime 2008

I know I'm coming to this a bit late, but I felt certain that there was no way it could progress as far as it has without someone seeing a bit of common sense. I am naive sometimes.

But first, a bit of background.

On May 16th a non Academic staff member at one of Nottingham's universities was arrested by the police. His "crime" was downloading and printing a document from the internet, for a friend of his in the Politics faculty. This document was the 'Manchester Manual' (so named because of where it was originally discovered), also known as the 'Manual of Afghan Jihad' or 'Military Studies in the Jihad [Holy War] Against the Tyrants'. To the Americans, it is known simply as the 'al Qaeda manual'.

"So," you may be thinking to yourself, "some miscreant has downloaded this for nefarious reasons from some pro-jihad website and has been caught. Good!" Well, if you are, just hold on a second. Let's have a look at which pro-jihad website the document came from, shall we?

That would be that well known sponsor of terrorism, the US Department of Justice. The document (split into four parts) is available for download here, here, here, and here. And I would heartily recommend that you do download it, if only to see if mass arrests follow. Oh, and to laugh at the phrase "undercover brother" - that reminded me of some kinda blaxploitation film.

The 'Manchester Manual' was originally obtained in April 2000 by British anti-terrorism agents and subsequently turned over to the FBI's Nanette Schumaker later that same month. It was originally the property of Nazib al Raghie (also known as Anas Al Liby to the US government) who was the equivalent of an old pensioner from the Afghan war living in retirement in Britain. At the time the manual was confiscated during a counter-terror recce operation, UK authorities were not interested in him. Neither, apparently, was the FBI and he was not arrested. Not unexpectedly, he then disappeared.

During the London ricin trial (where there was no ricin, and no crime) the defense considered the American government's description of it as "the al Qaeda manual" a manufactured title (see fourth paragraph from the end). Nowhere within the document is al Qaeda mentioned and it seems to have possibly originated in the last years of the Islamist resistance of the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. But from time to time the Manchester manual has been used by the US government to make political points.

As part of Bush's justification for the fight on terror, links (third link under third sub-heading) to a display page for the manual at the Air University, Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base in Alabama (which seems to have gone down, probably due to the number of people trying to see what was downloaded). This page was a mirror of the John Ashcroft Department of Justice's old placeholder on the book; one which had been taken down although copies of the material still reside on its machine - and were the links given earlier.

So why did the University authorities decide not to investigate, but instead to pass the matter on to the Police? The only real grounds they had for suspecting anything to be amiss was the downloading of a book. A book which is, as I've just shown, linked to by the White House website, and available from Department of Justice servers. And a book which would be, along with similar 'manuals' from the IRA, the Nazis or the Shining Path, be a worthy document for discussion in a PhD.

Under Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000, a person commits an offence if they "possesses a document or record containing information"..."of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism". The stunning vagueness of this sentence was focused dramatically in February of this year, when the Court of Appeal ruled that simple possession could not be enough for a conviction. There had to be demonstrable intent to commit terrorist acts as well.

The Times Higher Education Supplement reported on May 29 that the main accused was using the manual "as preparation for a PhD on radical Islamic groups [and] had downloaded an edited version of the al-Qaeda handbook from a site he found via Google... It is understood that [he] sent the 1,500-page document to the staff member... because he had access to a printer."

Not really a very good terrorist there, is he? Getting someone else to print the document for you, and then having the temerity to turn up and present yourself as being the person who downloaded it once the police arrived to investigate the person you'd sent it to. Your reward is potential deportation. Have a biscuit.

What the fuck is going on in this country when reading a public document - hosted by the US DOJ, ffs - constitutes a potential criminal act? I know I have invoked Godwin's Law previously by comparing Labour to the Nazis, but while the Nazis burned books, Labour seems intent on stopping anyone from discovering anything that would negate the bullshit they feed us in order to justify the removal of our civil liberties.

Fuck the Government before they fuck you. Join the Revolution.

I am the Revolution, and if there's anything left, I'd like my fucking country back.

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Blogger Mia said...

If I was still in England, I would definitely download this document as a protest. However, I have no idea what the law is in relation to such things here in Canada, no idea if I'd have recourse to public funding for legal counsel (though I doubt it) and don't really fancy being deported just yet. So sorry Silas, but the mass arrest party will have to go on without me.


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