Should MI5 etc be proscribed? (Also: You had me at genital mutilation)

by scotslawstudent

The Terrorism Act 2000 allows the government to proscribe groups which:

commits or participates in acts of terrorism, prepares for, promotes or encourages terrorism or is otherwise concerned in terrorism”.

The reason I mention this is that I last heard it being used by Alan Johnson as a nuclear option against Islam4UK, the attention seeking publicity whore of a personal quest for fame that wanted to protest the killing of Muslims by British soldiers by marching with fake coffins through the place where British soldiers were marching with real coffins and so proving that you don’t need to be big, a real group or even serious about doing it to be terrifically inappropriate.

I’ve always regarded the implications of proscribing a group under the 2000 Act as ludicrously excessive – it makes it a custodial, terrorist related offence to not report seeing someone displaying the group’s logo, even if it’s being displayed ironically. It also makes it possible to go to jail for a terrorist offence if you own an ironic t-shirt. It’s just false advertising to me – these are just not what you think of when you hear “terrorist offences” and yet the Terrorism Act is what you’d be charged under.

However, the recent judgement in the trial of R (Binyam Mohammed) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and particularly Lord Neuberger’s comments at paragraph 168, which are currently unpublished, but to quote Jonathan Sumption were something like:

  1. that the Security Service does not in fact operate in a culture that respects human rights or abjures participation in coercive interrogation techniques;
  2. that this was in particular true of Witness B whose conduct was in this respect characteristic of the service as a whole (‘it appears likely that there were others’);
  3. that officials of the Service deliberately misled the Intelligence and Security Committee on this point;
  4. that this reflects a culture of suppression in its dealings with the Committee, the Foreign Secretary and indirectly the Court, which penetrates the service to such a degree as to under any UK government assurances based on the Service’s information and advice; and
  5. that the Service has an interest in suppressing information which is shared, not by the Foreign Secretary himself (whose good faith is accepted), but by the Foreign Office for which he is responsible.

So, bearing in mind point i, are we in a position where the Home Secretary may make it a crime to be a member of our intelligence services? Obviously not, even I’m not serious about the idea and I’m suggesting it on my blog. The thing is, he could.

NB: The inhuman treatment (David Miliband is at pains to point out that “inhuman treatment” isn’t quite as bad as “torture”, which is the sort of statement that makes you want to punch Foreign Secretaries in the face) Binyam Mohammed received includes “genital mutilation” – basically while Mohammed was in Morocco someone, presumably to make him answer questions, took a razor blade to his gentleman area. Speaking as a guy this is never acceptable and means that I, and half of the population of the world, sympathise with him on general principle. Great job, SyS.