Another reason why the war on terrorism is a war on democratic freedom

The Scientific Misconduct blog has identified a case of censorship based on fear:

Briefly, a postgraduate student (Rizwaan Sabir) was conducting research (into terrorism). He was arrested after downloading material (related to terrorism) from a US government website. I believe that the material is here - take a look. His Nottingham University supervisors insisted the materials were directly relevant to his research (which is on terrorism). A university administrator and previous student at Nottingham University (Hisham Yezza) printed some of the (publicly available) material for him. Both men were arrested, their homes were searched by police, and Yezza (the printer) faces immediate deportation.

So, let's get this straight: a student working legitimately on terrorism accesses an open site from the American government for materials on terrorism, and is facing expulsion and arrest, and another person faces deportation? Are they friggin' mad? As the linked article identifies rightly, that leads to this, directly:


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There's a comment thread on BoingBoing right now about this. Personally, it sounds to me like they were detained for a week, released without charges, and one of the men is facing deportation under completely unrelated visa problems (which probably wouldn't be noticed if this whole thing not happened). The whole thing sounds blown out of proportion and used as a sensationalist (and inaccurate) story about the 'war on terror', and poor comparisons to Nazi Germany's book burning.

If we have got to the point where people being arrested for no good reason for a week is acceptable, then we are still in a pickle. And the comments gives information that the deportation is a McGuffin, just as it was in the Haneef case here in Brisbane (also on UK information that turned out to be false).

By John S. Wilkins (not verified) on 27 May 2008 #permalink

Actually .... to the last commenter.... No.

The University and police are in a huge backslide and freewheeling public relations disaster. They were reported by University administrators to the police. Then they were ARRESTED. Yes they were IMPRISONED for a week. One remains imprisoned.

Is there much more to say, or poerhaps we have sunk so far that this is perceived to be a trivial problem in academia?

It may be a lot worse, but the least that happened is bad enough.

And yes, someone related to Nottingham University seems to be leaving the above comment around the place.

By Marilyn Scott (not verified) on 27 May 2008 #permalink

"And yes, someone related to Nottingham University seems to be leaving the above comment around the place."

Ha. You're accusing me of being "related to Nottingham University"? Please. Funny how accusations can spiral out of control, isn't it now?

"Yes they were IMPRISONED for a week. One remains imprisoned."
Yup. The police overreacted, but you should at least admit that the one still imprisoned is there for immigration reasons having nothing to do with the manual.

The War on Terror has never been about stopping terrorism, and has always been about generating enough fear in the citizenry that it will gladly hand over unwarranted military, economic, and legal power to an oligarchy.

The Sheriff of Nottingham has always been known for overreaction.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 28 May 2008 #permalink

I wonder how many people have been imprisoned for just a week!

How many for 48 days?

#1 sounds to me like they were detained for a week, released without charges, .....

And that's OK in your book is it?

The police and NuLabour are still trying to increase the detention (i.e. imprisonment) without charge period.

These two people are lucky as they have people who care and noticed who can get publicity.

Imagine trying to explain to your boss why you skipped work for a week or four without explanation.
They don't need to let you phone home, excuse being that you could warn your co-conspirators.

Sadlly people still believe in no smoke without fire and those who lord it over us are taking away our freedoms wholesale.

Just a thought; as those in the UK have lost a lot of their liberties methinks the terrorists have won. Their aim was to install fear and aided and abetted by our masters this is being achieved.

By Chris' Wills (not verified) on 28 May 2008 #permalink

Jim Lippard's blog highlighted another story along the same lines.

By Ian H Spedding FCD (not verified) on 28 May 2008 #permalink

> "it sounds to me like they were detained for a week, released without charges"
>> "And that's OK in your book is it?"

And I said in Comment #4: "Yup. The police overreacted". My point is that the police overreacted, and that bloggers are overreacting when they make comparisons to Nazi Germany.

(By the way, I'd like to take a minute to point out that the Scientific Misconduct blog deleted the comment I left there. It was essentially the same as comment #1 that I wrote here. I just find it amusing that on the very same post that he makes comparisons to free-speech suppression Nazi Germany, that he can't tolerate displaying my complaint about comparisons to Nazi Germany.)

Actually, tinyfrog has a point, but maybe not the intended one. This misbehavior of the police doesn't really put us in Nazi Germany, just as he says; no, what's deadly is the failure of this stuff to generate outrage. I don't suppose tinyfrog is recommending a fatal complacency; but I can't quite see how he isn't.

After all as Burke didn't actually say...

The point I made is not that we are in Nazi Germany. We are actually still in the early fascist period, before they get total freedom to do as a government whatever they think is fine. This is true in the UK, the USA and Canada as much as in Australia where I live. We have become a population and culture of fearful submission that overrides common sense and common law, and it will not be long before we find ourselves without the freedoms we thought we were protecting this way.

I don't care if the police arrested them and then let them go with a warning. It is still an abuse of police and governmental power in the name of the war on terrorism. There used to be a crime of "false arrest" that seems to have been forgotten about.

There have always been terrorists. They were called anarchists, republicans, saboteurs (outside of wartime) and so on. If a free society cannot survive in the presence of these threats without self-destructing, then freedom really is just a word some people use when talking.

The 'war on terror' is a joke. A dark, cynical, perverse joke
perpetrated by a lot of humorless fanatics whose only goal is
to arrogate to themselves more power and more money, not necessarily in that order. That there exists a plurality of stunningly obtuse and delusional people who actually subscribe to the notion that pissing away $400 billion a year in Iraq is fighting the war on terrorism, is just a testimony to the fact that the majority that should be opposing this travesty is either too complacent or too preoccupied to realize they are being boiled. [Knowing full well the frog anecdote is an urban legend.]

Wilkins is quite correct here, this is just the infancy of
facsism, but the hallmark is unambiguous.

What was the reaction to 9/11? Essentially render all air
travel onerous, frustrating, innefficient and just stupid. After that came a flashflood of erosive and constitutionally dubious legislation esablishing new bureaucracys, abrogating various rights, and coy disinterest in ad hoc establishments of unconstitutional powers by the president and his minons.

Meanwhile something like a million people a year casually enter the US without the legal right to do so and virtually nothing happens to them. They assimilate to some extent. They can get jobs if they need to, or if they have resouces they can go to flight school.

As someone pointed out freedom and democracy are not good things if the whole electorate is dumb as stumps. If the electorate has reached the point of utter complacency with respect to discriminating between information and propaganda. Then the war or terror was lost before it began.

I find it ironic that the politicians who have perpetrated these misdeeds have sworn to up hold that which they seek to tear down, in the name of their god, whom they either must assume is looking the other way, or they no more believe in than any of their other lies. Their only god is hegemony.

Apologies in advance for the rant. Its a sore point. But it is quite true that the response to terrorism has been one of the genre of speedbumps. Punish everyone for the transgressions of a few... too stupid not to attribute darker motives.


By Krubozumo Nyankoye (not verified) on 30 May 2008 #permalink

#9 tinyfrog:
"Yup. The police overreacted". My point is that the police overreacted, and that bloggers are overreacting when they make comparisons to Nazi Germany.

Fascist states didn't start out with all their compulsions in place.

They first define an external enemy and put in place laws claiming to protect the people from that enemy. The enemy then become the enemy of the state and that is whoever the goverment wants it to be.

They admit to some loss of liberty but claim the added security is worth it.

In the UK not all laws have to be agreed by parliament, some can be extended at the whim of a minister.

This requires the populace to kowtow and accept the arguements that; the innocent have nothing to fear, it is for our safety, it is for our own good etc.

The next one in the UK is ID cards, you won't be required to have one but you won't be allowed a bank account or to fly if you don't have one.
Of course your data is safe in their hands, only trusted civil servants, politicians, police anyone with a fiver (send a car plate no to DLVC and ask for the owners address, if your letter heading seems to be a company it won't be a problem) will have access to it and it will be oh so secure.

It is a slow drip drip that erodes our freedoms and we know what good intentions (assuming good intentions on the part of politicians) paves the road to.

By Chris' Wills (not verified) on 31 May 2008 #permalink

It isn't the war per se that threatens our freedoms, it's the way the war is being conducted. Reports have recently come out regarding the drop in air travel, because people are not willing to put up with the busywork and suspicion air travelers face every day. The more you make something difficult, the less people will want to do it.