A round-up of today’s newspaper articles covering the UK’s involvement in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations at home and abroad.
[UK Home Secretary] Ms Smith said: “We now face a threat level that is severe. It’s not getting any less, it’s actually growing. There are 2,000 individuals they are monitoring. There are 200 networks. There are 30 active plots. That has increased over the past two years. Since the beginning of 2007, 57 people have been convicted on terrorist plots. Nearly half of those pleaded guilty so this is not some figment of the imagination. It is a real risk and a real issue we need to respond to. We can’t wait for an attack to succeed and then rush in new powers. We’ve got to stay ahead.”
Last November, Jonathan Evans, MI5’s director general, spoke of 2,000 people posing a threat to the UK – the same number quoted by the home secretary. However, he went on to say that the number had not peaked.
In November 2006, the then MI5 director general, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, again spoke of 30 different terror plots and said 1,600 individuals were being monitored.
‘Extremism’ Fear Over Islam Studies Donations
Ben Leach, The Telegraph
Extremist ideas are being spread by Islamic study centres linked to British universities and backed by multi-million-pound donations from Saudi Arabia and Muslim organisations, a new report claims.Eight universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have accepted more than £233.5 million from Saudi and Muslim sources since 1995, with much of the money going to Islamic study centres, according to the report. The total sum, revealed by Anthony Glees, the director of Brunel University’s Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, amounts to the largest source of external funding to UK universities. Arab donors have argued that their gifts to academic institutions help to promote understanding between the West and the Islamic world. However, Prof Glees claims in his unpublished report that the propagation of one-sided views of Islam and the Middle East at universities amounts to anti-Western propaganda.
The former British commander in Afghanistan has said there were “real signs of progress” there. Brigadier Andrew MacKay, commander of 52 Infantry Brigade, returned to the UK after six months heading operations in the Helmand province. His troops were responsible for recapturing the strategic town of Musa Q’alah from the Taleban. He said: “There’s a greater level of security, people are returning to their towns. Musa Q’alah was iconic for all the wrong reasons, because the Taleban were in control,” he said. “We’re now trying to make it iconic for the right reasons – reconstruction and development.”
Abu Qatada Should Stay, But Not In Comfort
Minette Marrin, The Times
On Wednesday three judges overturned a decision by the special immigration appeals commission to deport him, saying Qatada could not be sent to Jordan because he might not receive a fair trial there: evidence that might have been obtained through torture by Jordanian intelligence services might be used against him.
Unless a final expensive appeal by the Home Office to the House of Lords succeeds, Qatada will released from Belmarsh prison in London and permitted to carry on inciting fellow Muslims at our expense. He gets about £1,000 a month in welfare benefits.
It surely cannot be right that such a man can live here with impunity, on benefits, while so many decent people are kept out or sent away. The contrast with the respectable Ghanaian woman with cancer who was recently deported to die in her own country, as she had no entitlement to National Health Service treatment, is particularly shocking.
However, one does not see clearly through the red mist of strong emotions. The fundamental question, whatever one thinks of human rights in general or Qatada in particular, is whether we want to be a country that condones torture, or connives at it, or is indirectly complicit in it. I do not think so. Torture is an abomination. I cannot think of any circumstances under which British law should excuse it or overlook it or fail to protect someone from it, even if that someone is Qatada. Whether torture goes on sometimes in the extremities of war is another matter. What’s important is that the law should not condone it.
Even if one thinks a nasty end too good for Qatada and his like, the point is that we should not wound our own consciences, or corrupt our ideals of civilised behaviour, by abandoning him, or anyone, to the risk of torture. The same goes for the lesser risk of an unfair trial in a country where evidence obtained under torture may be used. That last point is the only one on which Qatada succeeded with the appeal judges and it might seem to be straining a point at that.
Government plans to extend the limit to hold terror suspects without charge to 42 days are facing mounting criticism from both opposition and Labour MPs.
Keith Vaz, Labour chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, said ministers did not have enough support in parliament to carry the plans.