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Home Secretary Theresa May introduces Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill

Home Secretary Theresa May has introduced “urgently-needed legislation” which will give the UK some of the toughest powers in the world to tackle the increasing threat from international terrorism.

According to the Home Office, the all-new Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill will bolster the UK’s already considerable armoury of powers to disrupt the ability of people to travel abroad to fight, reduce the risks they pose on their return and combat the underlying ideology that feeds, supports and sanctions terrorism.

The collapse of Syria, the emergence of ISIL and ongoing instability in Iraq present significant dangers not just in the Middle East but also in Britain and across the West. Many of the 500 British citizens who have travelled to Syria and Iraq have joined terrorist organisations alongside foreign fighters from Europe and further afield.

Home Secretary Theresa May MP

Home Secretary Theresa May MP

The Bill, which will be enacted at the earliest opportunity, will disrupt those intending to travel by:

*Providing the police with a temporary power to seize a passport at the border from individuals of concern

*Creating a Temporary Exclusion Order that will control the return to the UK of a British citizen suspected of involvement in terrorist activity abroad

*Enhancing the UK’s border security by toughening transport security arrangements around passenger data, ‘No fly’ lists and screening measures

Enhancement of existing terrorism prevention and investigation measures

To deal with those returning to or already in the UK, the Government is:

*Enhancing existing terrorism prevention and investigation measures, including the introduction of stronger locational constraints and a power requiring individuals to attend meetings with the authorities as part of their ongoing management

To support those at serious risk of succumbing to radicalisation, the Government is:

*Creating a general duty on a range of bodies to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism

*Putting Channel – the voluntary programme for people at risk of radicalisation – on a statutory basis

To help disrupt the wider activities of these terrorist organisations, the Bill is:

*Enhancing vital investigative powers by requiring communications service providers to retain additional information in order to attribute an Internet Protocol address to a specific individual

*Amending existing law to ensure that UK-based insurance firms cannot reimburse the payment of terrorist ransoms

Use of these powers – which are consistent with all of the UK’s existing international legal obligations – will be subject to stringent safeguards. These include appropriate legal thresholds, judicial oversight of certain measures and a power to create a Privacy and Civil Liberties Board designed to support the work of David Anderson QC, the current Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.

Removal of terrorism-related material

The Bill will sit alongside the existing range of tools already used extensively to combat the terrorist threat, including powers to withdraw the passports of British citizens, bar foreign nationals from re-entering the UK and strip British citizenship from those who have dual nationality.

The Government is also working with the Internet industry to remove terrorist material hosted in the UK or overseas. Since February 2010, the Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit has taken down more than 65,000 pieces of unlawful terrorist-related content.

Speaking about the new Bill, Home Secretary Theresa May said: “We’re in the middle of a generational struggle against a deadly terrorist ideology. These powers are essential to keep up with the very serious and rapidly changing threats we face. In an open and free society, we can never entirely eliminate the threat from terrorism but we must do everything possible in line with our shared values to reduce the risks posed by our enemies.”

The Home Secretary added: “This Bill includes a considered and targeted set of proposals that will help to keep us safe at a time of very significant danger by ensuring we have the powers we need to defend ourselves.”

Shami Chakrabarti: director of Liberty

Shami Chakrabarti: director of Liberty

Responding to the Home Secretary’s announcement that the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill will oblige Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to retain information linking IP addresses with individual users, Liberty’s director Shami Chakrabarti commented: “There’s no problem with the targeted investigation of terrorist suspects, including where required the linking of apparently anonymous communications to a particular person. However, every Government proposal of the last so many years has been about blanket sur‎veillance of the entire population. The Snowden revelations demonstrate that they were even prepared to act outside the law and without Parliamentary consent. Forgive us if we look for the devil in the detail of this new Bill.”

Big Brother Watch director Emma Carr added: “There are key issues to be addressed with these IP-based proposals. For example, there are questions over whether or not this will be technically feasible. Proper safeguards must be introduced to ensure that these techniques are used transparently, that there’s a proper level of authorisation and that the oversight and redress mechanisms can function effectively. Also, if such a measure is introduced, time should then be allowed to ensure that its effectiveness in relation to law enforcement investigations can be evaluated with due care and transparency.”

Disruption of terrorist attacks

The National Policing Lead for Counter-Terrorism is Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley of the Metropolitan Police Service. As far as he’s concerned, countering terrorism has for too long been thought of as the sole preserve of the police service, the security agencies and the Government.

Rowley is calling for people and businesses to be prepared to play their part in keeping the country safe. He said: “The danger posed by violent extremists has evolved. They are no longer a problem solely stemming from countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, far away in the minds of the public. Now, they are home-grown in our communities, radicalised by images and messages they read on social media and prepared to kill for their cause. The tragic murder of Lee Rigby last year was a stark warning to us all about how real and local the threat really is.”

Rowley continued: “Police officers and our partners are continuing to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to protect the UK from a terrorist attack. So far this year we’ve disrupted several attack plots and made 271 arrests following counter-terrorism investigations, but the eyes and ears of law enforcement and other agencies alone cannot combat the threat.”

The UK’s counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST focuses on four key areas: Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare. Most of the publicity around terrorism is based on Pursue and Prevent, as these involve arrests, the disrupting of actual attack plots and turning people away from extremism.

AC Rowley is keen to stress that everyone can be doing more to Protect and Prepare, ensuring security in crowded places, the monitoring of our borders and being ready to respond to a terrorist attack.

“We don’t want to scare people, but we do want them to understand the threat and be vigilant to things that are out of place or suspicious and report it to the police. We need businesses to check that their security measures are effective and train their staff to detect potential threats and, if necessary, respond to an attack.”

Metropolitan Police Service Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley

Metropolitan Police Service Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley

AC Rowley also stated: “Experience shows us that terrorists target busy, well-populated places to ensure that attacks have a maximum impact. Businesses, particularly those in crowded places, have an invaluable role to play in our fight against terrorists, violent extremists and other criminals. Their staff are often the first people to spot signs that something is wrong.”

The police regularly hold security events with businesses, and the Metropolitan Police Service alone gave 29 presentations during 2013 and 2014.

Since the UK terror threat level increased on 29 August, reports of suspicious behaviour have nearly doubled. This is a direct result of reporting by members of the public, and every one of those reports is investigated.

However, AC Rowley wants more members of the public to have confidence in reporting their suspicions. “Please tell us if you know or suspect something,” he urged. “Your information could save lives. We will deal carefully with all of the information passed to us and respond sensitively and proportionately.”

*The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill is the seventh major counter-terrorism law introduced in Britain since 9/11. The Bill can be accessed here

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‘Threat level from international terrorism raised’: Statement by Prime Minister David Cameron

On Friday afternoon, Prime Minister David Cameron gave a statement to the national media about the international terrorism threat level in the United Kingdom being increased from ‘Substantial’ to ‘Severe’.

The Home Secretary has confirmed that the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre has increased the threat level in the United Kingdom from ‘Substantial’ to ‘Severe’. This is the first time in three years that the threat to our country has been at this level.

My first priority as Prime Minister is to make sure we do everything possible to keep our people safe. Today, I want to set out the scale and nature of the threat we face and the comprehensive approach that we are taking to combat it.

We’ve all been shocked and sickened by the barbaric murder of American journalist James Foley and by the voice of what increasingly seems to have been a British terrorist recorded on that video. It was clear evidence – not that any more was needed – that this is not some foreign conflict thousands of miles from home that we can hope to ignore.

The ambition to create an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq and Syria is a threat to our own security here in the UK. That’s in addition to the many other al-Qaeda inspired terrorist groups existing in that region.

The first ISIL-inspired terrorist acts on the continent of Europe have already taken place. We now believe that at least 500 people have travelled from Britain to fight in Syria and, potentially, Iraq.

Poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism

Let’s be clear about the source of the threat that we face. The terrorist threat was not created by the Iraq war ten years ago. It existed even before the horrific attacks of 9/11, themselves some time before the Iraq war. This threat cannot be solved simply by dealing with the perceived grievances over Western foreign policy. Nor can it be dealt with by addressing poverty, dictatorship or instability in the region, as important as these things are.

The root cause of this threat to our security is quite clear. It’s a poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism that is condemned by all faiths and by all faith leaders. It believes in using the most brutal forms of terrorism to force people to accept a warped world view and to live in an almost medieval state. A state in which its own citizens would suffer unimaginable brutality, including barbaric beheadings of those who refuse to convert to their warped version of Islam, the enslavement and raping of women and the widespread slaughter of Muslims by fellow Muslims. As well, of course, as the exporting of terrorism abroad.

Prime Minister David Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron

This is about a battle between Islam on the one hand and extremists who want to abuse Islam on the other. It’s absolutely vital that we make this distinction between religion and political ideology. Islam is a religion observed peacefully and devoutly by over one billion people. It’s a source of spiritual guidance which daily inspires millions to countless acts of kindness. Islamist extremism is a poisonous political ideology supported by a minority. These extremists, often funded by fanatics living comfortably far away from the battlefields, pervert the Islamic faith as a way of justifying their warped and barbaric ideology.

Now this is not a new problem. We have seen this extremism before here in our own country. We saw it with the sickening murder of Lee Rigby and with the home grown 7/7 bombers who blew up tube trains and buses. The links between what happens overseas and what happens here have also always been there. Many of those who sought to do us harm in the past have been foreign nationals living in Britain or even British citizens who have returned from terrorist training camps in Pakistan or elsewhere around the world.

What we’re now facing in Iraq with ISIL is a greater and deeper threat to our security than we have known before. In Afghanistan, the Taliban were prepared to play host to al-Qaeda, a terrorist organisation. With ISIL, we are facing a terrorist organisation not being hosted in a country but actually seeking to establish and then violently expand its own terrorist state. With their designs on expanding into Jordan and Lebanon and right up to the Turkish border, we could be facing a terrorist state on the shores of the Mediterranean and bordering a NATO member.

We cannot appease this ideology. We have to confront it at home and abroad. To do this we need a tough, intelligent, patient and comprehensive approach to defeat the terrorist threat at its source. Tough in that we need a firm security response whether that is action to go after the terrorists, international co-operation on intelligence and counter-terrorism or uncompromising measures against terrorists here at home.

Requirement for an intelligent political response

It also must be an intelligent political response. We must use all resources we have at our disposal – aid, diplomacy, political influence and our military. Learning the lessons of the past doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for our military. The military were vital in driving al-Qaeda from Afghanistan, and we support the US air strikes against ISIL in Iraq. The key point is that military force is just one element of what we can do. We need a much wider approach, working with neighbours in the region and addressing not just security but also politics.

We know that terrorist organisations thrive where there is political instability and weak or dysfunctional political institutions. We must support the building blocks of democracy, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, the rights of minorities, free media, free association, a proper place in society for the army and show perseverance. Not just because these building blocks take time to put in place, but because we are in the middle of a generational struggle against a poisonous and extremist ideology that I believe we’ll be fighting for years and probably decades.

We will always take whatever action is necessary to keep the British people safe here at home. Britain has some of the finest and most effective security and intelligence services anywhere in the world. We will always act with urgency where needed, as we did with the emergency data retention legislation which is already yielding results.

Home Secretary Theresa May MP

Home Secretary Theresa May MP

We’ve already taken a whole range of measures to keep our people safe. We are stopping suspects from travelling by seizing passports. We’re barring foreign nationals from re-entering the UK. We’re depriving people of citizenship and we are legislating so that we can prosecute people for all terrorist activity, even where that activity takes place overseas.

We’ve also stepped up our operational response. Since last year, we’ve seen a fivefold increase in Syria-related arrests. We’ve seen port stops and cash seizures grow by over 50%. We’ve taken down 28,000 pieces of extremist material from the Internet this year alone, including 46 ISIL-related videos. We made clear that those who carry ISIL flags or seek to recruit to ISIL will be arrested and the material seized. We’ve also seen a 58% increase in referrals to our de-radicalisation programme called the ‘Channel Project’.

Listening to the Security Services

People are rightly concerned about so-called ‘foreign fighters’ who travel from Britain to Syria and Iraq, take part in terrorist acts and then come back to threaten our security here at home. The scale of this threat is growing but there will be no knee jerk reactions. We will respond calmly and with purpose. We’ll do so driven by the evidence and the importance of maintaining the liberty that is the hallmark of the society we defend, but we have to listen carefully to the security and intelligence officers who do so much every day to keep us safe.

I recently chaired a meeting with our intelligence and security services and we agreed that the answer to this threat was not to dream up some sweeping new power that would be ineffective in practice. However, it’s becoming clear that there are some gaps in our armoury, and we need to strengthen them. We need to do more to stop people travelling, to stop those who do go from returning and to deal decisively with those who are already here. I’ll be making a statement in the House of Commons on Monday 1 September. This will include further steps to stop people travelling with new legislation that will make it easier to take people’s passports away.

As well as being tough, patient and intelligent, we also need to take a comprehensive approach. Dealing with this threat is not just about new powers. It’s about how we combat extremism in all its forms. We need to tackle that ideology of Islamist extremism head on at root before it takes the form of violence and terror. That means challenging the thinking of extremist ideologues, identifying the groups in this country that push an extremist agenda and countering them by empowering the overwhelming majority who believe in the British values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for minorities.

Beating the scourge of extremism

That is why, as Prime Minister, I have driven a new approach to tackling radicalisation and counter-extremism in Britain, focusing on all types of extremism and not just violent extremism. I set this out in my Munich speech in 2011 and I’ve driven this forward through my extremism task force. This has included stopping the funding of organisations that promote extremism, banning hate preachers and ensuring that every part of Government and the state from schools and universities through to prisons is focused on beating the scourge of extremism. This task force will continue to meet on a regular basis.

Britain is an open, tolerant and free nation. We are a country that backs people in every community who want to work hard, make a contribution and build a life for themselves and their families. We cannot stand by and allow our openness to be confused with a tolerance of extremism, or one that encourages different cultures to live separate lives and allows people to behave in ways that run completely counter to our values.

Adhering to British values is not an option or a choice. It is a duty for those who live in these islands. In the end, it is only by standing up for these values that we will defeat the extremists, protect our way of life and keep all of our people safe.

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