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Hammaad Munshi when first arrested
Return of the Thought Police.

Hammaad Munshi, a schoolboy in Great Britain, has been convicted under Britain’s new anti-terrorism laws. Now 18, he was just 15 when first arrested, making him the youngest terrorist ever convicted in that nation.

He was charged with "making records of information likely to be useful for terrorism". What information exactly? Munshi downloaded "How-To" guides from the Internet on making napalm and other explosives, information on the use of poisons, and details about world airports.

Munshi will be sentenced next month. His attorney has been told prison time is "unavoidable".

For the record, I've long been critical of the United Kingdom's coddling of its radical Islamic minority. Munshi and the rest of his jihadist cell are clearly a threat to peaceful society.   I'm not concerned that action was taken, but rather the justification for that action. He wasn't charged, nor even accused of actual intent to commit a terrorist act. Rather, he was found guilty of possessing information -- of knowing too much for his own good.

In a modern society that runs on information, illegalizing the possession of certain kinds of knowledge is a very slippery slope. As a college student in the 1980s, I myself downloaded much of the same information Munshi did -- though it came from online BBSes rather than the then-nonexistent Internet. I certainly had no plans to kill anyone. If Munshi had such plans, he should have been charged with them, rather than what he was.

When arrested, Munshi was found to be carrying two packets of ball-bearings; the shrapnel of choice for home-grown bomb builders. A bomb-making charge could have been chosen. There was also evidence that he was guilty of incitement to violence. None of these charges were chosen though; the possession of information statute was selected as the one most likely to succeed.

Your average murder mystery novel contains a number of ideas on how to kill someone without leaving evidence. Many action novels have a wealth of information on knives, guns, and explosives.   By these new anti-terror laws, reading the wrong book can now be judged illegal. Britain -- the historical home of the humanist movement -- is revealed as a nation fast-retreating from individual liberties.   The thought police are back.

Germany and France have long had their own versions of censorship. Whistle a tune loved by the Nazis, or try to claim the Holocaust death count is overstated, and you can wind up facing prison time. But Britain has gone beyond this, in criminalizing knowledge, rather than specific actions.

Asia, Africa, and South America have never been especially known for their respect of human rights. If the Western world gives up on individual liberties, it seems unlikely that anyone else will carry the torch.

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Rightfully So...
By mdogs444 on 8/20/2008 7:59:37 AM , Rating: 2
This was a double headline on Drudge Report yesterday, with several linked articles. This guy is a crazy, wanna-be, jihadist and should be dealth with accordingly. I know Michael Asher is all about civil liberties, and I think most average people are as well.

But this guy is a POS, and should be tossed in jail for many years to come. One paragraph from the linked article:

Munshi was 15 when recruited by Aabid Khan, 23, a "key player" to help radicalise the impressionable and vulnerable in Britain and abroad with his message of "violent jihad". They lived 10 miles apart, phoned each other during 2005 and 2006, and swapped documents about "black powder explosives".

RE: Rightfully So...
By FITCamaro on 8/20/2008 8:48:26 AM , Rating: 2
Oh come on. Look at that face. It's not like it says "I shall burn you alive" or anything.....oh.....

RE: Rightfully So...
By mdogs444 on 8/20/2008 8:53:31 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, he really looks like one of those innocent jihadists :-)

Couldn't pick him out of a lineup, just like you couldn't pick out one of those creepy sexual predators at the mall.

RE: Rightfully So...
By onelittleindian on 8/20/2008 10:51:09 AM , Rating: 3
Look at that face. It's not like it says "I shall burn you alive" or anything
Looks like the average guy in any of my EE classes. I don't remember any of them burning anyone alive.

Of course we all know those dirty ragheads are just waiting to murder us and rape our wimminfolk, right?

RE: Rightfully So...
By FITCamaro on 8/20/2008 11:58:26 AM , Rating: 1
Buddy I went to school full of Indians and Arabs. Was good friends with one of them.

I was making a joke. If your hatred of anyone with a conservative mindset blinds you to that, too bad for you.

RE: Rightfully So...
By Flunk on 8/20/2008 7:54:04 PM , Rating: 3
I'm fairly certain that his comment is a joke too.

RE: Rightfully So...
By onelittleindian on 8/21/2008 12:49:50 AM , Rating: 5
Anyone who thought I was serious needs a major humor injection.

RE: Rightfully So...
By wordsworm on 8/24/2008 9:55:13 PM , Rating: 3
Some jokes aren't funny. Jokes about Bush are funny because he acts like an idiot and he sounds retarded. Jokes about holocaust Jews or people struggling to be free from oppression are not.

RE: Rightfully So...
By JimmyC on 8/26/2008 12:50:44 AM , Rating: 2
Tell that to the Jokeman, bet he just rips you.

RE: Rightfully So...
By cherrycoke on 8/27/2008 2:34:37 PM , Rating: 2
I could tell you were joking but just because you are joking down't mean it is always taken as "funny" Rape and hateful labels are often misunderstood even in jokes. Kind of a thin line sometimes.

RE: Rightfully So...
By wordsworm on 8/24/2008 9:38:41 PM , Rating: 2
I was making a joke. If your hatred of anyone with a conservative mindset blinds you to that, too bad for you.
Clearly bad taste humor is OK for you, but not for others.

RE: Rightfully So...
By kbehrens on 8/20/2008 10:31:14 AM , Rating: 5
But this guy is a POS, and should be tossed in jail for many years to come
When we start breaking the rules just because we know "this guy" deserves it, it sets a very dangerous precedent. Tomorrow you could be the one arrested for downloading the wrong thing.

They lived 10 miles apart, phoned each other during 2005 and 2006, and swapped documents about "black powder explosives
He talked about black powder? Off with his head!

RE: Rightfully So...
By mdogs444 on 8/20/2008 10:41:30 AM , Rating: 1
Tomorrow you could be the one arrested for downloading the wrong thing.

In case you haven't noticed, were not talking about the occasional MP3 here.
He talked about black powder? Off with his head!

First, he didn't just "talk" about it, and he is already known to be in connection with a cell.

RE: Rightfully So...
By kbehrens on 8/20/2008 10:47:34 AM , Rating: 1
he didn't just "talk" about it
He did just talk. He didn't buy any or blow anything up or even make any plans to do so.

and he is already known to be in connection with a cell.
Oh is that illegal now? If so charge him with that. Not with looking at the wrong document.

RE: Rightfully So...
By lompocus on 8/22/08, Rating: -1
RE: Rightfully So...
By CascadingDarkness on 8/22/2008 12:36:56 PM , Rating: 2
How many 15 year-old boys didn't go through a 'faze' of making their own homemade fireworks and fireballs? I sure don't know any. Having information isn't a direct connection to terrorist activity.

It would be cause to monitor him IMO. Maybe enough for a search warrant if you add in the connection to a cell (if it's credible).

Charging for having information every other 15 year has is ridiculous.

RE: Rightfully So...
By joeymac on 8/23/2008 12:27:19 AM , Rating: 2
The ball bearings would indicate that he was out for a bit more than making the "fun" explosives. There's no reason for those to be in there.

RE: Rightfully So...
By Calin on 8/24/2008 11:03:19 AM , Rating: 2
"Home alone", just that that little terrorist used toy cars for the burglars to step on (and roll/fall).
There are perfectly good reasons to want some ball bearings - I remember seeing a magnet taking all the ball bearings (one inch diameter, at that) from inside a 10 liter bucket, and thought: "wow, so nice"
(far from me the thought of letting crimes go unpunished - even if this happens a lot in UK - just that some things cross the line. Next thing, you as an student from an Institute of Atomic Physics from some other country can be arrested and convicted in the UK because you know how to make an atomic "breeding" reactor, or an atomic bomb.

RE: Rightfully So...
By tastyratz on 8/25/2008 8:40:52 AM , Rating: 2
if your a 15 year old boy, and you don't know how to build at least 1 form of explosives - your not a normal 15 year old boy.
Granted everyone else I knew at that age had the anarchists cookbook. They used it to build crazy things or just read for the sake of reading. Owning that is one thing.

I think this boy proved he "earned his stay" in jail. He didn't just get information on how to make cool bombs out of toilet bowl cleaner, he had airport information, physically caught with ball bearings, and (if true) the connection to a terrorist cell.
While its dangerous to bring someone up on charges for possession of information I think it should be a charge that can be brought up if the person is also being taken up on other charges. If he was arrested for something else related this should be a chargeable offense... just not on its own.

RE: Rightfully So...
By fxyefx on 8/20/2008 11:00:10 AM , Rating: 3
Indeed he does deserve prison time. But of all the things they could have charged him with, why did they have to choose the one that sets the most George Orwellian 1984 precedent? It seems very strange to me that they thought this possession of information charge was the best sure-fire way to lock him up. I guess it says something about the general view they have of information rights over there...

RE: Rightfully So...
By Calin on 8/24/2008 11:05:33 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe it's some kind of patting themselves on the back: "In the year 2008, we've convicted 10 peoples on terrorism laws. There are so many terrorists, we need more money/"better" laws/...".

RE: Rightfully So...
By wordsworm on 8/24/2008 9:58:36 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, prison sounds good. It'll help him hate his country more and he might even meet some people who will teach him everything he needs to know to become a real terrorist.

RE: Rightfully So...
By TomCorelis on 8/20/2008 7:10:42 PM , Rating: 5
You're playing exactly into the little thought trap that the authorities and fearmongers want you to play in. But, as Asher alludes, this is bigger than a single malcontent.

Laws against possessing dangerous information in the UK have long been on the books, AFAIK. They could have arrested this guy on countless other charges, again as Asher alludes, but instead they take an Orwellian approach.

What about the people who just like to horde knowledge? What about the packrats who just want to have another interesting factoid? What about the people who like to read this stuff for the thrill of it? It amazes me how far people are willing to go to punish the intellectuals of the world, because people feel they can't trust them.... I have a folder on my hard drive that, well, frankly I have to disable any anti-virus scans on. There's all sorts of goodies in there. I've never used them for bad, but its nice being able to study some things hands on. Does that make me a thought criminal?

RE: Rightfully So...
By GoodRevrnd on 8/22/2008 12:50:05 AM , Rating: 3
I suppose it's not my place to judge... but that's why I forwarded your post to the FBI so they can properly assess your threat. ;D

Seriously though, remember back in the days of the Anarchist's Cookbook? How many of us can honestly say we never considered making a floppy disk "bomb" when we were a kid. I can only imagine if that type of material hit in force today.

This whole arrest was poorly executed imo. Once they discovered he was a person of interest they should have just closely watched him and waited for some nasty conspiracy charge that could really lock him up for a long time instead of this BS that raises strong ethical concerns, risks a charge that doesn't stick, and a shorter prison sentence that will probably have him out and furious as an even larger threat. Of course, that opens another whole can of worms regarding what you read making you a person of interest (thanks Patriot Act & libraries).

RE: Rightfully So...
By Calin on 8/24/2008 11:08:25 AM , Rating: 2
They knew he wasn't a "real" enemy (one of those able to prepare something with any chance of success whatsoever), else they would have waited until they could get him and his antourage too, on real charges (conspiracy at least). Like it is now, they just want to impress the public.

RE: Rightfully So...
By Yawgm0th on 8/22/2008 3:05:16 PM , Rating: 1
This guy is a crazy, wanna-be, jihadist and should be dealth with accordingly.

Nothing you should be done, you mean? Last time I checked, in remotely civilized society, thoughts are not illegal. Being an asshole is not crime. Wanting to be a terrorist, or kill people is not a crime. What has society come to when we arrest people for their thoughts?

The worst part is they could have simply taken a court-warranted tap on all of his communication devices and monitored him closely. If there are good reasons to suspect him of being a terrorist, this is fine. But until he actually plots something (plotting something is not the same as thinking about it), he has not committed a crime.

Well, at least that's the case in countries that still have some semblance of freedom. Sadly, the United States and much of Europe are nearing the U.K. in terms of lost civil liberties and increased governmental control. We've passed the Patriot Act and put through the outrageous new FISA. At this rate we'll be right there with U.K. in a few years.

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