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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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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.


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