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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 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.

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