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Thursday, June 05, 2014 

The biggest scam of the modern era.

Anti-terrorism is the biggest scam of the modern era.  Never previously has such a relatively insignificant threat necessitated the spending of mountains of cash, the dilution of liberties and the casting of suspicion on an entire community.  Just as Eisenhower warned of the military-industrial complex, we now have a security-industrial complex, and unlike the military, it doesn't need an opposing state actor to justify its continual expansion, not to mention the siphoning of cash into its orifices.  Once the danger was from al-Qaida central, based in Pakistan, even as ministers maintained we were preventing terrorism on the streets of Britain by fighting it in Afghanistan; now we're told to beware of terrorists returning from Syria, who are just dying to try out what they learned battling Assad (and each other) back here.

People like Mashudur Choudhury, the desperately unlucky and desperately pathetic wannabe jihadist from Portsmouth.  He went out to Syria, quickly realised he couldn't hack it in an actual war and returned home.  Nonetheless, according to the authorities his mere travelling to Syria meant he was intervening in another country's affairs for an ideological cause, and so the jury had little option but to convict him.  Leave aside how we know for a fact that British and American special forces have been training "moderate" rebels, i.e., those who only want an Islamic state in Syria rather than want it to be the first country in a region wide caliphate, and who nonetheless often fight alongside each other, or indeed how the most extreme group, ISIS, didn't exist prior to our intervention in Iraq, and just be glad that such a dangerous individual is going to prison for a long time.

It bears repeating time and again there has not been a major, realistic jihadist plot broken up in this country this decade.  Where once al-Qaida wannabes thought big, if there's any consensus it's now on doing something, anythingThe murder of Lee Rigby was just that, a murder.  Yet we are repeatedly told the threat is as severe as ever, with it being only the Snowden revelations stopping the intelligence agencies and government from bringing forward a communications bill designed to put in statute the access to information they have already through programmes such as Tempora.

All the attempts to put the security services under some sort of real, independent supervision have been repeatedly rejected.  Indeed, when asked to rule on the lawfulness of the spurious detention of David Miranda, the public's last line of defence against the over mighty state sided entirely with the government, the judiciary agreeing journalists can never know what will or will not damage national security.

In such a climate it should come as no surprise whatsoever that the state is taking one of the most drastic steps since TWAT began.  The Crown Prosecution Service wants the entire trial of two men known only as AB and CD to be held in secret.  Why?  We don't know, and can't know.  All we're allowed to know so far is both are charged with terrorism offences and they were arrested in a high profile operation last year.  Nor would we know even this had various media groups not challenged the initial ruling of Mr Justice Nicol that the trial could go ahead behind closed doors.  About the only other piece of information we've been given is the CPS believes the case may have to be dropped if it cannot be heard in secret.

Which part of the case against the two men could possibly be so sensitive it could damage national security as a whole?  One has to suspect the reason the case must be held in secret is, as it usually is, because of the embarrassment it would otherwise cause the security services or the government, suggesting the men either had some sort of involvement with the former or they have an association with a foreign ally.  As intercept evidence is still not able to be used in court that doesn't come into consideration, and it's also dubious whether the entire case would have to be heard in secret if just one or two witnesses will only give evidence if the press are excluded and reporting restricted.

Already we've seen trials heard only by a judge and not a jury.  Last year's Justice and Security Bill established "closed material procedures" after MI5 was exposed as complicit in the torture of Binyam Mohamed, in a move designed to prevent similar revelations coming to light.  The government wants the power to strip naturalised Britons of their citizenship should they dare go and fight abroad as Choudhury wanted to.  Now, having apparently learned nothing from the Diplock system in Northern Ireland, the state wants a whole trial to take place in secret.  Chris Grayling says we should trust the judiciary.  The judiciary is as fallible and open to pressure as the rest of us, has made mistakes in the past and will do so again.

In case it needs reminding, one of the government's own definitions of extremism is "vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including ... the rule of law."  As the barrister for the media Anthony Hudson argued, "the orders made involve such a significant departure from the principle of open justice that they are inconsistent with the rule of law and democratic accountability."  In order to fight the extremists we must it seems act against our own fundamental values.  Such is the triumph of the securocrats and the anti-terrorists.

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