Sunday, June 04, 2006

Questions on anti-terrorism policing

The raid on Friday morning which led to the shooting of a young man has again brought to the fore certain central questions on anti-terrorism policing. These include:

i) the quality of the intelligence or expertise that the police and security services are relying on. First of all, I don't know why they're called 'intelligence' services when they are in fact gathering information. And how does one gather 'intelligence'? Instead, the should be called information services. Anyway, I do worry about the quality of information that is being handed over to police and I also worry about the kind of person who evaluates this. Having now met a few experts in the academic world and thereabouts, I would like to ask who are the actual 'experts' making the judgements on the inside? There needs to be an audit of their capability. At the least, sending in 250 officers to arrest a young 23 year old should raise some eyebrows on the inside? Were 78 police officers not enough to arrest one 23 year old man? It does bring the whole thing into disrepute.

ii) there is an obvious question mark over the use of fire arms which is new to British police practice i.e. it's not very British. Now that someone has been shot again after the anger of last year's shooting at Stockwell tube station, are procedures going to remain the same or will the services consider a change? If this man proves to be innocent, then that means that on both occasions, innocent people have been shot. Does this mean that capital punishment has now been re-introduced to British law, except through the back door?

iii) we now have the dishonourable spectacle of the face-saving spinning exercise (including through the News of the World!). Time will tell about the exact circumstances but are there any procedures in place to protect against prejudicing the outcome of any future trial and against spinning in general as happened after Stockwell when the British public was fed a whole series of incredible lies?

iv) there is something really frightening and disgusting about the violence of the early morning raid against innocent people. How many houses have been raided since 2001? What happens after the raid? What happens if the whole house has been turned upside down? What happens if the family of the accused is present in the house? What happens if after everything the 'intelligence' was stupid? What recourse do the innocent have?

v) who assesses some of the claims that come out of anti-terrorism policing? When the police say that three plots have been foiled in the last six months, what do they mean? Which expert verifies that this is in fact the case? It's time for some answers.

vi) in short, to borrow a phrase from the Home Secretary, after the catalogue of errors since 2001 including the alleged ricin plot, the alleged Mancheter United plot, the shooting of Jean Charles, the shooting on Friday morning, and worst, the failure to prevent last year's bombings, is British anti-terrorism policing 'fit for purpose'?