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UK Seeks To Hold Terrorism Trial In Secret 240

Posted by samzenpus
from the for-our-eyes-only dept.
hazeii (5702) writes in with news about a secret trial set to take place in England. 'A major terrorism trial is set to be held entirely in secret for the first time in British legal history in an unprecedented departure from the principles of open justice, the court of appeal has heard. The identities of the two defendants charged with serious terror offences are being withheld from the public, and the media are banned from being present in court to report the forthcoming trial against the two men, known only as AB and CD.'
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UK Seeks To Hold Terrorism Trial In Secret

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  • Dear UK (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 05, 2014 @03:09AM (#47169789)

    I know you may still be annoyed at the US for breaking away from the Empire. Attempting to lure them back by imitating their practices is however NOT a good idea.

    Sincerely,
    The rest of the world

    • Re:Dear UK (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @04:10AM (#47169961)

      How do you know it's not a case so important and transcendental that absolute secrecy is required to protect British society as a whole?

      We only know it's a terrorism trial.

      Maybe AB downloaded a Justin Bieber song. Maybe CD whistled a Disney tune during a bus trip without paying the representation fees. Maybe AB is brown skinned!

      See? Now I'm afraid. I hope they have already been executed, just to be sure. Or sent to an american torture camp, to be exchanged for the next marine that's abducted by a pirate arab communist hacker terro-jihadist.

      • Re:Dear UK (Score:5, Insightful)

        by captainpanic (1173915) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @04:30AM (#47170037)

        I enjoy your sarcasm, but I will still answer your 1st question as if you were serious.

        How do you know it's not a case so important and transcendental that absolute secrecy is required to protect British society as a whole?

        Because the system on which our liberty and freedom is based is more important than some guys setting of a bomb, no matter how large the attack.

        We just cannot - under any circumstance - accept a situation that a government can capture, try and imprison people without ever having to be accountable for those actions.

        I could accept a situation where trial is postponed because of ongoing investigations against others, but the trial must be public. Heck, we (= the West) have been fighting regimes that did this in the past, saying we had to liberate the people from the oppression, etc. etc., and now we're doing it ourselves? Does not compute.

        • by Bruce66423 (1678196) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @05:20AM (#47170207)
          There will be a jury - though one may be sceptical about how unprejudiced they will be - and the judge will be responsible for ensuring real fair play. The issue is, of course, about trust of these institutions given there is no chance for the gawping public to follow the details of the case. Given the inability of the public to accept jury verdicts when the they are 'sure' that the opposite answer is the right one, one has to doubt that the gawping public offers a great deal. I admit I'm thinking out loud here - I really don't know the right answer, I'm just not 100% sure 'open justice' really doesn't descend into witch hunting on a regular basis.
          • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

            That's missing the point. There are lots of trials where shoddy evidence or misconduct by the police or CPS came to light, but due to the way the system works could only be investigated afterwards and brought up in an appeal. Lots of people have been subsequently found not guilty on appeal thanks to various interested parties taking up their cause and finding new evidence on their behalf.

            For there to be proper scrutiny the evidence and testimony have to be made public. With a secret trial we don't even know

          • The people need to trust that the justice system is fair in order for it to be relevant. The trials need to be open for the people to have faith that its fair.

        • > Because the system on which our liberty and freedom is based is more important than some guys setting of a bomb, no matter how large the attack

          Let's be very careful about absolutes. I can certainly imagine circumstances in which a summary execution without a trial could be morally justified. But I'd expect the executioner to go to jail for murder.

          > We just cannot - under any circumstance - accept a situation that a government can capture, try and imprison people without ever having to be accountable

        • by C0R1D4N (970153)
          On the other hand, if they are not guilty at least their names won't be eternally linked to a major terrorism trial.
          • by dryeo (100693)

            Just have a publication ban on the names. They do it around here all the time, usually for juveniles. The press just has to refer to the defendants as AB and CD when reporting. Same with any sensitive witnesses, refer to them by letter.

        • Heck, we (= the West) have been fighting regimes that did this in the past, saying we had to liberate the people from the oppression, etc. etc., and now we're doing it ourselves?

          People stopped demanding liberty and freedom and started demanding safety. The government complied as best they could. Democracy in action!

          • Re:Dear UK (Score:4, Interesting)

            by dryeo (100693) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @11:03AM (#47171939)

            Here in Canada it is the government leading the safety thing and the people demanding privacy. They keep introducing legislation to give more powers to the police etc, things like being able to go to ISPs and demand names and the people keep screaming no. Terrorism, child porn and this time, cyberbullying. Unluckily the public slowly gets worn down, the new powers are attached to other legislation and it looks like they may succeed this time around.
            Thing is this government, who got voted in on a transparency promise, is the most secretive government ever and freaks out when their privacy is broken. The former Public Safety Minister (WTF?) accused everyone of being for child molesters while trying to pass his new law and then freaked when his public divorce proceeding, including how he was screwing the babysitter for 8 years, was publicized.
            They really seem to go on the principal that everyone is as crooked as they are.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          I can think of several real world situation where this is needed.
          For example revealing identities indicate a breach has been done and postoperative at risk.
          I could go on and on. I could also go on and on about abuse.

          I wish the data would be come public in 3 years after the trial.

          Now you saw no matter how bog the attack, but have you really thought about it? 100K people dead? eastern seaboard?

        • In fact arguably setting up such a secret court is actually a larger attack on our nation than any conceivable act of terrorism.
      • Re:Dear UK (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 05, 2014 @04:44AM (#47170061)

        First it's once, then twice, and before you know it every single trial will be private. I still don't buy the whole terrorist defense we slap that tag on pretty much everything. Slap on the terrorist tag and you can pretty much ignore some unlucky fuckers basic human rights whether they;re guilty or not.

        I don't care if it was Adolf Hitler, it needs to be public because this one fucked up precedent. You do not want to let this happen unless you're fine with your kids and their kids dealing with it.

        • The whole point of the modern trial system is to do things out in the public so anyone can look at it if they desire and check up on governmentt abuse.

          It is a hard-wrought lesson of history. Shame on modern political opportunists (who, in the US anyway) foresaw their emergence.

      • How do you know it's not a case so important and transcendental that absolute secrecy is required to protect British society as a whole?

        We don't know, because it's secret. AND THAT'S THE PROBLEM!

      • The US Secret Service did not detect this as snark! How did you get inside information into a foreign case exactly?

        If you are confused see this [slashdot.org] topic from yesterday.

    • ...Attempting to lure them back by imitating their practices...

      Wag the dog. The US never really broke away. They just rearranged the furniture a bit. God save the Queen!

    • by russotto (537200)

      I know you may still be annoyed at the US for breaking away from the Empire. Attempting to lure them back by imitating their practices is however NOT a good idea.

      Ironicly, this is one of the REASONS the US broke away from the empire. That bit about a public trial in the Sixth Amendment wasn't put there because the founders had some theoretical idea that secret trials would be used to dispense injustice -- it was because they had experience with the British doing just that.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Formally, UK legal history goes back to the coronation of Richard 1 in 1189. Practically, it goes back to the 8th century or so. This is (one of) the few trials in camera in the last 100 years, that's all.

    • by Nimey (114278)

      Why would the UK's legal history reset with Richard I instead of William the Conqueror? Source?

  • Not The First Time (Score:5, Informative)

    by mentil (1748130) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @03:13AM (#47169807)

    for the first time in British legal history in an unprecedented departure from the principles of open justice

    Wrong [wikipedia.org]

  • by Xest (935314) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @03:13AM (#47169809)

    I guess we are following the Americans with their secret courts afterall. I was hoping we would avoid this.

    I don't even understand the rationale behind it, the whole thing has to be held in secret because even naming the defendants would risk national security, but if it can't be held in secret and the defendants are named the case has to be dropped? So what's to stop the defendants or their family going to the media to say they're the defendants to get the case against them dropped? It doesn't make any sense.

    At least it's still a jury trial if nothing else, but it begs the question as to how anyone outside the system can verify the jury isn't rigged.

    • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rogoshen1 (2922505) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @03:57AM (#47169903)

      My theory is because currently terrorism still has a bit of 'awe' factor behind it. Treating these cases like any other case would diminish that. The emperor has no clothes, and they are terrified at letting us see what precisely is going on, and what we're giving up civil liberties over.

      Terrorism is the vehicle by which the authoritarian elements in society (on both sides of the pond) can use to gain more power and exert control over the populace. Since 9/11 (and I'm sure 7/7) the state has granted itself more power at the expense of personal privacy.

      Allowing us to see that in reality it's not an extraordinary case, that plotting to murder people over ideology shouldn't be treated any differently than plotting to murder people indiscriminately -- takes that avenue away from them.

      • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Interesting)

        by oobayly (1056050) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @04:20AM (#47170007)

        My theory is because currently terrorism still has a bit of 'awe' factor behind it. Treating these cases like any other case would diminish that.

        If that's the case, then we've gone backwards in the last year. I was incredibly relieved when the CPS decided to charge Lee Rigby's murderers [wikipedia.org] with murder, rather than elevating them to terrorists. This meant that they could be shut down when they started sprouting their insane bullshit - which is what happened during the trial.

        When that happened, I thought we'd started to reach a turning point - that terrorism wasn't a simple way of getting us to agree with policies - and I haven't received or heard any of the ridiculous ACPO* [wikipedia.org] "suspect your neighbour" leaflets. We do have an election coming up next year, so maybe that's the reason.

        The sane way to deal with this would be to charge them attempted murder, thereby making any political statements irrelevant to the trial.

        * The ACPO is tentatively a non-profit organisation, but they do like to lobby and earn cash for selling records at 11667% of cost (£70 for a 60p cost)

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      It depends on who is requesting no press.
      eg "Exclusive: US blocks publication of Chilcot’s report on how Britain went to war with Iraq" (14 November 2013)
      http://www.independent.co.uk/n... [independent.co.uk]
      Re "So what's to stop the defendants or their family going to the media to say they're the defendants to get the case against them dropped? It doesn't make any sense."
      They might be invited in for a chat and told if they talk or the cleared legal team talk they all get bundled in on long term charges, risk deporta
    • by 1s44c (552956)

      If it's held in secret how can anyone be sure it's anything that remotely resembles a fair trail? Maybe the defendants don't even know what that are being charged with. Maybe they are not allowed lawyers.

      Secret trails are not the worst of this though. Since about 2005 the home secretary has the power to put anyone under house arrest indefinitely without any burden of proof. The UK government don't even need trails anymore.

      http://www.theguardian.com/uk/... [theguardian.com]

    • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rtb61 (674572) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @07:00AM (#47170507) Homepage

      That is not the problem of a secret trial. The real problem of a secret trial is the presumption of guilt and the defendants must prove their innocence. That presumption of guilt is basically being "LOUDLY" and "PUBLICLY" declared tainting all possible juries. The trial has to be secret because they are guilty and 'er' 'um' because they are guilty. The judge in upholding the secrecy has publicly declared their guilt. So the trial is not longer a trial of guilt or innocence simply a secret declaration of an pre-agreed punishment to be handed out. The whole point of public trials to to force government to publicly prove it's claim because we don't fucking believe them until they do so and every time government fails to prove it's case it is because it is lying.

    • by JMJimmy (2036122)

      Ahmed the Bomber and Caleb the Destroyer! FEAR THEM!

    • So the only information we have is that there's maybe going to be a secret trial of two unidentified alleged terrorists for planning some unidentified terrorist act.

      Beats me why they fucking bothered telling anybody about it at all. Still I guess it makes a change from Operation Yewtree.

    • by MacTO (1161105)

      For revealing the three special agents involved in the case, you too shall face a secret trial.

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @03:28AM (#47169849) Homepage Journal
    Recall when Duncan Campbell, Time Out reporter Crispin Aubrey and former SIGINIT operator John Berry faced witnesses from the UK intelligence community:
    Colonel 'B'. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
    The UK court system has reverted to 1977 and the Official Secrets Act 1911 to try and stop the press from reporting again. All this has been tested in the UK press and legal system before. Secret courts did not save the GCHQ from Time Out article "The Eavesdroppers".
    If the case is so "major" and is legally sound, let the press in to see the UK justice system at work. The same issues where faced over Ireland, UK gov staff working for the Soviet Union, the first super grass efforts (well connected informers getting reduced time).
    How a secret national security trial will legally challenged in open court after a conviction for the tactic of "major terrorism" will be interesting.
  • Maybe they haven't quite perfected the "parallel construction" that our intelligence agencies coach US law enforcement on. You need a good cover story that establishes probable cause so that you don't need to rely on illegally gathered intelligence as evidence. Ship them to GITMO I hear there are a couple empty bunks. That will allow you to avoid those pesky civil courts all together.
    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Why would the UK bother with "parallel construction"? Just seal the court and have a gov official introduce a person as an expert witness to read back the logs/recordings/let the security cleared defence ask questions.
      The 'expert witness" will have no name, past, court reviewed academic history as an export but will be able to affirm the copper line was tapped at the exchange or digital log was saved over 2 years...
      The court is then reopened and nobody is any the wiser about UK methods.
      In the US in theo
    • by boorack (1345877)
      Maybe. Other explanation that comes to my mind is UK does not want inconvenient facts to come out. Maybe they trained and sponsored those two terrorists to fight in Libya or Syria and this is too embarassing to become public.
      • by coofercat (719737)

        I agree, but all the more reason we need this to be public. If what you suggest actually took place, then letting the government introduce secret trials for something as trite as some double-standards isn't anywhere near reason enough to allow it.

        The wonderful contradiction of secret courts - if it's worth making secret, then it's almost definitely worth making public. I hope it ends up the latter - otherwise every tom, dick and harry being tried for anything worse than a parking violation will push for a s

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @04:02AM (#47169923)

    And the global dictatorship is slowly being pieced together.

    And citizens do nothing, amazingly. People with any knowledge of history should be scared shitless - I know I am.

    And soon it'll be too late to do anything about it...

    • by Xest (935314) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @04:16AM (#47169989)

      People are doing something, they're voting against the main parties.

      The problem is in the process they're leaning towards the lures of the far right like UKIP with it's populist lies.

      I find it incredible that the three main parties are running round like headless chickens screaming "Oh my god, we're losing votes to the far right, how do we stop this disease in our society!" yet remain completely oblivious to the fact that this sort of shit is exactly why people are flocking away from them en-masse.

      I want them to change course not simply because things like this sicken me as they did during Brown era authoritarianism, but because the fact they're pushing people into the arms of the far right is even more disturbing.

    • And the global dictatorship is slowly being pieced together.

      And citizens do nothing, amazingly. People with any knowledge of history should be scared shitless - I know I am.

      And soon it'll be too late to do anything about it...

      Short of a bloody revolt, what exactly can the citizens do about it?

      • Short of a bloody revolt, what exactly can the citizens do about it?

        They can stop voting for people who pander to their fears.

        • Short of a bloody revolt, what exactly can the citizens do about it?

          They can stop voting for people who pander to their fears.

          Who exactly do you suggest? Coz the only way I can see to do as you say is to simply not vote for anyone, and I can't see how that's going to help.

      • by coofercat (719737)

        Get onto https://www.writetothem.com/ [writetothem.com] and type in your postcode. Tell your MP that you don't care who he/she is, or how good their record for your local area. Tell them that because they're affiliated with the major parties that are either condoning this, or failing to do anything to stop it you no longer feel you can vote for them. Tell them you're going to vote for one of the smaller parties - you're not sure who just yet, but will look into it and pick one that seems like it's acceptable, just so long as

      • by Nyder (754090)

        And the global dictatorship is slowly being pieced together.

        And citizens do nothing, amazingly. People with any knowledge of history should be scared shitless - I know I am.

        And soon it'll be too late to do anything about it...

        Short of a bloody revolt, what exactly can the citizens do about it?

        Protest, take it to the streets, hold signs that say "No Secret Courts".

        Make a big nuisance so everyone knows what's going on.

        It at least, is a start before the revolution (which I agree is probably going to be needed in the States and the UK).

    • by tomtomtom (580791) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @05:16AM (#47170187)
      The senior judiciary appear to be pretty horrified by the prospect as well so there is perhaps some hope. See this article [lrb.co.uk] by Lord Phillips, who before he retired had been Lord Chief Justice, the Senior Law Lord and the president of the Supreme Court.
  • by stealth_finger (1809752) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @04:08AM (#47169949)
    Just don't and say you did. "Oh those two guys, yeah they were guilty, the evidence was overwhelming but ya'know classified innit so I cant talk about it. Biiiiig secret"

    The two guys probably don't even exist, the Judge just wants to play GTA or something for a bit and not be disturbed in his secret court. Probably has pillow forts and everything.

  • Major Not (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jim Sadler (3430529) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @04:47AM (#47170071)
    It is obvious that we lost some wonderful and brave people on 9/11. We also lost some expensive buildings and the suffering of many people may ruin the lives of many families for life. Sometimes 9/11 is compared to Pearl Harbor. But in all seriousness 9/11 does not compare to Pearl Harbor at all. During that attack we lost ships and sailors and airmen that we would need to save our nation and the pain to our nation included the threat of loss of the nation. The 9/11 attack was not a major attack in that sense. I don't think many people viewed 9/11 as threatening to collapse the entire nation. The idea that for purposes of trial we label 9/11 as a major attack doesn't sit well with me. Yes, we do have a lunatic, cult like, group of incompetents who would like to crush us. But we see them more as idiots than a military threat. I think the term idiots is justified as none of the enemy will improve their place in life from the wretched little fight that these folks have put up. In the end these people live at our leisure. If they really were a "major threat" then we would have gone to the big weapons and simply erased them from the face of the Earth. Covert actions by our government may be far more dangerous than a bunch of religious primitives running about with AK47s.
    • 9/11 compares to VE day. The problem is, the west is playing the role of Germany.

    • by Raenex (947668)

      Sometimes 9/11 is compared to Pearl Harbor. But in all seriousness 9/11 does not compare to Pearl Harbor at all. During that attack we lost ships and sailors and airmen that we would need to save our nation and the pain to our nation included the threat of loss of the nation.

      You're overplaying Pearl Harbor. The United States mainland was not in danger because of Pearl Harbor. All it did was set back our naval operations and gave Japan some breathing room in theirs. But due to our isolation, huge size, and manufacturing power, it was only a matter of time before we replenished and then some.

      What it did do, however, just like 9/11, was shock the nation. And it wasn't just "some expensive buildings", it was the Twin Towers, the crown jewels of New York city, and also a direct hit

  • How many were there previously that actually stayed secret? We only know about this because a hint of news escaped to the press.

  • AB and CD? (Score:5, Funny)

    by bistromath007 (1253428) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @07:05AM (#47170527)
    This might be the most dangerous parallelogram in history!
  • ... he wants his Star Chamber back.

    There were also notes of congratulations from Cardinal Richelieu and Joe Stalin.

  • by mbone (558574) on Thursday June 05, 2014 @08:39AM (#47170911)

    Seriously. The last 20 years have seen British political life descend into the level of parody. Are we going to find out in another 20 years that the entire political class starting with Tony Blair was infected with some disease that ate their brains?

    By the way, it is not the case that England has never had secret trials before. There used to be the Star Chamber [wikipedia.org], (prior to 1398 to 1641) :

    Court sessions were held in secret, with no indictments, and no witnesses. Evidence was presented in writing. Over time it evolved into a political weapon, a symbol of the misuse and abuse of power by the English monarchy and courts.

    That did not end will, and neither will this.

  • People have been detained or arrested in the UK under various iterations of the terrorism act for really pathetic things. In one example, a woman was arrested for walking on a cycle path.

    http://news.sky.com/story/3792... [sky.com]

    Given that we have already abused the terrorism laws by using them to detain and arrest people for offences that are clearly not terrorism related, how can we trust our system to hold trials in secret just because they are terrorism related ?

    For all we know, these people walked on a cycle pa

  • by MitchDev (2526834)

    So much for the concept of "Justice"

  • In the article, it says that "AB" was charged with possessing documents showing how to make a bomb. I don't live in the UK, but I know in the US that it's completely legal to possess documents related to bomb-making, so long as no bombs are actually made or used. Hell, there are books in the US that will tell you how to make a nuclear weapon - but good luck getting your hands on any of the materials for it. As far as I'm aware, under the law in the US, I could download a tutorial on how to make a bomb and e

    • I'm aware that the UK has no official freedom of speech law

      Don't we?

      Last time I checked the european Declaration of Human Rights includes one of those and the UK is a signatory.

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