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UK Academics Arrested For Researching al-Qaida 681

D Afifi writes "Two political researchers at the University of Nottingham, in the UK, have been arrested under the Terrorism Act for downloading Al-Qaida material from a US government website. The material was to be used for research in terrorist tactics. There has been a huge public outcry, with university staff planning a march to demonstrate against the attack on academic freedom. Yet, one of the students, an Algerian, is still held in custody under immigration charges and is being fast-tracked for deportation."
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UK Academics Arrested For Researching al-Qaida

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  • No surprise... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amrik98 ( 1214484 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:31PM (#23550465)
    The UK is the country furthest along the road to 1984.
    • Re:No surprise... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Laukei ( 1099765 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:37PM (#23550527)
      Every day I read comments online about the UK going to hell via 1984... and every day I find new evidence to back up these claims.

      It's an awful state of affairs when academics are being prosecuted under terror legislation.

      I've lost all faith in the the UK and US governments since 9/11.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by carlzum ( 832868 )
        I find the UK legislation scarier than in the US. I like to believe that the US government would be deterred by significant public opposition, and that they're only getting away with it until a public backlash catches up. But the UK government has been successfully rolling out surveillance laws and cases like this against popular opinion.
      • Re:No surprise... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @12:09AM (#23551807)

        It's an awful state of affairs when academics are being prosecuted under terror legislation.

        Please RTFA. They were arrested under terror legislation, then the charges were dropped. They aren't being prosecuted under terror legislation.

        However, it looks like during the investigation, the police discovered that one of them was an illegal immigrant. He is being deported for this.

        Now he may or may not be here illegally, and he should definitely get the chance to defend himself before being deported, but please get your facts straight. Nobody is being prosecuted under terror legislation.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:46PM (#23550613)
      Surely you mean Airstrip One.
    • Re:No surprise... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:48PM (#23550625) Homepage Journal
      From TFA:

      "...Yezza, who is Algerian, was immediately rearrested on unrelated immigration charges and now faces deportation..."

      Just wanted to clarify why he's being deported. The brits' reaction to the downloading of the document was a bit extreme, but if ya want to live in a country then ya gotta play by their(sometimes idiotic) rules.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        If you want to be idiotic and keep voting people into office that support this kind of nonsense, then ya gotta play by their rules..
        • Re:No surprise... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Ethanol-fueled ( 1125189 ) * on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:06PM (#23550801) Homepage Journal
          If you want to be idiotic and live in a country whose citizens are idiotic and keep voting idiots into their congress, then ya gotta play by their rules. As for those of us who were born in the US(or UK), there are other places to move. I'm thinking Canada or the Netherlands if the US dosen't get its shit together in the next few years.
          • Re:No surprise... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:19PM (#23550899)
            Now you know why public schools in the USA fill the children's heads with all that patriotic bulloni about how benevolent the government is and make the founding fathers look like saints, so the kids don't realize what dirty rotten scoundrels the government is until they are 40 years old.
          • Re:No surprise... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by zmooc ( 33175 ) <.ten.coomz. .ta. .coomz.> on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @05:31AM (#23553509) Homepage
            Do not go to the Netherlands! We have the highest number of wiretaps per capita of all countries worldwide, cartoonists get arrested over their cartoons, last year thousands of innocent people - including minors - were arrested for not carrying ID, possession of potato-knives (is that an english word?) and chocolate cigarettes are prohibited, using open wifi connections is prohibited, multiple journalists were taken hostage by the government recently in an attempt to get them to disclose their sources, we have a huge history of putting innocent people in jail and have about the lowest percentage of solved crimes in the EU, some neighboorhoods even have a curfew, privacy is now something purely conceptual and political parties structurally break their election-promises. Oh and our army has transformed from doing our defense to being mercenaries for GW Bush' personal oil-goals.

            The Netherlands used to be pretty much on the top of the freedom-list, but we've left that list long ago... I don't have that many facts about Canada at hand, but I believe it's not much better over there. And about the UK - I take a trip there (ok, ok, Scotland it is:-)) every now and then; I sense a lot more freedom over there, a lot less tensions between ethnical groups, police that don't act like they're Cartman "respect my authority" and so on.

            So, in short, the UK may appear to be idiotic, but in essence they're a lot less idiotic than for example the Dutch are.

            Greetings from the Netherlands.
      • by nguy ( 1207026 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:58PM (#23551203)
        Just wanted to clarify why he's being deported. The brits' reaction to the downloading of the document was a bit extreme, but if ya want to live in a country then ya gotta play by their(sometimes idiotic) rules

        But there is something fundamentally wrong with the government if you're an academic and visiting a web site brings you to the attention of the immigration departmnet in the first place.
      • Re:No surprise... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fugue ( 4373 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @11:13PM (#23551353) Homepage

        Ok, what if I don't want to live in a country? What choice do I have? Who has the right to tell me I must live in some country, or choose where they're going to send me when I don't live in it? I pretty much have to live in Antarctica.

        That is simply not reasonable. When countries form a cover of all the reasonably habitable land, then people who seek personal freedom have nowhere to go. There is no more freedom. This has led to my own working definition of overpopulation.

      • due process? (Score:3, Insightful)

        From TFA:

        rearrested on unrelated immigration charges

        Just wanted to clarify that the UK still has due process. Being *charged* with an immigration crime is not the same as being guilty of said crime. Your reaction to the arrest was a bit extreme, but if ya want to have free speech then ya gotta put up with reactionary (sometimes total bullshit) posts on message boards.
    • More like "Brazil" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ArchieBunker ( 132337 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:08PM (#23550821) Homepage
      1984 assumes the government is competent and really out to get everyone. In reality its more like the movie Brazil. Everyone mindlessly doing their job without any critical thought. Watching Brazil and comparing it to current events is truly horrifying.
    • Re:No surprise... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by twostix ( 1277166 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @11:50PM (#23551665)
      This is *exactly* what happened last year here in Australia.

      Mohammed Haneef, an Indian doctor in Queensland was arrested by the federal government over the most idiotically flimsy link to the airport attacks in the UK one could imagine.

      Well, it quickly became was pretty clear they had nothing on him. In fact the government had so little on him that they purposefully and carefully fabricated, spun and lied to the press about what they did have on him. It all began to unravel and the truth came out thanks to his lawyer and a healthy grain of salt taken with the obvious rubbish the government was dishing out, so what do they do? Try cancel his visa on "Character Grounds" so that they can deport him before it gets to the courts and people find out how ruthless, and quite frankly evil that that particular government was being. Fortunately the courts saw through their bullshit and gave him back his Visa.

      The government eventually dropped all charges, being that it had all been shown to be an obvious and complete farce.

      The immigration line is bullshit, ALL immigrants in western countries can be deported for any reason what-so-ever if the respective Depts of Immi get told to get rid of them.

      Mark my words this bloke's being deported because it's going to be an embarrassment to the government. It's the easiest way for them to get rid of him.

      The worst thing is so many fools buy it hook, line and sinker. just like they did here with Haneef, there was plenty of people left looking like idiots when it came out what the government really was up to. Four months later that government (that had been in power for 12 years) was swept out of power in the biggest loss of power by a government in this countries history. It was that sort of dishonest, ruthless behaviour that caused it.

      Hopefully the UK will be next.

      • Re:No surprise... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by PinkyDead ( 862370 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @04:31AM (#23553233) Journal

        ...and quite frankly evil that that particular government was being.
        Not that I disagree with you, but I'm reminded of the Birmingham 6/Guilford 4 cases in the UK. 'evil' is probably quite a strong word, 'weak' might be a better one. As in unable to find the moral backbone to stand up in your 'political' job and say that fighting terrorism is not an easy thing to do (in fact basically impossible).

        In these cases, and probably in your cited one, the innocents were condemned to appease the clamouring masses, rather than to serve any form of justice. And when such individuals make weak judgements initially, it is hardly surprising that they make even weaker ones when pressed further. 'Rock and a Hard Place' as it were.

        Political democracy is at fault here, in that the 'masses' are generally as guilty of such ignorance as the politicians - not that I'd change it, but it is important that 'the system' can correct itself, as it seems to have done in the Australian cases.
  • by corsec67 ( 627446 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:36PM (#23550511) Homepage Journal
    Sweet, now there are even more kinds of "illegal data" out there.

    Under-age porn, "terrorist" material, DRM removing software, MAFIAA products, etc...
  • by crazybit ( 918023 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:38PM (#23550531)
    in order to control the masses.

    Fear is a common tactic used since the begging of civilization to manipulate people.

    - Zeus will destroy you all!
    - The devil will come for you and burn you for all eternity!
    - Terrorists! omg! seek shelter at once!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You forgot the other motivator, greed. Boom-boom and bling-bling.
  • Spread it around? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:39PM (#23550541) Homepage
    Anyone have a link to the material in question? (Is it in English?)
  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:42PM (#23550565) Journal
    All this means is ...... WTF????

    Information hosted on a US government website? That is forbidden material? Entrapment anyone? How about err... uhhh... holy fuck!

    So the UK government noticed this material being downloaded and never looked at where it came from? WTF? Is the US Government now hosting terrorism inciting materials for the internets?

    This, I truly hope, leaves buckets full of egg and chicken shit on the faces of some government employee types.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mikesd81 ( 518581 )

      nformation hosted on a US government website? That is forbidden material? Entrapment anyone? How about err... uhhh... holy fuck!

      Well considering they're in the UK and getting it off a US site, entrapment would probably be a far stretch.
  • by brxndxn ( 461473 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:44PM (#23550581)
    I mean.. Information doesn't kill people; people kill people!!! It's what you do with the information that counts!

    I got curious once and looked up how to make a hydrogen bomb. Does that make me a terrorist? NO. Because I only use my hydrogen bomb for personal self-defense!

    • by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:53PM (#23550685)
      My mother was Princeton class of 1977. Back in those days it wasn't exactly 'common knowledge' with 'easy access' how to make nuclear weapons.

      One of her good friends who was, I believe, reading for Physics, did his senior thesis on how to make a nuclear weapon. I also believe, though I'm not clear as its been a while since she told me this story, that the fellow in question was not exactly American.

      His thesis brought him to the interest of some of the old-line type of "terrorist" organizations like the PFLP. *THAT* brought him to the attention of the FBI and he was arrested and interrogated.

      The more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • Immigrant. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hlt32 ( 1177391 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:46PM (#23550609)
    There are 2 issues here that I can tell.

    #1 Arrest under Terrorism act for having al-Qaida-related material.

    #2 Immigration charges and subsequent deportation.

    The two are related insofar as discovering 1 resulted in 2.

    #2, the illegal immigration, *should* result in deportation - he is perfectly able to make a claim on humanitarian grounds or claim asylum. The fact remains that illegal immigrants should be deported.

    #1 should be approached as:

    a) person found with dodgy material
    b) person was investigated
    c) things happen

    Now, the main objection is vs c). he was engaging in legitimate academic research (you COULD argue he is a terrorist and this is a clever coverup, but I wont go there ;) ) therefore should not be treated as a terrorist.

    The fact that "An illegal immigrate faces deportation" is no surprise and should not impact your judgement here.

    This probably comes acros as a bit confused - its been a long day. :p
    • Re:Immigrant. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tftp ( 111690 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:26PM (#23550957) Homepage
      The fact that "An illegal immigrate faces deportation" is no surprise and should not impact your judgement here

      The problem is that the guy is "Facing Imminent Deportation Without Hearing" and that's the real issue here. Looks like the police just wants him swept under the rug. As reported, he has a visa, but there are questions: due to confusion over his visa documentation, charged with offences relating to his immigration status. He sought legal advice and representation regarding these matters whilst in custody. On Friday 23rd May, the Home Office informed his solicitor that he was being removed on Sunday 1st June and Hicham was moved to an immigration detention centre. Now, is it reasonable to deport someone (who lived in the country for 13 years) within only 7 days, without proper court hearings, presentation of witnesses, debates about the applicable law? The Home Office just wants him out, and with him being out there will be no hearings, and no inconvenient truth will come out. But until his status is investigated, and his lawyers can speak for him and argue his status, we can not say that he is legal or illegal immigrant. That is to be determined, and the fight is for his right to be heard in court, and his status determined by the judge - not by a bureaucrat.

    • Re:Immigrant. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @12:34AM (#23551969)
      In a lot of places student and working visas are subject to a wide range of conditions. If the same thing happened in Australia for example the person could be found to have failed the "character requirements" by being the subject of a police investigation and could then be immediately deported even if nothing unfavourable is found in the course of the investigation. It is likely that the UK has something similar in place.
  • by Gothmolly ( 148874 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:51PM (#23550667)
    You shall lose both, and deserve neither.

  • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:52PM (#23550673)
    Fear drives so much in the form of bad governmental behavior. I feel for my British friends, as they must feel for Americans. Blair and Bush (now Brown), leading their countries down the path to an oil war-- not terrorism-- oil. Not religious self-righteousness-- war for oil and to destabilize governments not marching in-step with them.

    The quotations of American and British patriots that warn that liberty at the cost of security is folly are now sadly worn out. My British friends have less hope because they believe that Tory and Labor, just like Democrats and Republicans, are largely the same. This is a dangerous time in the world for people not to believe in the integrity and veracity of their governments; more is at stake in interdependency than ever before. I hope, no pray, they listen to their constituents.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Oh yes, a war for oil. And how great has that worked out? Considering that oil is at record highs, I don't think that it was a "war for oil" because had it been a "war for oil" we would have more oil. There is no evidence it was a "war for oil". It was a war based on bad intelligence and widespread panic in the months following 9/11. As for it being a war on oil, give your baseless theories a rest and take off the tin-foil hat.
      • by jfruhlinger ( 470035 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:09PM (#23550837) Homepage
        Oh yes, a war for oil. And how great has that worked out? Considering that oil is at record highs, I don't think that it was a "war for oil" because had it been a "war for oil" we would have more oil.

        Hey, they didn't say it was a competently planned war for oil.

      • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:24PM (#23550943)
        It's just as baseless as global warming. If Bush's pipe dreams (there not being any other intelligence supporting his actions, and he had hardly any plans at all, let alone support from the international community or the UN), it had to be for oil. Bush is an oil man. His father was an oil man. His brother was in real estate (remember the S&L crises in TX in the '80s??).

        It was about oil. No tin foil hat. Oil. It wasn't about Saddam. He had a fat mouth that got him lynched. Yes, he was a murderous SOB but then there are loads of them around and we don't do even a fraction of them justice.

        And the plan backfired. A commodities market has grasped the weakness of the currency and the high demand, and they now are poised to raise oil until it's at the blood-letting levels, where they'll back off and ride the profits until 'something happens' to deflate the market. In the interim, the economies of the middle east, Venezuela, and Mexico (although Mexico can't capitalize assets to reduce their bleeding) are pretty much glowing with petro-currencies, largely worthless dollars.

        If we were going to halt terrorism, we should have targeted the perps in the 9/11 fiasco, and dealt with them. We have not, only serving as poster boy enemies for recruiters of psycho-jihadis. And the rest of Islam looks at us, like the rest of the world, like we must be insane. Indeed our gutless leadership is just that. It takes guts to admit you're wrong, and they'll never do it. This while deficit spending is far out of control, the Fed inflates the currency instead of forcing banks/derivative holders to take a bath, and the average Joe and his grandchildren go broke.

        Oddly, we don't have cameras watching our every move, and have at least a modicum of academic freedom, contrasting with the poor researchers in TFA in the UK.
      • by bledri ( 1283728 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:49PM (#23551127)

        There is no evidence it was a "war for oil".

        OK, I'll bite. Here is the 1998 letter sent to President Clinton [] urging the removal of Saddam Hussein. Check out the second paragraph:

        Such uncertainty will, by itself, have a seriously destabilizing effect on the entire Middle East. It hardly needs to be added that if Saddam does acquire the capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction, as he is almost certain to do if we continue along the present course, the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world's supply of oil will all be put at hazard. As you have rightly declared, Mr. President, the security of the world in the first part of the 21st century will be determined largely by how we handle this threat.

        Three years before 9/11 occurred Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others were pushing to topple Saddam Hussein to protect the oil supply. WMDs are mentioned, but the primary context is stability in the Middle East and access to oil.

        So yes, bad intelligence played a part. If there wasn't oil involved, I doubt the US would have used 9/11 as an excuse to invade Iraq. Do you really think these guys care about "our moderate Arab allies" and Israel?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Actually yes, it was a war for oil, but not in the way you think that statement means. The price of oil (per barrel) is not determined by how much there is, it's determined by the commodities market. When you purchase a barrel of crude oil you don't drive down to the local Home Depot and load it up in your truck, you send a broker to the commodities exchange and you purchase a future not as yet produced barrel. The price is based on speculation. The brokers speculate how much oil we might have tomorrow
  • Terror (Score:5, Insightful)

    by conureman ( 748753 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @09:54PM (#23550693)
    As I RTFA I realized that this looks like standard jobsworth cops at large and could happen any day here in the U.S. Too much responsibility too little brains.
  • Got another! (Score:4, Informative)

    by urcreepyneighbor ( 1171755 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:12PM (#23550853)

    Despite his Nottingham University supervisors insisting the materials were directly relevant to his research, Rizwaan Sabir, 22, was held for nearly a week under the Terrorism Act, accused of downloading the materials for illegal use.
    The story speaks for itself.
  • University admin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tzhuge ( 1031302 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:13PM (#23550855)
    No one else seems to have covered this angle, so I'll bring it up. WTF is wrong with the University of Nottingham? I cannot believe a supposed institution of higher learning would sell its scholars down the river like that. This whole thing flies in the face of what a University is suppose to stand for. Perhaps I'm just naive.
  • Fucking ridiculous (Score:4, Interesting)

    by moxley ( 895517 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:14PM (#23550861)
    BUt now maybe people who think there is nothing to worry about with this fascism creep that has been going on in thUK and the US wull start to wake up.

    You can view video clips of Tony Blair and CIA officials basically stating that Al Qaeda doesn't exist on You Tube (IIRC from the BBC originally). []

    Maybe they are trying to stop people from researching this stuff.
  • BBC (Score:5, Informative)

    by pablomme ( 1270790 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:29PM (#23550977)
    Some may prefer reading the BBC article [], which for one doesn't misspell 'al-Qaeda'.

    Two details should be considered before judging the situation and blaming random people:
    • The document was found in a computer by university staff, it was not intercepted by the police
    • It was the University that requested police action

    This is a gross mistake anyway, but it's a quite a bit less 1984-ish than one might think from the summary.
  • by nonsensical ( 1237544 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:32PM (#23550991)
    This sounds very similar to a recent episode of numb3rs (not the greatest show in the world, but better than average). Charlie's colleague was arrested for working on genetically modified foods and sending the results to Pakistan where it could save people from famine. The government considered it bio-terrorism research material.

    I have little doubt that this episode was inspired by the whole national security climate which silences research all the time.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday May 26, 2008 @10:59PM (#23551217) Homepage
    I think it is pretty obvious that the government decision and policy makers are useless without the people to execute their orders.

    Why aren't we actively protesting to those people? These people are responsible for their actions and are responsible for acting on their own conscience. It's easy to show that various campaigns to influence government policy and direction even in small degrees.

    How possible might it be to influence the arms and legs of bad government to refuse to act against its conscience?
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @12:07AM (#23551801) Journal
    So, let me get this straight. In order to uphold peace, freedom, civilization and whatnot, we clamp down hard on the academics. So far, so familiar. Now, just for the masterstroke, We focus out little witch hunt on pro-UK moderates, from middle eastern cultural and ethnic backgrounds, with an academic interest in terrorism. Y'know, because it isn't like those sorts of people might prove useful or anything? WTF. Cracking down on academic researchers under some sort of all-encompassing "state's power to do whatever, to whomever" act is bad enough; but not even doing it pragmatically? If 10 Downing Street were to enter the twilight zone, would anybody notice?

Promising costs nothing, it's the delivering that kills you.