Police in £9m scheme to log \’domestic extremists\’

First they came for the crusties but I did nothing, for I was not a crusty,

Then they came for the hippies and I did nothing for I was not a hippy….

All three units divide their work into four categories of domestic extremism: animal rights campaigns; far-right groups such as the English Defence League; \”extreme leftwing\” protest groups, including anti-war campaigners; and \”environmental extremism\” such as Climate Camp and Plane Stupid campaigns.

Anton Setchell, who is in overall command of Acpo\’s domestic extremism remit, said people who find themselves on the databases \”should not worry at all\”. But he refused to disclose how many names were on the NPOIU\’s national database, claiming it was \”not easy\” to count. He estimated they had files on thousands of people. As well as photographs, he said FIT surveillance officers noted down what he claimed was harmless information about people\’s attendance at demonstrations and this information was fed into the national database.

He said he could understand that peaceful activists objected to being monitored at open meetings when they had done nothing wrong. \”What I would say where the police are doing that there would need to be the proper justifications,\” he said.

Yes, civil liberties are indivisible: those that are denied to others under one rubric or another are those which will eventually be denied to us all.

However, what do we actually do about this? We most certainly do want \”intelligence led\” policing of certain \”animal rights\” groups, those who conspire to blow up buildings and even people in the pursuit of their goals. Just as we\’d be rather happy with similar close monitoring of those who might strap a home made bomb on their backs and set them off in the Tube.

So who should be monitored and how?

I for one would vastly rather time and attention be focussed on those who are, and in the obvious acknowledgement of the fact that no one can quite know who \”are\”, on those who might, rather than upon us all through the national database and ID cards.

This is the horrible thing: there really are people out there who would happily kill in pursuit of their (however lunatic) goals. How far, in what we would rather like to remain a free society, can those who might be among that number be monitored?

10 comments on “Police in £9m scheme to log \’domestic extremists\’

  1. I think it has got to come down to the seriousness of the crime you are suspected of training / conspiring / encouraging others to commit.

    We already have graduations of crime in this country:

    * Fixed Penalty Fine
    * Summary (Magistrate’s) Only
    * “Each Way”
    * Indictable Only
    * Life imprisonment available
    * Life imprisonment mandatory

    Now, people shouldn’t get too het up about RIPA – the police have been ‘monitoring’ people for years, through networks of what are now “CHIS’ but used to be called snouts and other local intelligence. Where it becomes invasive is the blanket technical monitoring – the equivalent of opening your mail. That had to be done under warrant (or by the Security Services) and for a very serious offence.

    So, let’s introduce monitoring – known offenders (convictions for incitement to hate crime would be a good start, as well as the usual 4 horsemen of the interpocalypse) and suspects for crimes where life imprisonment is on the cards if convicted. Yes, their possibly innocent associates will have their civil liberties infringed. But the warrant is the key protection.

    Oh, and we might want to introduce a law forbidding the intel to be produced for anything less than an indictable offence (or just leave it the way it is at the moment – no intercept product is admissible).

  2. Of course we need intelligence led policing, but there are a number of things wrong with this:

    1. ACPO is a private body with no political oversight. As far as I am aware they aren’t even subject to FoI.

    2. It (ACPO) appears to be so incompetent that it can’t design a database that can be interrogated to give the most fundamental of responses – how many people are on it? Does this mean we are looking at yet another government led white elephant IT project and waste of £9m?

    3. Will it stop at £9m? Precedence leads us to think that it is only the start.

  3. Surreptitious Evil said: “But the warrant is the key protection.”

    With RIPA you don’t need a warrant.

  4. “This is the horrible thing: there really are people out there who would happily kill in pursuit of their (however lunatic) goals. How far, in what we would rather like to remain a free society, can those who might be among that number be monitored?”
    Perhaps we should ask Poland etc why they have so few of these people? Just an idea.

  5. Gareth,

    I know – I was talking about how to best do this in the context of Tim’s question. However, the police have never needed a warrant for talking to a snout or staking out the baddy’s night club …

    But you should for “blanket technical monitoring”.

  6. No mention of the Islamofascists!

    Or don’t they exist, because as everyone knows: “Islam means peace”?

  7. Well if ACPO are discharging a public function they should be FOI’d regardless of their legal status. I imagine it is tax money being spent, not donations.

    But it is no good to say we must only monitor the bad guys. By the time you are a grand-mother exhuming, base-ball-batting “animal rights” nutter or whatever you are very careful. It is a bit like observing a black hole.

    You need to politely monitor the trajectory of activists on their way to being evil scum so that you know about them before they are ultra careful and can observe them becoming a “domestic extremist”.

  8. David Bouvier: that’s too wide a remit. You can’t wantonly surveil all those who might become nutters on the off chance. Even if it were not immoral, it would be impractical. And it is immoral. There is nothing wrong, legally, with hating people who eat meat or hunt foxes, just as there is nothing wrong with hating, legally, Pakis or niggers or poofters, or people who don’t eat meat and don’t hunt foxes and hate people who hate niggers and Pakis and poofters*. Unless and until you act on your hatreds you should be immune from the law. After that: let the heavens descend. There is no slippery slope. There is no thin end of the wedge. Are Muslim extremists saying how much they’d like the Albert Hall to be blown up during the Proms? Fine. Are Muslim extremists plotting how they are going to blow up the Albert Hall during the Proms? It’s solid? Grab ’em, prosecute ’em, jail ’em for ever and ever and if one of the fuckers looks at you squinky-eyed during the bust spray him all over the ceiling.

    Except jason: he should just be shot out of hand. [if Tim deletes the above it was some Internet scam artist, whom lice devour].

    *just to be perfectly clear, I am using the rhetorical device of irony, specifically hyperbole here. I eat meat. I do not not hate people from Pakistan, black people or homosexuals.

  9. there really are people out there who would happily kill in pursuit of their (however lunatic) goals

    I think you’ll find that most people would be prepared to kill for some cause or other. Fortunately for society that line is so far away most are unlikely to ever be pushed across it.

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