Cablegate: Home Secretary Sells the Counter-Terrorism Bill;
DE RUEHLO #1577/01 1581410
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 061410Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY LONDON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8861
INFO RUEILB/NCTC WASHINGTON DC
RHEFHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC
S E C R E T LONDON 001577
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/04/2018
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PK UK
SUBJECT: HOME SECRETARY SELLS THE COUNTER-TERRORISM BILL;
HMG ROLLS OUT LOCAL COUNTER-RADICALIZATION PROGRAMS
REF: SCHULZ/YODER JUNE 3 E-MAIL Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Maura Connelly for reasons 1. 4 (b,d) 1. (C) Summary. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith used a speech June 3 to sell Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Counter-Terrorism Bill, including a new 42-day detention without charge period, and to roll-out HMG's strategy at ground-level to counter extremism within the UK's Muslim communities. She defended the 42-day detention period, arguing that "new safeguards" ensured the extended period would be used only in "emergency situations." The bill - which also contains provisions allowing use of classified information in asset freezing determinations - will be voted on in the House of Commons the week of June 9; current Whitehall predictions are that it will pass, although a political confidante of the Prime Minister told us on June 5 the government is still 20 votes short. Smith's outline of HMG strategy for preventing young people from becoming engaged in extremism was accompanied by the Home Office's release of new policy documents about preventing extremism (ref e-mail). One of those documents lists local pilot projects to stem radicalization. A Home Office official told Poloff, however, that the document was meant as guidance for local level governments which remain unsure of how to implement the "Prevent" agenda of British counterterrorism strategy. He confirmed that HMG has launched several counter-radicalization projects, but said it is too early to tell which are succeeding. He underscored that the Home Office welcomes USG feedback on its ongoing counter-radicalization programs. The Home Secretary herself told Poloff that discussions with DHS Secretary Chertoff informed her own views of how to highlight the judiciary as a balance to constraints on liberty necessitated by counterterrorism measures. End summary.
Home Secretary Sells the Counter-Terrorism Bill ------------------------------------
2. (C) In a June 3 speech at the Smith Institute in London to an audience comprised mostly of security officials, academics, and business people engaged in security fields, Home Office Minister Jacqui Smith made the case for the Prime Minister's Counter-Terrorism Bill, which comes before the House of Commons for a vote the week of June 9. The bill's most controversial feature is a provision to extend the period that a terrorist suspect could be detained without charge to 42 days, up from the current 28 day period. The 42-day detention period has dominated Parliamentary and public debate over the bill, but the bill also contains important provisions related to freezing of assets in terrorist financing cases. The bill would allow UK courts, on a case-by-case basis, to establish rules permitting the use of classified information in asset-freezing judicial proceedings. The bill would also allow courts to appoint a "special advocate" who would represent the interests of the party, as well as allow a court to "exclude" any party from the proceeding if necessary.
3. (C) Even before Smith delivered her remarks, political observers and media were suggesting "compromises" Smith had made June 2 in private meetings with MPs may have provided enough cover or comfort for sufficient numbers of Labour MPs to support the bill. Some suggested that, more important than any accommodation Smith may have made regarding the 42-day detention period in the bill, was an internal Labour party determination not to let the PM suffer an embarrassing defeat on this bill at a time he is struggling in opinion polls. In her speech, Smith said terror cases had grown more complex with time and that this was the reason for the Government's request to extend the period for detention without charge for terror suspects from 28 to up to 42 days. She said only 11 individuals have been held from between seven and 28 days, bolstering her argument that the detention period is used only "in extremis" (although perhaps undermining the argument that it is essential to extend the detention period). Smith said "new safeguards" have been built into the bill -- including that the police have only seven days to seek a 42-day detention period from arrest. She noted that the police and the judiciary would have to authorize its use for each individual. She also argued that, because other European legal systems are very different from Britain's, charges that the UK is in breach of general European standards are without merit. After her remarks, the Home Secretary herself told Poloff that discussions with DHS Secretary Chertoff informed her own views of how to highlight the judiciary as a balance to constraints on liberty necessitated by counterterrorism measures.
Other Measures for Controlling Terror Suspects --------------------------------------------- -
4. (S) Smith said in her speech that HMG sought to process terror suspects through the criminal justice system but that, where there was not enough evidence to do so, it would take other measures. These included negotiating diplomatic assurances with foreign governments that would allow HMG to deport foreign terror suspects and the use of "control orders." Smith did not make clear who is subject to "control orders" or of what they consist. (Embassy note: "Control Orders" are limits HMG places on an individual's liberty for the purpose of "protecting members of the public from the risk of terrorism" and are forms of house arrest on a sliding scale which can include electronic tagging of the individual, limitations on contacts with other persons, prohibitions against meeting people, limits on communications and prohibitions on travel. British security services are better able to surveille British citizens and foreigners who are under control orders as the effect of the orders is to limit their freedom of movement, freedom of speech, and ability to organize. End note)
Preventing Young People from Becoming Terrorists --------------------------------------------- ---
5. (C) On the same day as Smith's speech, the Home Office released two new detailed papers explaining the "Prevent" portion of HMG's Counterterrorism Strategy (known as "CONTEST"). Those papers (ref) include a description of local government activities being undertaken under to prevent extremism. Home Office official Steven Miller (who works on the "Prevent" team in the Home Office) told Poloff the documents were "meant as guidance" for local governments "who understand they are charged to implement 'Prevent' but don't always know what that means." The document makes reference to a "de-radicalization project" wherein vulnerable young people are given extensive access to government services and the opportunity of theological debate about interpretations of Islam. Poloff asked Miller for the Home Office's assessment of that program. He said it was but one of several de-radicalization programs HMG has started in communities and in prisons. Miller said the programs varied in content and in the categories of individuals targeted and have been undertaken over the course of the last 18 months. HMG has not yet assessed their merit, as it is too early to do so. He added that the Home Office intends to assess which de-radicicalization programs are succeeding, and which are failing, over the course of the next year and a half. Poloff expressed USG interest in HMG's efforts in this regard; Miller said Home Office "Prevent" team leader Paul Morrison, and other HMG officials, plan to travel to Washington at the end of June. They would welcome USG input into HMG programs, said Miller, who underscored HMG's interest in working with the USG on the subject of counter-radicalization.
6. (S) In her speech, the Home Secretary also spoke about HMG's focus on preventing young people from getting caught up in, and enthused by, terrorism. She described the "thirty years of Irish terrorism" as shaping how HMG dealt with internal security and said international terrorism was presenting a new challenge to which the Government had to react. Both in Smith's remarks, and in the "Prevent" documents released June 3, were references to some of the indicators HMG has determined make people susceptible to extremism, and terrorism. Without specifying that it is the case, these indicators have clearly been derived from highly classified analysis carried out by HMG about individuals detained for terrorist acts, or support of terrorism, in the UK. They include HMG's analysis that, for certain immigrants, (mostly from the Middle East or North Africa, but not from the IndiaQPakistan subcontinent) the fact of immigration itself appears to play a role in radicalization. And that "vulnerable" individuals, those who may embrace extremism, have often suffered a personal disappointment such as divorce, the death of a family member, or (more subjectively) an inability to acquire employment equal to education or ability.
7. (S) Two of the elements of the "Prevent" strategy, said Smith, were promoting unified, British values and building "resilience in the community." She said that, in the recent apprehension of terror suspect XXXXXXXXXXXX (a white British convert whose home was found to contain the ingredients for, and instructions on how to build, a suicide vest), he had been identified to the authorities by a local Mosque. This was an example of the necessity of building community resilience.
8. (C) The jury is still out as to whether Brown has the votes to pass some version of his Counter-Terrorism Bill in the House of Commons; in any case, the bill may well come under further challenge in the House of Lords. Home Office Minister Smith has been very much in the limelight, and on the hot seat, during this debate. We should not put too great a stock in the import of the "launch" of the new "Prevent" documents which were mainly a restatement of previously announced programs and tactics for counter radicalization. Home Office officials have underscored to us that their release is really part of a Home Office effort to publicize "Prevent" and to gain buy-in from local communities and governments which recognize they are meant to "do something" but don't know what that something is. To some extent, nor does the Home Office. Home Office officials have also been at pains to describe their work, if not as experimental, as nascent. Smith and others in the British Government continue to try to tell the British public what they think is the threat to Britain -- a growing number of (mostly young) people who may be susceptible to extremism and terrorism (and who would turn that terrorism against the UK). This will help Smith sell Brown's Counter-Terrorism Bill, but it is also meant to serve a larger purpose. XXXXXXXXXXXX TUTTLE