UK counter-terror advisor slams Government detention plan

November 19th, 2007 - 5:00 pm ICT by admin  

London, Nov.19 (ANI): A key anti-terror advisor has criticised the British Government’s plans to increase detention without charge.
Former intelligence officer and now a Tory MP, Patrick Mercer, said Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s plans to quizz terror suspects for almost two months would be counter-productive, and only help al-Qaeda’s propaganda attacks.
Mercer was reacting to Brown’s plans to extend the limit for quizzing terror suspects from 28 days to 56 or 58.
Mercer, who was involved in counter-terror tactics against Irish rebels, said internment of IRA activists led that rebel organisation to persuade many in the Roman Catholic population that they were being deliberately targeted.
“Terrorist recruiting immediately improved and, crucially, informants all but dried up. In a war where intelligence was paramount this was terribly damaging. Today’s terrorists have read their history books and they will seek to copy the propaganda coups of the IRA, The Mirror quoted Mercer, as saying.
Mercer’s warning comes on the same day Security Minister Lord West made a gaffe about the terror threat.
He said there had been a “dramatic improvement” in UK security since the PM took over in June. But earlier this month Head of MI5 Jonathan Evans said the terror threat was growing.
Last week, the Gordon Brown Government unveiled plans to get 53 pieces of information from anyone entering or leaving Britain in attempt to cut down on terror-related threats.
According to the Daily Mail, for every journey, security officials will want credit card details, holiday contact numbers, travel plans, e-mail addresses, car numbers and even any previous missed flights.
The e-borders system will monitor every passenger travelling into or out of the country
The police will share the information, taken when a ticket is bought with customs, immigration and the security services for at least 24 hours before a journey is due to take place.
If someone travelling is found to be of dubious character, he or she can be turned away when they arrive at the airport or station with their baggage.
Those with outstanding court fines, such as a speeding penalty, could also be barred from leaving the country, even if they pose no security risk.
The information required under the “e-borders” system was revealed as Gordon Brown announced plans to tighten security at shopping centres, airports and ports.
This could mean additional screening of baggage and passenger searches, with resulting delays for travellers.
The e-borders scheme is expected to cost at least 1.2 billion pounds over the next decade.
Travel companies, which will run up a bill of 20-million pounds a year compiling the information, will pass on the cost to customers via ticket prices, and the Government is considering introducing its own charge on travellers to recoup costs.
Critics warned of mayhem at ports and airports when the system is introduced, beginning in earnest from mid-2009.
By 2014 every one of the predicted 305million passenger journeys in and out of the UK will be logged, with details stored about the passenger on every trip.
The scheme will apply to every way of leaving the country, whether by ferry, plane, or small aircraft. It would apply to a family having a day out in France by Eurotunnel, and even to a yachtsman leaving British waters during the day and returning to shore.
The measure applies equally to UK residents going abroad and foreigners travelling here.
The information will be stored for as long as the authorities believe it is useful, allowing them to build a complete picture of where a person has been over their lifetime, how they paid and the contact numbers of who they stayed with.
The British Home Office, which yesterday signed a contract with Raytheon Systems to run the computer system, said e-borders would help to keep terrorists and illegal immigrants out of the country.
The personal information stored about every journey could prove vital in detecting a planned atrocity, officials insist.
Ministers are also considering the creation of a list of “disruptive” passengers, so that authorities know in advance of any potential troublemaker, such as an abusive drunk.
David Marshall of the Association of British Travel Agents said: “We are staggered at the projected costs. It could also act as a disincentive to people wanting to travel, and we are sure that is not what the Government intends.”
Phil Booth, of the NO2ID group, warned travellers would pay a “stealth tax” on travel to pay for the scheme.
He added: “This is a huge and utterly ridiculous quantity of personal information. This type of profiling will throw up many distressing errors and problems for innocent people.
A pilot of the “e-borders” technology, known as Project Semaphore, has already screened 29-million passengers.
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said: “Successful trials of the new system have already led to more than 1,000 criminals being caught and more than 15,000 people of concern being checked out by immigration, customs or the police.”
But Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman, said: “The Government must not use legitimate fears or dangers to crop vast amounts of private information without proper safeguards.”
John Tincey, of the Immigration Service Union, said: “The question is are there going to be the staff to respond to the information that is produced?
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: “While e-borders could be a useful tool to secure our borders it will not be up and running for at least another seven years. (ANI)

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