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    UK Anti-Terror Law to Help Decide if Someone's Crossed Line - Ex-Intel Officer

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    New UK anti-terrorist and border security laws have received royal assent. The legislation gives the police greater powers to crack down on hostile activity. Sputnik has discussed the law with Philip Ingram, a former British senior intelligence and security officer.

    Sputnik: Critics of the law say that the law criminalises legitimate research and curiosity. To what extent is this true?

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    Philip Ingram: It's a difficult one and what it's doing is taking the decision as to whether someone is committing an offence into an area where it is the police, the legal system and all the rest of it that will make a decision as to whether it's an offence or not; and it makes it much easier for individuals who are potentially doing some form of what they believe is legitimate research to fall into committing a criminal act. It's quite clear and it turns around and it does say that journalists, academic researchers, and people who have no reason to believe they were accessing terrorist propaganda are exempt and it goes on. It allows discretion within the law and it goes on to really understand the intent of the people and why they're accessing the material and it is there to allow if there is no other method of prosecuting someone for a terrorist related offence this makes it easier for them to be brought to justice; when it's quite obvious that they're promoting terrorism or they're trying to encourage other people to try to get involved in this, it allows that to be brought in.

    Sputnik: The thing is that when we talk about this intent or that the people had no way of knowing, I'm not familiar with the methods that are used to draw people to certain sites, I'm sure it's not like, "Hey, click here to become a terrorist or a click here to get radicalised". I'm sure they use methods, I would imagine. I'm really not familiar with this, I wonder if you can comment on this?

    Philip Ingram: It's very much a grooming process that people are groomed into and then the material is fed to them. That grooming process could start with someone accidentally coming across something and it says "if you want further information click here", and they go, "Oh, that's interesting", and they click on that and it takes them somewhere else that gives them a little bit more detailed material. That's clearly trying to encourage people either to support, promote, or get involved in some form of extremist activity; and that's where you're getting into that path. And it works on the 1 in a 1,000, 1 in 10,000 principal; 9,999 people who click on it are going to go, "This is terrible, I have no interest in this whatsoever", and forget about it or potentially report it, but one person who is vulnerable might go, "Oh, that's interesting", and go down the path of radicalisation, and it's trying to stop that. But I agree with you, there is a problem with this. At the moment there's a campaign going out across UK which is called "See It. Say It. Sorted". So if you see something that's wrong say it, tell the authorities and the authorities will get it sorted. I think with the interpretation that has been put in this new law, what we're likely to see is where people may have reported something in the past, they'll see it, they'll delete it, and they'll hide it, and that means that the authorities are going to miss an awful lot of potential material that's out there.

    READ MORE: UK Counter-Terror Police Head Blames US for Giving Daesh 'Propaganda Victory'

    Sputnik: How do you enforce this? What methods will be used to find those people who have clicked once with ill intent?

    Philip Ingram: Well this is going on a daily basis at the moment. There are certain sites, magazines, not just for terrorism but relating to other criminal activities where the police and the security services are monitoring who is accessing those sites, and they will build up a list and they'll use that to follow on with further investigations. The same thing is going on, they're just expanding that now. At the moment, if someone clicks on an extremist Muslim magazine that's being produced, like Ramallah magazine, or something else, or Google searches it, the security services in the UK will have that flashed up and the person who has accessed that all of their details will be put in and they'll have a look at it a little further. This makes it easier now for the security services to decide whether that individual has crossed the line and committed a crime or not but they will still be monitored.

    Sputnik: The Home Secretary Sajid Javid said that terrorists and hostile states pose a persistent threat to our national security citing Russia in terms of the Salisbury incident, is it perceived in fact that Russia as a hostile state poses equal threat to the UK as does terrorism?

    Philip Ingram: How do you decide an equal threat? The biggest terrorist threat that there is in the UK at the moment and it doesn't get reported, is Irish Republican terrorism in Northern Ireland. Since the end of the Good Friday agreement there's been an average one terrorist related incident every 4 to 5 days over the past 20 years, that doesn't get reported.

    The fact that the Salisbury attack has been put into the preamble for this legislation, if you look at it, it tied up a large proportion of counterterrorism policing, it tied up a priority for the security services that were involved in counterterrorism beforehand. Therefore, it has had an effect on the ability to deal with terrorist related investigations that are going on across country. And the number of investigations has risen from 500 last year to over 700 this year with 3,000 people being investigated and over 20,000 on the watchlist. Therefore, any activity whether it's from a terrorist organisation or whether it's from an organised criminal organisation, over whether it is state-sponsored, that has an impact on our ability to deal with terrorism and the deployment of a deadly nerve agent on the streets of a sleepy city in England is either an act of terror, a gross criminal act, an act of war, and it has been wrapped up in this legislation as part of an example. It has had an effect on our ability to fight terrorism because of the resources that had been put into the investigation there. And remember, one poor lady, Dawn Sturgess, died because it was left behind it.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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