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New Counter Terrorism Bill Comes Under Fire From Terrorism Watchdog

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The UK terrorism watchdog has criticized the government’s new Counter Terrorism and Security bill, claiming that it is an “announcement waiting for a policy†and that it does not really do anything to shore up the country’s defence. However, the watchdog did say that some of the policies to be introduced were well thought through and well implemented, but that others were really only announcements and that there was no genuine policy behind the announcements.

The bill has been introduced in response to the 40 or more terrorism plots that the government has stopped and prevented since the 2005 bombings in London, and not only includes measures to prevent home grown terrorists from travelling to fight in Iraq and Syria before returning home, but also includes provisions to improve the country’s aviation security risks.

David Anderson QC said that the laws and proposed changes have actually been scaled back since the Prime Minister first announced them. Cameron announced the new bill back when the terror threat was increased from “substantial†to “severe†earlier this year. Mr Anderson also questioned where courts were to be involved, and stressed that it was important that they were utilised especially in the use of temporary exclusion orders.

Following the heightening of the country’s terror alert, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that suspects returning to Britain after travelling abroad to fight on the side of terror groups would be prevented from returning to the country, even if they held valid and genuine UK passports. This was meant as a means of preventing so-called home-grown terrorists from becoming a threat upon their return, but there are fears that the PM has been forced to stand down on these proposals following criticism from the Liberal Democrats and from within his own party.

One of the areas of the bill that has already come under scrutiny is the requirement for Internet Service Providers to retain details and usage data from their subscribers, so that the government can access this information if a person is suspected of terror activity.

On the point of temporary exclusion orders, terror suspects returning to the country after fighting abroad would be told that they would only be allowed to re-enter the country if they were willing to be questioned and interviewed by police and terror experts when they arrived. The watchdog has warned against the issuance of such orders, which would not actually prevent somebody from entering the country but would rather require that they be subjected to police interview on their return, without the involvement of the courts.

Other plans, introduced as part of the bill, include the ability to stop colleges and educational institutions from allowing extremist speakers to give talks and lectures. The watch dog warns that such plans could bring academic freedom into question, and also sought clarification of exactly how this kind of ruling would work, and whether the courts would be involved in the application and execution of these orders.
 
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