Times : Gordon Brown defends Pakistani terror deportations

Monday, April 27, 2009

Gordon Brown defends Pakistani terror deportations

April 27, 2009

Gordon Brown today defended plans to deport 11 Pakistani students who were arrested in a suspected terrorist plot even though no charges were brought against any of them.

The group, whose plight has provoked great anger in Pakistan, appealed against deportation today. The Pakistani Prime Minister raised the issue with Mr Brown at a meeting in Islamabad this afternoon.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari delivered an apparent snub to Mr Brown by cancelling a joint news conference, leaving Yusuf Gaza Gilani, the Prime Minister, to take his place.

At the press conference, Mr Brown said: “I think we have got to recognise that we have both got problems that are affecting both the security of our citizens and the sentiments in our country, with terrorist plots that have been planned and some people are trying to execute.

“This terrorist threat that exists cannot be ignored, it cannot be wished away. Both the Prime Minister and I know that it is important that governments around the world take action to deal with violent extremism. Thousands of young people studying in Britain come from Pakistan and we welcome them but wherever there is a problem we have got to take action.”

But although he hailed a “new chapter” in the relationship between Britain and Pakistan, the episode appeared to have cast a shadow over his visit.

The Pakistani Prime Minister, standing alongside Mr Brown, confirmed that he had raised the case during their meeting and appealed to him to allow the men to continue their studies in Britain.

“We had a concern. We have discussed that whatever information is shared with us we will examine it, but at the same time there are institutions and we will work under that bit of the constitution,” Mr Gilani said.

“I think the law will take its own course and I would also request the Prime Minister that their studies should not be discontinued.”

All 12 suspects arrested in a Operation Pathway which was designed to thwart what the Prime Minister called “a very big terrorist plot” have been released without charge.

Eleven of the men, all Pakistani nationals, were transferred into the custody of the UK Borders Agency pending a deportation hearing.

Mohammed Ayub, a lawyer for three of the men, called for an independent inquiry into the operation.

The arrests were brought forward by 12 hours after Bob Quick, Scotland Yard’s head of counter-terrorism, accidentally disclosed details of the raids to Downing Street photographers while on his way to brief Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary.

It was hoped that the arrests and searches would produce evidence of bomb-making activity or components. But officers failed to find uncover enough evidence to result in any charges.

Guardian : Government wants phone and internet providers to track users

Monday, April 27, 2009

Government wants phone and internet providers to track users

Home secretary rules out state-run 'super-database' but firms would store details of calls, emails, texts and web browsing

Alan Travis, home affairs editor | April 27, 2009

The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, today ruled out building a single state "super-database" to track everybody's use of email, internet, text messages and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Smith said creating a single database run by the state to hold such personal data would amount to an extreme solution representing an unwarranted intrusion of personal privacy.

Instead the Home Office is looking at a £2bn solution that would involve requiring communications companies such as BT, Virgin Media, O2 and others to retain such personal data for up to 12 months.

The decision to abandon a state central database is a setback for the police and security services who wanted rapid access to the data while conducting counter-terror and crime investigations. Instead they will have to apply for the data to be released to them on a case-by-case basis to each individual telecoms and internet company.

Smith, publishing a consultation paper detailing the private sector solution, said: "Advances in communications mean that there are ever more sophisticated ways to communicate and we need to ensure that we keep up with the technology being used by those who would seek to do us harm."

She said it was essential that the police and other crime-fighting agencies had the tools they needed to do their job. "However, to be clear there are absolutely no plans for a single central store. We recognise that there is a delicate balance between privacy and security, but to do nothing is not an option as we would be failing in our duty to protect the public."

She argued that more privacy concerns were raised by the proposal to store all the personal communications data in a state-run single database than individual private companies retaining the information for access by the police and security services as and when they needed it.

The home secretary said the cost of the project was around £2bn over 10 years, far short of speculation that it could be as high as £12bn.

The Home Office consultation paper published today was originally expected in the early new year but has been delayed by an intense cabinet debate over whether or not to go ahead with the state database.

The paper makes clear that the Home Office regards it as technically the best option, describing it as "the least challenging technically to implement and the cheapest to build and run".

But it adds that the government "recognises the privacy implications in holding all communications data from the UK in a 12-month period in a single store. The government therefore does not propose to pursue this approach."

Instead communications companies are to be required by legislation to ensure that all traffic data – who sent a text to whom at what time and from where – is collected and kept in Britain. They will also be asked to store additional third-party data crossing their networks including phone calls and internet use from outside Europe.

This goes far beyond the current data collected for billing purposes. The companies will also be asked to organise the data – for example, matching it where it relates to the same person so that the authorities can access it in a form that is immediately usable.

Smith said that while the new system could record a visit to a social network such as Facebook, it would not record personal and private information such as photos or messages posted to a page.

"What we are talking about is who is at one end [of a communication] and who is at the other – and how they are communicating," she said.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said the details of the policy remained unclear. "The Home Office has been sending out conflicting signals on the superdatabasefor some months, frantically briefing journalists in private but failing to publish any detailed proposals," she said. "If this statement from the home secretary marks a genuine change of direction on privacy policy, we will welcome it. However, it might be wise to read the small print first," she said.

BBC : Brown urges firmer Pakistan links

Monday, April 27, 2009

Brown urges firmer Pakistan links

April 27, 2009

Gordon Brown has called for a "stronger relationship" between the UK and Pakistan to fight the threat posed by extremism and terrorism.

Speaking in Islamabad, the prime minister said a "strategic dialogue on all the issues" was needed.

Mr Brown, standing beside Pakistani PM Yusuf Raza Gilani, pledged £10m to fight extremism in the country.

Earlier, Pakistan's president pulled out of a joint news conference, amid tensions over recent anti-terror raids.

Sources suggest Asif Zardari was unhappy with the fallout from operations in the UK earlier this month, in which 11 Pakistani nationals were arrested.

Mr Brown still met the president but his press conference instead took place with Mr Gilani, with whom he also held talks.

'Not disrupted'

Operation Pathway - the anti-terrorist operation which took place recently in Liverpool, Manchester and Clitheroe - saw Pakistani nationals arrested and later released without charge.

Ten of the them are in Britain on student visas but are now facing possible deportation proceedings, something which has already been criticised by Pakistan's high commissioner in London, who said they should be allowed to complete their studies.

At the press conference, this was echoed by Mr Gilani, who said: "I think the law will take its own course and I would also request of the prime minister that their studies should not be disrupted."

Mr Brown said: "Today we have agreed a new and stronger relationship between our two countries - vital and urgent work we will undertake together which sets out our shared priorities of tackling violent extremism.

"We will support each other more strongly on counter terrorism activities. We will engage in a strategic dialogue on all the issues surrounding this and we will consider task forces and work streams that will deliver that strategic dialogue for us.

"And we will support this close co-operation immediately by the UK delivering a £10m package of counter terrorism capacity giving assistance to Pakistan's agencies."

'Chain of terror'

Mr Brown earlier went to Afghanistan's Helmand province, where he met British troops.

After talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, he announced a new strategy for dealing with terrorism across border areas with Pakistan.

Mr Brown warned of a "chain of terror" starting in the mountainous region and ending in capital cities worldwide.

He said the UK wanted provinces to be handed over to government control one by one - similar to the process in Iraq.

Mr Brown said he also wanted to see the Afghan army expanded from 75,000 to 135,000-strong by the end of 2011, as well as seeing thousands more police.

Meanwhile, US general David McKiernan, in charge of NATO's operation in Afghanistan, has warned of rising military and civilian casualties.

Writing in the Journal of the Royal United Services Institute, he said the arrival of thousands of additional US troops in the coming months would probably lead to "another sizeable increase in kinetic activity" in 2009 "as the new troops move into new areas to help protect the population and engage the enemy."

He called the likely increase in civilian and NATO casualties "regrettable", but said it would not indicate deteriorating security.

The general said the insurgency was not spreading, noting that 70% of the violence in 2008 took place in 10% of the districts.

He added: "It is imperative that all NATO nations strongly consider how they can help us to fill the manning and capability shortfalls".

He condemned the practice of countries applying so-called "national caveats" to their NATO contributions in Afghanistan.

And Pakistan's military had to "take the lead" in removing extremists from "insurgent sanctuaries" on its territory, he said.