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From Spy Cameras to Spy Planes: British Muslims under Surveillance Again

Written by Fahad Ansari

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From Spy Cameras to Spy Planes: British Muslims under Surveillance Again


Fahad Ansari explores reports into the use of military-style spy planes over British skies, the latest intrusion on civil liberties in the UK

CagePrisoners , November 26, 2010

Yesterday the Guardian revealed that Afghan men living in the UK were returning to Afghanistan for several months at a time every year to fight against NATO forces there. The manner in which the story was reported was sensational as if it was somewhat surprising that Afghani citizens living abroad would return their homeland to liberate their country from an occupying army. So fundamental a concept is the right of the citizens of a country to resist foreign occupation that it is enshrined in numerous international statutes and treaties and has become a peremptory norm of international law. The Americans waged bloody war against the British colonialists, the French used armed force against the Nazi invaders, and the Afghans took up arms against the Soviets. One can safely assume that if a Frenchman living abroad during the Second World War was known to have returned home to assist his countrymen, he would be lauded today as a hero of the greatest courage. So why such hysterics with today’s Afghans who carry out similar feats? They live in the UK, work here, abide by the law, and pay their taxes. They pose no threat to the British public or Britain. They simply return to their country to liberate it from foreign armies detested by the local population.
 
If the authorities have difficulty comprehending such a sentiment, it should express similar horror at the fact that scores of dual nationals travel to a purpose built barracks in the Negev desert in Israel every summer to spend nine weeks saluting, marching, firing guns and otherwise pretending to be soldiers. They return and proudly describe their experiences to the press who unashamedly publish their names. The Guardian itself has previously published accounts of British Jews who served in the Israeli Defence Forces during its invasion of Lebanon in 2006. Its coverage of their life in the army effectively glorifies their experiences, a stark contrast to the recent story of the Afghans.
 
Yet the story does disclose a very interesting piece of information. The article describes how due to the detection by RAF spy planes operating in Helmand detecting strong Yorkshire and Birmingham accents on fighters using radios and telephones, spy planes have been patrolling British skies in the hope of picking up the same voice signatures of the fighters after their return to the UK.
 
If this is true, it raises a number of serious questions. Firstly, how often have these flights been taking place and under what authority? Secondly, which areas have these spy planes been operating over? One can only presume that they would be targeting Muslim majority areas in Yorkshire and Birmingham. If so, it makes a mockery of the apology offered by the chief constable of West Midlands Police Chris Simms earlier this year after a secret police operation to place thousands of Muslim in Birmingham under secret camera surveillance was uncovered in the press. An investigation into that operation, codenamed Project Champion, found that it had been implemented with virtually no consultation, oversight, or regard for the law, and caused significant damage to community relations. If spy planes are indeed also operating over Muslim areas in Britain, it once again highlights how little the government really cares about the dignity of its Muslim citizens.
 
Thirdly, how is the information gathered from such surveillance being used by the authorities? Is it being used as 'secret evidence’ against terror suspects brought before draconian SIAC courts where they are unable to see or challenge the allegations against them? One of the justifications often put forward in support of the use of 'secret evidence’ is that to disclose it to the accused would be to compromise the intelligence services and their methods and strategies. If this is indeed one of those methods, it is understandable why the government is fighting to keep it secret. For were it to become public knowledge, it would further underline the fact that Muslims in Britain are being deliberately targeted by the authorities as a suspect community and treated as second class citizens.
There may well be no truth behind the story. Lets be honest, who didn’t have a chuckle at the thought of British spy planes flying around Britain to monitor potentially millions of people in an effort to identify a handful of voices, last heard in another country thousands of miles away. Perhaps Monthy Python could incorporate such a sketch if they ever decided to do a take on the War on Terror.
 
But if it is not true, then the usual question once again arises – why the hysteria?  


:: Article nr. 72219 sent on 26-nov-2010 18:01 ECT

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