Prevent Watch

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Is Priti Patel trying to militarise counter-extremism in Britain?

An ex-Royal Marine Special Forces operations planner turned spy agency consultant is advising on the appointment of the next top counter-extremism commissioner, reveals Nafeez Ahmed in another ground-breaking investigation for the Byline Times. The Government panel that will be deciding on the appointment of the next Lead Commissioner for Countering Extremism includes a former senior military officer who is a veteran of the Afghan and Iraq invasions. The former colonel now consults for overseas intelligence agencies and advises a private security firm specialising in “covert surveillance”. The Home Office assessor, Col. (ret) Robert Graham Cundy, is a former Royal Marine and British Army Special Forces officer who played a senior role in counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Since retiring from the British Army, Cundy has contracted for various UK government departments including providing “capability training packages for overseas intelligence agencies,” according to his biography published […]

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Police minister rejects the need for ethics guidance on predictive policing technology

Claudia Glover writes in The Tech Monitor that the UK’s policing minister has rejected the suggestion that police forces might need ethical guidance in relation to emerging technologies. This, despite alarm from campaigners over live facial recognition and ‘predictive policing’. UK police forces are pursuing many of these technologies. Last year, the Mayor of London’s Office approved a new £3m “Retrospective Facial Recognition” system that will allow police to compare faces identified in CCTV footage against archival footage. “We have to be slightly careful not to stifle innovation,” UK policing minister Kit Malthouse Malthouse said, and that formal procurement frameworks “tend to be generally for more mature technology”. He said that while there could be room for regional bodies advising police forces on technology ethics, he would be “concerned about setting up a parallel ethics group” on a national level, as Parliament already serves that purpose. “In the end, aren’t […]

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Priti Patel has quietly been stuffing even more punitive anti-protest powers into the policing bill

Ian Dunt commented in IT News that the Home Secretary had been carving, without hyperbole or caveat, a piece of law which would sit more easily in a dictatorship than a democracy. The Government waited until the final stages of a bill’s legislative process and then suddenly proposed a series of amendments, leaving reporters and human rights groups very little time to raise the alarm. The mechanism she used is the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which first went before the Commons in March for its initial debate, and is now being turned into something even more alarming in the House of Lords. The bill was already a stunningly draconian piece of legislation. One of its chief provisions was to allow police to impose severe restrictions on protests on the basis of noise. The Home Secretary’s provisions, he wrote, were “carte blanche for invasive police action against activists”. Source: […]

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It’s Time to Close Down the Police’s “Domestic Extremism” Databases

A European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment in January, in a case brought by veteran peace campaigner John Catt, is extremely significant for the future of protest surveillance. For seven years John has argued that the decision by the police to retain extensive surveillance data about him on the secretive National Domestic Extremism Database was a violation of his privacy. The introduction of the Data Protection Act in 1998 provided UK citizens with some protections about how our personal data is gathered, retained and used. Exemptions, however, that were given to the police have allowed them to treat information gathered from surveillance on protesters with the same cavalier attitude we invariably witness from the so-called “facilitation” of their protests. Concerns about privacy have never featured highly in the police’s priorities. Read more

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Critics of Prevent strategy told to ‘share criticisms’ and suggest ways it could be improved

A forthcoming review of the Prevent anti-terror programme is an opportunity for long-standing critics to “stand up and be counted”, a chief constable has said. Simon Cole, the national policing lead for the scheme, challenged those who have complained of a “lack of independent analysis and oversight” to use their chance to influence policy and suggest ways it could be improved. Read more

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Police challenge Prevent critics to ‘stand up and be counted’

An upcoming review of the Prevent anti-terrorism programme is an opportunity for long-standing critics to “stand up and be counted”, a chief constable has said. Simon Cole, the national policing lead for the scheme, challenged those who have complained of a “lack of independent analysis and oversight” to use their chance to influence policy and suggest improvements. “Failure to do so would demonstrate that all they ever had was arguments based on inaccuracies or myth, and no real ideas about how to tackle radicalisation among the young and the vulnerable,” he said. Read more