In the cold aftermath of a terror attack, it is very easy to want to round up all the Muslims and….
And there is the crunch. Send them back? Not really a viable option. There are several million Muslims in the UK most of whom are entirely blameless, many of whom were born in the UK. “Sending them back” is not any sort of solution. Nor is “rounding them up”. What would you do with millions of pretty ordinary, non-terrorists?
We were chatting about this over dinner. Rather than impossible and extreme solutions, what can the Brits actually do? And, because I run a political philosophy/legal/political science seminar most nights over dinner (my sainted Susan is owed far more than I can ever repay), how can they do it with minimal destruction of civil rights?
At this point, the security services in the UK have a list of around 23,000 people who are “at risk” of terrorism and another list of 3000 people who are suspected of terrorist activity. Inclusion on either list is, I suspect, a fairly hit and miss enterprise. There are, of course, no-fly lists as well. What might a determined government do with this sort of information?
At the outer range of what could be done, every person on the longer list could be detained, questioned and sorted. It would be a massive operation and a massive invasion of the civil rights of the people on the list. 22 dead children and 7 dead Londoners might be enough to trigger the roundup. I don’t know.
What I do know is that such an intervention could accomplish a number of useful things. First off it would likely reduce the size of the list. People wrongfully on the list would, after some fairly light questioning, be removed. It would also give the authorities the opportunity to get the fingerprints, biometric data, internet usage patterns, associates and such like of people already identified as potentially dangerous.
I suspect, after an initial vetting, most of the people on “the list” would be removed from the list and sent on their way. The people who are left would be subject to further, more detailed interrogation and, again, the majority would be deemed not to pose a threat and be sent on their way.
Now for the rest. The Katie Hopkins faction wants to see internment. I don’t. I think internment of people who are legally presumed innocent is wrong and an unacceptable violation of civil rights. But we do not have to intern people to keep an eye on them.
The security services in the UK are stretched to the breaking point. It takes 20 people to keep one guy under 24-hour surveillance.
A reasonable alternative is to seek Court orders for tracking ankle bracelets for the people identified as most likely to be actual terrorists. This might require legislation but it is minimally invasive and avoids the horrors of mass internment. (It would also, in all likelihood, be a treasure trove of useful information. Who sees who when and where.)
Between ankle bracelets and a thorough search of the suspected terrorist’s computers and mobile devices, the security services could gain a picture of what the tiny minority of terrorist Muslims in the UK actually do.
Draconian? Somewhat. Though there could easily be constructed a means for the Court Orders to be challenged by way of bringing evidence of bona fides. The orders could run for a year or two and only be renewable upon application by the Crown.
It is not a perfect system but it would address the need for Britian to protect itself at a minimum cost in terms of civil rights. Compared to internment it is a measured and reasonable response. Compared to doing nothing? The body count may not be high enough for the doing nothing option to stop making sense; but that count is likely to continue going up and as it does the demands on the UK government to “do something” will become deafening.