- George Orwell - 1984
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
"Possessing" Information Can Now Brand You A Terrorist
The Anarchists' Cookbook, like the many widely available CIA sabotage manuals (an illustrated version was distributed to civilians in Nicaragua during the 1980s), contains recipes for making explosives. The book has been out of mainstream circulation for years. But in the UK, a 17 year was caught with a copy of the Anarchists' Cookbook in his possession. He's now been charged as a terrorist.
The boy wasn't charged with attempting to carry out an act of terrorism, or even plotting an act of terrorism. He was charged because he had a book. Obviously the wrong book. But a book, all the same.
Philip K Dick's concept of pre-crime - arresting someone before they even attempt to break the law - is now a rock solid reality in the UK, the US and Australia, thanks to the vaguely defined sprawl of anti-terror laws.
Good thing the 'War on Terror' has managed to preserve so many of our rights to free speech, free expression and free thought, otherwise it might look like the terrorists are winning by fearing up our governments enough to undermine the foundations of our free societies. Or perhaps the 'threat' of Al Qaeda is just the excuse they need.
Presumably World War I and World War 2 memoirs and histories, where veterans recount how they fashioned makeshift bombs from scratch to blow up train lines or to take out tanks, will be the next books to make you a criminal for simply owning them.
From BBC :
A British teenager who is accused of possessing material for terrorist purposes has appeared in court.
It is alleged he had a copy of the "Anarchists' Cookbook", containing instructions on how to make home-made explosives. The teenager faces two charges under the Terrorism Act 2000. The first charge relates to the possession of material for terrorist purposes in October last year. The second relates to the collection or possession of information useful in the preparation of an act of terrorism.
Read that line again : "possession of information useful in the preparation of an act of terrorism."
Like possessing a Rambo DVD? Or a copy of Fight Club? Or V For Vendetta? Does owning a copy of the classic film The Battle Of Algiers mean you possess information useful in the preparation of an act of terrorism? What about a book on the Irgun, the Jewish terrorists who massacred hundreds in Palestine in the late 1930s and 1940s? What about Henry's Lawson's short story The Loaded Dog - a story which explains in great detail how to make a bomb powerful enough to kill dozens of people?
The UK law under which the 17 year old has been charged doesn't even specify explosives, books or manuals. It is aimed at 'information'.
Possession of information with which you could prepare for, but not necessarily plan, an act of terrorism is a crime in the UK. That may well mean you don't even need to have the information in book or paper or DVD form. You can possess information simply by storing it in the memory banks inside your skull.
But who determines what information is safe and that which is far too dangerous to possess? Does the public get a say in the setting of parameters for what constitutes 'dangerous' information?
Pre-crime and thought crimes. These things which Philip K Dick wrote about as science fiction only a few decades ago are now reality. Our reality.
Don't you feel safer already?