By ED JOHNSON The British government Wednesday unveiled sweeping anti-terrorism legislation designed to crack down on Islamic extremism, raising concerns from Muslim leaders, opposition parties and legal experts about the potential for infringing on civil liberties. In the wake of the July attacks on London’s transit system, the government wants the power to detain terror suspects for three months without charge, outlaw attending terrorist training camps in Britain or abroad and make it an offense to glorify or encourage terrorism. “The terrorist threat facing the U.K. is real and significant and the government is determined to do all it can to protect our citizens from groups who would try to destroy our society, our way of life and our freedoms,” Home Secretary Charles Clarke said as the Terrorism Bill was published in Parliament. Opponents warned that the legislation, which must be approved by both chambers of Parliament before it can become law, could infringe on civil liberties. “We all need to be vigilant in ensuring that the government’s proposed measures do not jettison fundamental freedoms at the cost of providing little or no guarantee of extra security,” said Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain. The government has moved swiftly since the July 7 suicide bombings that killed 52 London commuters, and the failed July 21 attacks. It has widened its powers to deport foreign nationals who glorify terrorist violence, has proposed banning 15 international Islamic groups under existing anti-terrorism laws and wants to make it easier to strip British citizenship from dual nationals considered a threat. The Terrorism Bill also aims to outlaw preparing an act of terrorism, publishing or selling material that incites terrorism and giving or receiving training in terrorist techniques such as how to spread viruses, place bombs and even cause a stampede in a crowd. The most controversial proposal would extend the maximum detention period for terrorist suspects held without charge from 14 days to three months. Police and prosecutors argue that more time is needed in complex cases, in which suspects often have multiple aliases and store information in tightly encrypted computers, or where the cooperation of foreign agencies is needed. Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday defended the measure and said police have made an “absolutely compelling case” for the extension. But Lord Carlile, appointed by the government to review the measures, said the three-month detention plan could be open to challenge under European human rights legislation.
By Jeremiah Marquez LOS ANGELES — An alleged plot targeting military facilities, synagogues and other Los Angeles-area sites has highlighted what experts say is a novel terrorist threat: homegrown American militants operating with little or no help from Islamic extremists abroad. Four suspects were charged last week with conspiring to wage war against the U.S. government through terrorism. Named in the federal indictment were Levar Haley Washington, 25; Gregory Vernon Patterson, 21; Hammad Riaz Samana, 21; and Kevin James, 29. All but Samana, a Pakistani national, are American-born and Muslim converts. Counterterrorism officials have found no evidence directly connecting the group–described as the cell of a California prison gang of radical Muslims–to Al Qaeda or other foreign terrorist networks. Law-enforcement officials and terrorism experts said it could represent one of the first Islamic terrorism cases involving U.S. natives without those connections. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes, an international dragnet has broken up training camps, disrupted finances and sent terrorist leaders underground, making it all the more difficult for Al Qaeda to mount attacks. Yet despite tougher border control, a radical ideology shared by the terrorist network continues to seep into the United States through propaganda distributed via the Internet, books, pamphlets, DVDs and the media–a “passive recruiting strategy,” according to terrorism experts. That has helped transform Al Qaeda into a movement with disciples acting without funding, expertise or guidance from foreign handlers. “Al Qaeda can’t get their militants to the places they want to hit, so they rely on an ideology to gain converts who do it for them,” said professor Brian Levin, a terrorism researcher at California State University, San Bernardino. In the Southern California case, prosecutors say cell members largely supported themselves. Washington, Patterson and Samana allegedly robbed gas stations to finance their plans to target military sites, synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and the El Al airport counter in the Los Angeles area. Patterson purchased a .223-caliber rifle. Samana underwent “firearms training and physical training” at a local park, according to the indictment. They even conducted Internet research on potential targets and Jewish holidays–dates for which they allegedly planned the assaults to “maximize the number of casualties,” prosecutors said. Samana’s lawyer, Timothy Lannen, described his client in a statement as a “peace-loving, law-abiding member of our community” and said “he did not intend at any time to commit violence against anyone.” An attorney in Washington’s state robbery case had not reviewed the federal indictment and had no immediate comment. Patterson’s lawyer has said his client asked him not to comment. The plot’s suspected mastermind was James, a California State Prison, Sacramento, inmate who founded the radical group Jamiyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, authorities said. Washington converted to Islam while imprisoned there for a previous robbery conviction. Self-made groups in the United States can be more difficult to root out because they’re smaller and have fewer financial resources to track, experts said. “They’re adopting the Al Qaeda agenda and philosophy and carrying out their own jihad,” said Oliver “Buck” Revell, a former FBI associate deputy director and counterterrorism chief. “Unfortunately, they may be successful because they’re extremely hard to detect.”
German officials are drawing up lists of hundreds of Muslims to be deported from the country under a new law making expulsions easier, the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel said on Saturday. Der Spiegel said authorities were already using their powers under an immigration law introduced this month in conducting an operation dubbed Aktion Kehraus (Action Sweep Out). The interior ministry declined to comment on the report beyond saying that deportations were a matter for Germany’s 16 federal states. Under new rules, potential deportees will not be able to use normal legal channels to challenge an expulsion order. A special panel of the Federal Administrative Court will be responsible, with no right of appeal. Der Spiegel said judges were expected to deal with up to 2000 cases a year. Clampdown Since the revelations in 2001 that Arab students who had lived for years in Hamburg led the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States, Germans have questioned their liberal laws under which some suspects even drew welfare benefits. Interior Minister Otto Schily has suggested that evidence of training at an al-Qaida camp should be clear grounds for expelling a foreign national. Distributing videos calling for “holy war” could also be punished the same way.
Belgian police raided 20 houses in Antwerp, Brussels and Tongres and arrested a number of men suspected of links with Islamic extremist terror groups, the federal prosecutor’s office has confirmed. The men are all suspected of having links with an organisation called the Moroccan Islamic Combatants’ Group (MICG) In a statement, the prosecutor’s office said there was “serious evidence” that north Africans linked to the MICG had received paramilitary training in camps in Afghanistan and were now living in Belgium, several of them with no official residence papers.