Reports on suspicious activity determined to be harmless will be deleted. They had been stored in a database for a year, sparking fears that the information could wind up with the federal government.
In the face of privacy concerns, the Los Angeles Police Department has agreed to change the way it collects information on suspicious activity possibly related to terrorism.
The department, after coming under fire from civil liberties and community groups, will no longer hold on to so-called suspicious activity reports that the LAPD’s counter-terrorism unit determines are about harmless incidents.
Until now, the department stored the innocuous reports in a database for a year. That gave rise to worries among critics of the reporting program that personal information about people who had done nothing wrong could be entered inappropriately into the federal government’s vast network of counter-terrorism databases and watch lists.
According to authorities, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s radicalization began during his days in private school in Togo, and continued on during his time in London.
But the crucial point in his radicalization process occurred on his trip to Yemen earlier this year to study Arabic for six months at the Institute for the Arabic Language. Students there say he was obsessed with piety and was lonely, with no close friends.
His radicalization process was gathering intensity in London. Security sources say they knew he was connected to extremists in London who were under M15 surveillance for criminal activities, although his name was on no watch list. He was categorized as one of several thousand who come into contact with those under surveillance.
Authorities say he was trying to “begin a journey”, but nothing suggested he wanted to pursue violence. “Many young people start on the same route, but very few complete it. Very very large numbers of people come across the radar, very very few of them engage in terrorism.”
He attended the East London mosque in Whitechapel three times, although a spokesperson for the mosque denies knowledge of his attendance. “We don’t recognize him at all. The mosque has a large, loyal community and they are stunned and upset that one person can affect the perceptions of the community. The mosque has been kicking out radical preachers since 1990.”
Abdulmutallab organized a “War on Terror Week” conference in 2007 and gave a presentation called “Jihad vs. Terrorism,” where he discussed “the Islamic position with respect to jihad.” He gave no indication that he supported violent jihad.
Extremists banned from entering the UK will be “named and shamed” under plans to be announced by the Government this week.
In the last three years, 230 people have been barred from entering the country because of their extreme views but they are not currently named publicly. However, the Home Office is expected to issue quarterly figures on exclusions and name some of those who are banned. A Home Office official said: “These measures are aimed at preventing anyone who will stir up tensions in the UK from entering the country. We have not named them in the past but now, when it was in the public interest, we will. They will also be placed on international watch lists which tell other countries that they have been banned and why they were not allowed in. Coming to the UK is a privilege. We don’t want people abusing that by stirring up tensions.”
The bans on high profile figures, including radical Isalmist cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrkhan, only became known after the individuals themselves spoke out against the decisions. Omar Bakri Mohammed was banned from the UK in the wake of the 7/7 terror attacks in London in 2005.
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