UK terrorism case ends in acquittal – no one allowed to say why

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Ian Cobain

Ian Cobain, a reporter with The Guardian, is one of very few people who know why a student arrested by armed British police officers in 2013 was finally acquitted this year of terrorism charges.

Problem is, he cannot report what he knows. He was allowed to observe much of the trial, but only under strict conditions intended to keep classified material secret. His notebooks are being held by Britain’s domestic intelligence agency. And if he writes — or even talks — about the reason that the student, Erol Incedal, 27, was acquitted, Mr. Cobain faces prosecution and possibly jail.

“I know the essence of what was happening,” Mr. Cobain said, “but I can’t tell, I can’t even talk to my editor about this.”

Having initially gone along reluctantly with the reporting restrictions, a number of British news organizations are now challenging them in court. And yes, the challenge itself is being heard under secrecy rules that leave the public mostly excluded. Were Mr. Cobain to break the law and disclose what he knows publicly, his prosecution would also take place in secret…

The case is among the latest to highlight the growing debate about the proper balance between civil liberties and national security in the age of terrorism. That debate has intensified this year in the United States and across much of Europe, with nations reflecting on decisions they have made since the Sept. 11 attacks and reacting to more recent developments, from the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris to disclosures in Germany about eavesdropping by the United States National Security Agency…

But the Incedal case has focused attention on whether governments are cloaking too many of their activities in national security classifications, insulating themselves from public debate and accountability for mistakes or collusion with suspects.

It’s hard to know quite who is being protected in all this,” said David Davis, a lawmaker from the governing Conservative Party and a former minister…“The implication is that this is more about the embarrassment of the agencies than it is about real questions of national security…”

Please RTFA. This case, the repressive manipulation by government, courts and the thought police is not happening in isolation. The parallels with the American FISA court and actions of the NSA, FBI, other alphabetized fascists is striking.

The good fortune is that journalism in the UK is willing to challenge restrictions – even in roundabout ways – while most US media is self-restricted to entertainment. And it ain’t folks who believe in Free Speech who get to determine what is entertainment.

There is beaucoup detail, anecdotal adventures in the dreamland nightmares of our spooks and politicians.

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