Thursday March 22, 2007
The number of British citizens subject to control orders issued by the home secretary, John Reid, has risen to nine, it was announced today.
It means half the 18 orders currently in force – which place terror suspects under a loose form of house arrest – are against UK citizens. Last February, only one of the orders in force was against a Briton.
In a quarterly update to MPs, Mr Reid said two new orders had been made against British citizens, with one having been enforced on December 11 and the other on March 10.
The total number of orders is constantly in flux as they lapse or are replaced or varied.
Mr Reid also confirmed that a terror suspect who absconded last summer was now believed to be overseas.
It had previously been suggested that the man – an Iraqi who can only be identified by the initials LL – would be prepared to head to Iraq, where he could pose a threat to UK forces.
“I have been informed that the individual who absconded in August 2006 is currently believed to be abroad,” Mr Reid said. “The individual in question has been excluded from the UK.”
LL vanished from his address in the north of England last August after being charged with seven offences of breaching his control order. The order was then quashed by the court of appeal in separate legal proceedings, but LL was not handed a modified version before he disappeared.
Two other men subjected to control orders remain on the run.
A British national known as AD escaped from a mental health unit in south-west London at the end of September.
The 25-year-old, who was held in Pakistan for more than six months in 2005, has reportedly been questioned about alleged links to the July 7 London bombers.
Pakistani authorities are reported to have questioned AD about an alleged meeting in Pakistan with the Aldgate bomber, Shehzad Tanweer. He is also alleged to have been a friend of the British suicide bomber Asif Hanif, who blew himself up in Israel in 2003.
The allegations against him were reported in the New York Times in July 2005, but Pakistani officials rejected the claims.
The third international terrorist on the run – believed to be a 26-year-old Pakistani who lived in Manchester – absconded in January, days after being served with his control order.
He evaded police by taking sanctuary in a mosque and slipping out of a back entrance while officers negotiated with religious leaders. The man was reported to have said he wanted to undertake terror training in Afghanistan.
Mr Reid gave no update on the two other missing terrorists.
I remember the Dictator General of the Prison Service, Will Feetly, telling me about the back stabbing from his Chief Officer, when he was Deputy Governor of Gartree Prison. And, that the militant Prison Officer’s Association, often posed a bigger problem for him than the prisoners. Similarly, I am having difficulties within the Home Office from civil servants who are being very uncivil towards me and my plans for a shake up. I am seriously considering calling in the Home Guard to put an end to this infighting
Yesterday, I spent an hour doing a webchat question and answer session on the 10 Downing Street website. I quite like the idea of confiscating the mobile phones of those caught using them whilst driving, but what I would really like to see is the power introduced to ban them from using mobile phones for life. We intend to start using roadside cameras to spot those using mobile phones, in addition to more sophisticated tracking devices to hunt down these perpetrators.
I have realised that we have not gone far enough with the idea of bringing down the age limit from 21 to 17 years, in relation to the 5 year maximum jail term for carrying a firearm. Therefore, it is my intention to lower the age to 10 years and double the maximum sentence to 10 years.
I quite like the American idea of “Zero Tolerance”. I intend to introduce a minimum 20 year prison sentence for crimes such as graffiti (perhaps even extended to cover blogging), and anti-social behaviour. However, whereas the American’s are soft with their three strikes and you are out rule, which derives from the game of baseball, our national sport is cricket and you hit the wicket once and you are out. Therefore I intend to introduce “stumped”, you get one go and that’s it!
Our plans are well under way to introduce both the biometric ID card and new biometric passport. These will have your fingerprint and iris scans, and everybody’s photo will be fed into a giant data base which anyone in authority can get immediate access to. This identity management is intended to protect the individual from such crimes as identity theft, for example, in credit card frauds. We intend to use foreigners as guinea pigs in our experiment and very quickly extend it to everybody else.
There is cause for celebration in the Home Office, because the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) threw out an appeal by the radical Muslim preacher Abu Qatada and I can deport him back to Jordan. I am particularly chuffed because it is a test that shows my anti-terror policy is working. As you all know, Abu Qatada poses a threat to our national security. The Memoranda of Understanding has been agreed with Jordan, and they have promised that they will safeguard the rights of Abu Qatada upon his return. All governments honour their promises, don’t they?
Qatada changed his name from Omar Mahoud Mohammed Otham, who we know is Osama bin Laden’s right hand man in Europe. If I could predict the future, I would say that Qatada’s plane might have to be diverted because of bad weather conditions and therefore have to land in Cuba. The CIA pilot will have radioed ahead and booked Qatada a room in the Guantanamo Bay Hotel.
Of course, Mr Justice Ouseley who reached his judgment in my favour will now be promoted to Lord Justice in recognition of his fine service to protecting the public from terrorists. It is immaterial that we were able to use evidence obtained by means of torture. As they say, no pain no gain!
BTW, the plans to split the Home Office up are going ahead and we will be starting the radical shake-up early next month.