Global security: is study restricted?

Global security: is study restricted?

Summary: With the current state of terrorism threats and attacks, and cyber-crime on the increase, I seriously wonder if academics and students have full passage to "do as we like" in terms of studying, learning and educating ourselves and others.Earlier on this year, two personnel from the University of Nottingham, a postgraduate student and an administrator, were arrested under the UK Terrorism Act 2000.

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armedpolice.pngWith the current state of terrorism threats and attacks, and cyber-crime on the increase, I seriously wonder if academics and students have full passage to "do as we like" in terms of studying, learning and educating ourselves and others.

Earlier on this year, two personnel from the University of Nottingham, a postgraduate student and an administrator, were arrested under the UK Terrorism Act 2000. As the Guardian reported:

Rizwaan Sabir, 22, was held for nearly a week under the Terrorism Act, accused of downloading the materials for illegal use. The student had obtained a copy of the al-Qaida training manual from a US government website for his research into terrorist tactics.

For certain courses at college and university, you have to go through a level of "vetting". For health-care and medical studies, you need certain checks to make sure you have no prior convictions - obviously, as you'll be working with the young, the old and the vulnerable. In courses relating to terrorism, criminology and others similar, some universities and governments vet also, to ensure the right people get the right material, rather than the wrong people getting the right material.

This may or may not be the case; being vetted before their course, but to be arrested for being in possession of terrorist material, is like being given some cake then made to throw it back up again (thanks for the analogy, Tom).

I spoke to an old friend today to discuss the matter. This person can obviously not be named for legal and security reasons, but they work for the British Secret Intelligence Service, and I was given their thoughts on this issue:

vauxhallcross.png"The SIS and police believe strongly in the freedom of education and people's right to an education. We also work tirelessly in the protection of our home citizens and British nationals abroad, in avoiding international acts of terrorism. There's obviously a fine line between studying for a love of knowledge and studying to craft terrorism and acts of violence, and we aim to detect the latter whilst monitoring carefully the former."

Terrorism in itself is being held back by the relevant authorities, agencies and governments. For us in the west, we have a level of security which other countries could only dream of. We're very fortunate, but still fear that the intelligence agencies trying to protect us can go a little overkill at times.

On the other hand, cyber-crime and computer related felonies are still rising, and everyone will be affected by some security issue or another at some point in time. With these restrictions on how we live our lives, whether some are obvious or not, can we truly study freely without being subjected to possible detainment for terror related crimes?

restrictedaccess.pngAgain, from the same article by the Guardian:

"I would like to say my freedom to research had the full backing of my University authorities, but unfortunately they appear unwilling to uphold the right of their students to read and study legal, openly available documents free from the fear of arrest."

Sometimes the best way to understand a subject is to immerse yourself in it. Not only that, to study criminals and crime patterns, one effective way of understanding these things is by delving into the culture, mindset and thought process of that criminal. Although we'll never know the full story behind Sabir and Yezza's arrest, it's evident that we may not be allowed to study as freely as we first thought.

Please let me know your thoughts on this. Are we restricted to some extent in what we're allowed to study? Do we have a maximum depth of study allowed before we could get in trouble? Has something like this affected you or someone you know before? Your thoughts please, if you have a moment.

Topics: Security, Government, Government US

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5 comments
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  • Did they research first?

    Did they have any evidence that he was doing anything
    other than reading the manual...like building bombs,
    organizing training camps, communicating with known
    terrorists, etc?
    Taz_z
    • Yep

      They at some point would have had to go through a CTC check; a counter-terrorism check, which essentially checks known associates through police resources to see whether they have ties or any connection to any known "terrorist" organisations or people.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classified_information_in_the_United_Kingdom#Counter-Terrorist_Check_.28CTC.29
      zwhittaker
  • Sorry

    Thanks to both the terrorists & the Bush administration we live in a much more restricted world .... with many of us confused about where the lines are....it is never clear even if you've "stepped in it" . A high school student "I knew" got in deep sh*t for looking up the Animal Liberation Front for a paper in his Environmental Science class... the way the school administration acted you'd think he brought a bomb to school for show and tell. Fortunately he was a minor so they couldn't just haul him away but it was very scary & costly to both his family and community. Sadly , I think all the boy learned was disrespect for the systerm & authorities and a new more discrete way to access information ....relakks.com...
    toddler321
  • RE: Global security: is study restricted?

    I know governments try to restrict information available to individuals, and try to follow up on those that they suspect.

    Child pornography is a big one, and gets very little objection from most people; even though there is no distinction made between artificial child porn, and real child porn. Personally, although I find the idea distasteful, if no children were used in the production of "child-image porn" then it should not be illegal to view or possess.

    I know how to make a variety of chemical weapons, and explosives from common materials. This information is available in a myriad of locations on the web, as well as at most libraries. I even know enough about nuclear weapons, electronics, explosives, and machining that if I had access to 20 kg of plutonium, I could probably get the rest of the things necessary to build a working nuke.

    (Although with that much plutonium, I'd much rather build an electrical generator and sell power back to the electric companies!)

    The only reason why the feds might not visit me is because I'm retired military with logical reasons to be researching this information. So unless they also found I was purchasing, or seeking to purchase, said materials; they most likely will only flag me in their database to keep an eye on me.

    If people were all logical, emotionally and mentally stable, and responsibile individuals, I'd have no objection to their access to this sort of information. The principles of freedom in the U.S. virtually mandate individual access to this information. Unfortunately, there are far more people in the country, and the world, who are more unstable than I am, or with an agenda for violent action. While I am 100% against arresting them for being in possession of this knowledge, I think it would be prudent for the government to have knowledge of their activities, and take corrective action when proof of intent to harm occurs.
    Dr_Zinj
  • RE: Global security: is study restricted?

    I think this is a good idea. Terrorism is a scary thing. Has anyone heard of an EMP hit? I've been researching a lot about them and it's a huge deal, one of our enemies can just blow a nuclear bomb above us and all our electricity can go out. We would be back to the dark ages. I'm not a professional on this topic, but when looking into it, I came across a Radio Blog Show that holds a live show every Wednesday. A guy named James Woolsey is going to be on in a couple weeks on the 3rd of August. It should be really informational. If you guys want to check it out, here's the link! http://www.blogtalkradio.com/empact-radio/2011/08/03/pvp60-ambassador-james-woolsey-returns-to-empact-radio
    AmandaK09