Prevent programme used to spy on Muslims

30th Aug 2019
Prevent programme used to spy on Muslims

The appointment of cross-bench peer Lord Carlile to lead an independent review of the Prevent programme has been slammed (Photo: Creative Commons)

Hamed Chapman

Home Office mentors are gathering information on their clients in supposed “confidential” de-radicalisation meetings and sharing it with police for terrorism investigations into the very people they are counselling, leaked documents have revealed.

The paid mentors, who include Islamic scholars and counter-extremism experts vetted and approved by the Government, routinely file an “intervention session report” after each mentoring session, according to the Sunday Times.

The reports provide a “vulnerability assessment” of a client, their “capability” of carrying out a violent act and “new relevant background information” which details the personal material that was obtained, including their “susceptibility to indoctrination” and state of “mental health”, the newspaper said.

The detailed assessments are carried out under the discredited Channel mentoring programme, which is part of the Government’s controversial Prevent counter-terrorism agenda and also includes briefings about a client’s “attitudes to justify offending”, “criminal capability” and “harmful objectives.”

The disclosure adds to previous claims and fears that Prevent, which costs taxpayers about £40 million a year, is being used to spy on the Muslim community in Britain. It has long been exposed that the strategy, which targets Muslims from cradle to grave, is both flawed and unscientific when purportedly looking for clues to assess whether the person is at risk of becoming a violent extremist.

The main plank of the Government’s counter-terrorism policy has often been suspected as being designed primarily as a mass surveillance and spying programme, involving not only police officers but also imposes a statutory duty on teachers, faith leaders, prisons, the probation services, doctors and local authorities.

It comes as the country’s most senior counterterrorism officer warned that homegrown terrorists are being recruited as a result of a lack of social mobility and inclusion.

Assistant Commissioner, Neil Basu, said that better access to the best education and healthcare, as well as improved equality in the criminal justice system, would do more to stop terrorism than “the policing and state security apparatus put together.”

Up to 80 per cent of terrorists intent on carrying out attacks against UK targets were born or raised in Britain, he said, adding that policing dealt with the symptoms but not the root of the issue of extremism.

“Policies that go towards more social inclusion, more social mobility and more education are much more likely to drive down violence… than all the policing and state security apparatus put together. It is much more likely to have a positive effect,” Basu told The Guardian.

“Nothing I am saying remotely excuses these heinous acts of criminal violence,” he said. “But the deeper causes need examining. My teams are world-class at stopping attacks and locking terrorists up. But we need to stop the flow of recruits into terrorism.”

The Muslim Council of Britain welcomed his remarks that effectively recognise some of the shortcomings in the Prevent strand of the
Government’s counter-terrorism strategy as well as his rejection of Islam being supposedly at odds with British society.

“Neil Basu has made an important intervention in calling out the misguided notion that Muslims must be seen only through the lens of security and that their solemn adherence to their faith renders them incapable of being equal participants of British society,” MCB Secretary General Harun Khan said.

“We believe the Government’s implementation of the Prevent strand of the counter-terrorism strategy has — in many ways — been a manifestation of this tendency. The Prevent strategy has meant Muslims have been targeted in a discriminatory way,” he said.

The coinciding announcement that cross-bench peer Lord Carlile has been appointed to lead an independent review of the Prevent programme has also faced criticism, including from human rights groups accusing the Government of risking a whitewash by doing it behind closed doors.

Being a former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, the veteran barrister is seen too much of an establishment figure as well as a reportedly member of a secretive Home Office committee responsible for enforcing the implementation of the contentious counter-extremism programme by public bodies.

Former Tory Chair, Sayeeda Warsi, said it was “another misjudged appointment” by the Government. “Lord Carlile is neither independent of Government thinking on this issue nor does he have the trust of the communities that have been on the receiving end of the excesses and mistakes of the Prevent policy,” she tweeted.

A letter to the new Security Minister, Brandon Lewis, from a coalition of 10 human rights and community groups accused the Government of recruiting the peer behind closed doors. The position was not even advertised and instead, the decision was made by the Home Secretary.

With a No Deal Brexit seemingly looming, Basu also warned in his wide-ranging interview that Britain’s safety and security would suffer and no amount of planning and preparations could erase the increased terrorism-related risks.

According to an investigation by the Middle East Eye, the popular “This Is Woke” Facebook page and Instagram feed has furthermore been exposed as being run by a shadowy UK Government unit.

The network for young people, which is named after the original African-American – call to remain aware of social and racial justice issues, was said to have been created by a media company on behalf of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) at the UK Home Office.

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