The Second Reading of the Terrorism Bill 2005, in the House of Lords, on Monday 21st November 2005, produced little new of real interest - amendments come later.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the Home Office Minister indicated that the Government would not seek to amend the decision of the House of Commons regarding the 28 days detention without charge issue, despite some of the rabidly NuLabour Lords who were apparently planning to try to re-introduce the original 90 day proposal.
One such (who wants at least 60 days) is Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale who managed to repeat the discredited case for 90 days set out in Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Andy Hayman's letter. For some reason she cannot see the flaws in it, and she appears to be obviously clueless about encryption etc. This is extremely worrying, given that she is a member of the cross party Intelligence and Security Committee which is meant to scrutinise the activities of GCHQ, MI5, MI6 etc.
Baroness Williams of Crosby, formerly Shirley Williams, a former Education Minister and a founder of the breakaway Social Democratic party which merged eventually to form the Liberal Democrats, as well as several other Peers, finally started to discuss the implications of the "glorification / encouragement" and "training" offences and their implications for Universities and Libraries. In particular the British Library has a statutaory duty under the British Library Act 1972 and the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003, to collect and publish or lend all printed materials, even allegedly "terrorist" publications.
No mention was made of the effect on the vast array of legally required industrial and scientific Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) health and safety literature and training material.
Incredibly even the Opposition Lords e.g. Lord Lloyd of Berwick, are patting themselves on the back for supporting or having called for even before the Government did, the Clause 5 "Acts preparatory to terrorism". We still find that it is astonishing that , as current;ly worded, you could face a life sentence for, say. preparing a bomb hoax, without actually carrying it out, which , if you actually went through with the "terrorist act" itself, would only attract a maximum of 7 years in prison. This clause is far too widely drafted and "catch all".
For the conspiracy theorists out there, you cannot hope to find a more interesting one than that which Baroness Cox described : the apparent radio jamming of a microphone in the House of Lords,
the involvement of the Saudi Arabian businessman Salah Idris who owned the pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, in the Sudan, which President Clinton authorised cruise missile attacks on, and who has invested in a couple of British "security" companies with privileged access to the Houses of Parliament, the Royal Courts of Justice, Dounray nuclear power station etc.
Baroness Cox is a well known human rights campaigner, and not obviously a conspiracy theorist.
The Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland made a vague promise to see if she could reveal any more information about this affair.
I reluctantly return to an issue that I have repeatedly raised, but to which I have had no satisfactory answer from the Government or the relevant authorities. On 12 January 2000 I was speaking in your Lordships' House about that film and about the teaching of terrorist activities in this country when unprecedented interference to the microphones drowned my voice. The interference ceased 10 seconds before the end of my speech. It is entirely compatible with some kind of jamming. I was advised by the authorities here that it was caused by "a faulty microphone", but I have since been advised that a thorough investigation showed no problems with the sound system, leaving as the only plausible explanation that it was intentional interference by someone with inside access.
I took independent advice from international experts whose analysis I am willing to make available. They robustly disagreed with the replies that I had been given. They claimed that the only technically feasible and statistically reasonable explanation was that it was an inside job. They pointed out that such jamming is easy to achieve and that it demonstrates the ability to penetrate the security of Parliament, shows contempt for democracy, was a specific threat to me, and a general threat to anyone who dares to speak critically about Islamists.
Having failed to elicit any serious response from authorities here, my concern was renewed by a newspaper report in the Sunday Times on 30 July 2000 entitled:
"Commons Security Firm Run By Terror Suspect".
Some excerpts are relevant, such as:
"A Sudanese businessman who has been linked by the American CIA to the world's most wanted terrorist is the leading shareholder in a company that provides security systems to the House of Parliament . . . Salah Idris, 48, whose pharmaceutical factory in Sudan was flattened by American cruise missiles after it was linked to Osama Bin Laden . . . owns 25 per cent of IES, a company specialising in high-technology surveillance and security management".
The article claims that that firm also provided such equipment to New Scotland Yard, British Airways, Texaco and other blue chip firms.
I cannot comment on the allegations that Salah Idris has links with terrorism, but his ownership of the pharmaceutical factory demonstrates his close relationship with the Islamist regime in Khartoum.
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When Parliament resumed, I tabled a Written Question. The reply on 9 October 2000 confirmed Salah Idris's involvement in that firm. It admitted that the firm also installed surveillance equipment in the Royal Courts of Justice and provided digital playback systems for New Scotland Yard, but that Salah Idris had no day-to-day involvement in running the firm.
I put the matter, if not my mind, to rest until, after the horrors of 9/11, a journalist informed me that Salah Idris had increased his shareholding to 75 per cent. An article in the Observer on 14 October 2001 confirmed that and quotes the marketing manager of IES saying:
"We provide security for some of the most sensitive sites in the UK, right up to government Ministers and the Army".
A subsequent article in the Observer on 4 November 2001 revealed that Salah Idris also held a 20 per cent stake in the security firm Protec. The article states:
"Salah Idris . . . has multi-million pound investments in two British security firms through a secretive offshore company. These firms act as security consultants and supply security systems at 11 nuclear installations in the UK, including Dounreay and Sellafield. They also have security contracts with some of Britain's top potential terrorist targets, including Canary Wharf, the House of Commons and Army bases. The companies would have highly sensitive details of all the facilities where they install equipment".
I shall repeat the two questions that I have asked before, for which for four years I have received no satisfactory answer. They are germane to the Bill and to its wider implications. First, does either existing or proposed legislation provide protection against financial penetration of and influence in UK institutions of key political military and strategic significance?
Secondly, as Oliver Letwin in another place asked when he was shadow Home Secretary:
"In the current climate, people will be rightly concerned about the Observer's allegations, which raise very serious questions. They require an urgent response. Either the Government cleared Mr Idris of any wrongdoing, or they should launch an immediate investigation".
Before concluding, I point to similar concerns demonstrated by Dr Rachel Ehrenfeld, expert on financial institutions and director of the American Center for Democracy, and her analysis of an American security firm, Ptech. That firm develops enterprise blueprints at the highest level of US Government and corporate infrastructure, which hold every important functional, operational and technical detail of the enterprise. Ptech's clients in 2001 included the US Department of Justice, the Department of Energy, Customs, Air Force, the White House, IBM, Sysco, Motorola and many others.
She claims that examples of information gathered by using Ptech's capabilities would include: a complete blueprint of a nuclear waste disposal site; the security procedures required to access military bases during transfer of nuclear waste materials; details of security rules and procedures; and specifications for Smartcards as implemented in various defence facilities, which could be used to make templates for unauthorised production of fake Smart IDs for potential use by terrorists.
21 Nov 2005 : Column 1426
Ptech's Middle East branch, called Horizons, received projects directly from Ptech and is used to outsource projects for Ptech's clients. They include the Saudi Bin Laden Company and the Afghan-based BTC—Bin Laden Telecom. Among Ptech's top investors and management in 2001 was Yassin al-Qadi who was listed as a specially designated global terrorist on 12 October 2001.
Rachel Ehrenfeld continues with a long list, and concludes, as do I, with a question. She asks:
"How could a small, Saudi-based company with questionable terrorist connections obtain significant government and business contracts . . . even more importantly, are there other Ptechs around?".
I do not comment on Rachel Ehrenfeld's disturbing analysis, but I echo her questions. Does the Bill ensure that terrorists are not using their money to buy into our national infrastructure to undermine our economy and security from within? Does it adequately provide measures to prevent such infiltration? I hope that the Minister will answer those questions and provide assurances on those serious issues.
We await the Amendments in the Committee stage of this Bill with dread and foreboding.
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