If you think the PATRIOT Act is bad, you should take a look at the Terrorism Act 2000, courtesy of the United Kingdom.
Under that law, a 23 year old woman, Samina Malik, was recently convicted of the “crime” of possessing “information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.” See Article 58, Terrorism Act 2000.
Ms. Malik might actually be a terrorist. She might offer material support to terrorists. Of course, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. C.f. Getting to Yes with Terrorists. I can’t comment on what she might be – I’ll just comment on what she was convicted of.
Malik had written extremist poems praising Osama Bin Laden, supporting martyrdom and discussing beheading. (source)
The BBC also reports that “Police said they found a library of ‘extremist’ Islamic literature in her bedroom,” wrote on the back of a receipt that “The desire within me increases every day to go for martyrdom,” and listed on her social networking site that her interests include “Helping the Mujaheddin in any way which I can.” (source).
This certainly does not paint Ms. Malik in a positive light. Knowing these facts alone makes me comfortable stating that I do not like her one bit. I despise her. Nevertheless, I must criticize her conviction.
She was earlier found not guilty of a violation of Article 57 of the Terrorism Act, which states:
A person commits an offence if he possesses an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession is for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.
Under U.S. law (at least today), to sustain a criminal conviction, the state must prove the facts of its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Under the UK Terrorism Act, all the state needs to prove is a “reasonable suspicion.” Not only that, you can be convicted for nothing more than a “reasonable suspicion” that you possess an article that could be used to simply “instigate” an act of terrorism. In other words, a bullhorn, a CB radio, etc.
Now stay with me here… even under that broad and lax standard, she was found not guilty. So, the state took another swipe under Article 58 of the Terrorism Act:
Under that provision, a person is guilty if:
(a) he collects or makes a record of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or
(b) he possesses a document or record containing information of that kind.
Accordingly, Ms. Malik was found not guilty of possession of anything that could be reasonably suspected to be used to even instigate terrorism, but she was found guilty of possessing literature and poetry “of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.”
In all fairness, the Terrorism Act provides that the defendant may demonstrate a good excuse for having these materials. Apparently Ms. Malik did not have any such excuse. I would have a hard time criticizing her conviction if there was a proven allegation that she had fertilizer, fuses, gasoline, or anything else that might be actually useful for terrorist purposes — but possession of literature? Writing pro-terrorist poetry? In a free society, it should be a crime to act, not to read or write.
I am not saying that Ms. Malik shouldn’t have been investigated, watched, and followed. She worked at Heathrow Airport. She seems to have strong pro-terrorist sympathies. She might have been a security risk. If I were a judge, I would have approved a warrant to search her home, a wiretap on her phone, and 24 hour surveillance of her until the police were satisfied that she had made an overt act in support of an act of planned violence. However, until that moment, she is not a criminal — she is curious and/or stupid.
That is the definition of “freedom.” In a free society, we need the freedom to read what we want to read and to write what we want to write, no matter how bad, stupid, misguided, or ugly it may be.
I discussed this issue on Fox News. To watch, click here and then click “art or terror” once you are redirected.