Sajid Javid announced on the 4th June, that a major overhaul of the way the UK handles anti-terrorism is going to be undertaken, in which he declared that he was going to attempt to address the new threat posed by growing terrorism both at home and abroad. His policies are a marked shift from the authoritarian stance taken by the Home Office under Theresa Mays and Amber Rudds tenure. From its focus on local communities, partnership with the private sector and increased funding for rehabilitative services, the party finally seems to be taking a more libertarian stance towards anti-terrorism. However this stance is rather fresh faced, and we should not celebrate it without waiting to see if the Home Secretary will continue his seemingly new agenda.
Javid has proposed amongst other things, trailing a set of new, cross agency local groups, allowing for the better sharing of information and hopefully boosting response times to both threats and attacks, with local communities having more authority to act. They can intervene both earlier in investigations to help reduce the influence of terrorist material and respond faster to threats. Coupled with this is the proposed hiring of 1,900 new anti-terrorist officers to help address the growing problem of terrorism in the UK. From a libertarian standpoint this shift towards giving power to local communities is definitely a good thing, it allows better and hopefully more efficient management and targeting of already limited resources and if people dislike the way their local group is handling anti-terrorism it is far easier for them to move out of the area affected by it. In addition to that it simply makes sense to give more power to operators, who actually understand the local environment, to tackle as sensitive a topic as radicalisation. It’s not as simple as detainment and prison time, often these vulnerable young people need help and support which is simply unavailable when attempted to be administered on a national level. Far better to allow local communities to handle these situations.
And the Home Office seems to agree, as they are also promoting the rehabilitative functions of anti-terrorism. The immediate aim is to double the number of people receiving rehabilitative treatment over the next 12 months. This is an important step to take in reducing the number of ‘home grown’ terrorists in the UK and combating the newly realised ‘extreme right wing’ domestic terror threat. It’s about time we as a country began to understand that people targeted by propaganda are victims also, by no means should that fact excuse any terrorist actions they take, any such action should be tackled with the full might of our country’s legal system, but those merely targeted and victimised need our help, not condemnation.
Not every part of the home office announcement is positive though. Hidden in the print are references to better coordination with the private sector and the monitoring and tackling of online threats. Everyone still remembers the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and the ensuing investigation, which highlighted the amount of personal information which the private sector has access too. While we should defiantly celebrate a promotion of partnership with friends in the private sector, we should not allow such a partnership to affect our privacy nor our individual liberty. Nor should we be willing to accept a government regulated or policed internet. While yes something does need to be done to tackle the spread of terrorist material online, the public needs to be wary about how much of our personal lives we allow the government access too. The state should never have direct control over what content appears on the internet, else far too quickly anti-terrorism measures could dissolve into government sanctioned propaganda.
While these new measures are a reassuring sign that the new Home secretary understands the publics concerns over the increasing powers of the state, they should not be completely celebrated, as without proper diligence from us, our country will slip back into its authoritarian habits.