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back to article Blogger faces terror charges for 'naming MPs'

A West Midlands blogger has been charged with terrorism offences for allegedly using a blog to list members of parliament who voted in favour of the Iraq war. Bilal Zaheer Ahmad, a 23-year-old man from Wolverhampton, was arrested a week ago by West Midlands Police. He will appear before Westminster Magistrates Court later today …

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Big Brother

West Midlands ministry of love...

... I am sure they'll assist with any thought correction.

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I hope the headline is inaccurate

The way an MP votes should be in the public domain.

If he incited racial hatred or violence then fair enough, throw the book at him, but simply showing which way an MP votes should not be sufficient reason to arrest someone. After all you want to know that your MP is representing you and not the party line.

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Or...

In the case of my MP, representing the party line and not me.

Seriously, he's only voted against the party line 18% of the time. He was more radical when he taught me history all those years ago.

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Big Brother

publicly available information

I am not at all surprised that this kind of information is frowned upon. Can you imagine what would happen if terrorists found out the Prime Minister lives at 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA.

Wait, i think i hear a knock at the door........

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Stop

Missing out the violence part?

This blog didn't just list a bunch of MPs but was directly asking others to seek retaliation against those listed.

Anyone can get a list of MPs that voted for the war, that won't get you arrested. Writing above the list "These are the people we need to make pay for what they've done" seemingly will.

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Anonymous Coward

Maybe

Maybe by "make them pay" he ment get them voted out of office or perform legitimate protests against them at public venues? He may not have, but how does one prove that he ment "go out there and stab these people" shouldn't be allowed to put people away for what they may have ment but for what you can prove they did mean.

Now if he included information on how to make a bomb to blow the people up, or how to knife some one, etc it'd be more clear cut.

That's the problem with these kinds of offenses, you can neither prove nor disprove what was ment.

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Troll

Yeah...

...I am sure poor Bilal wanted them to pay by signing them up to a subscription of "What Car" magazine.

I know for a fact that the police love making things up and wasting the court's time with innocent victims whose only crimes are to go around posting stuff on perfectly innocent islamic terrorist message boards.

Shame on the police! Shame on this government!

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Re: Maybe

Combined with congratulating the woman who attacked an MP and saying she deserves a medal for justice would seem to leave no doubt as to how to interpret "make them pay".

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Dunno about a terrorist

but he does seem to be a bit of a nob.

But then by that thinking the staff of The Daily Mail, Express & Telegraph along with the majority of MPs would also be in the dock

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While not supporting the actions of extremists,

it does seem to be a gross misuse of this law. Surely this information is in the public domain in any case and available to anyone who cares to search for it. Such a search (and presumably copying of the list so that one is in possession of it in a tangible form) could be for any number of reasons, many or most of which could not in any way be regarded as connected with terrorism.

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Not quite the same, but...

Not quite the same, but I started a 'blog' years ago that listed every action merkin forces have been involved in since the revolution. I also listed all the 'alleged' merkin assassination attempts, 'police' actions etc.

All of a sudden my access either through a control panel or FTP vanished as did the information I was hosting.

I am not muslim, I am white, British and a fine zyder-drinking Bristolian but that didn't help with any requests to the server hoster or the powers that be (or were, this was shrub/bliar era).

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WTF?

Huh?

"I am not muslim, I am white, British and a fine zyder-drinking Bristolian ..."

And that matters (or should matter) in this case because...?

For the record, none of the attributes listed there are mutually exclusive.

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Pint

Mutually exclusive

I think you'll find that being a Muslim prohibits one from drinking cider.

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Bod

Damn

"I think you'll find that being a Muslim prohibits one from drinking cider."

Rules me out then if ever I wanted to convert. I'm addicted to the stuff.

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Joke

This is a title

"I think you'll find that being a Muslim prohibits one from drinking cider"

But does it prevent you from drinking zyder?

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Thumb Up

But being Jewish

Never stopped me enjoying a good bacon butty. (AC in case my Rabbi sees me :-)

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FAIL

The list is a matter of public record

Press Association also reports (here: http://bit.ly/b7MpGP) that "The list of MPs who voted for the Iraq war was removed from the extremist website revolutionmuslim.com after the Home Office urged the US to act against it." And yet, this is a matter of public record, published by Parliament itself, and publicly available at places like TheyWorkForYou or PublicWhip. Here for instance is the list of MPs who voted in favour of the Iraq War as listed by PublicWhip: http://bit.ly/9sedrN

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Pint

Seriously?

Hmmmm, everyone's entitled to free speech and all that, but calling your website [ revolutionmuslim.com ] is not going to do you any favours is it?!

Like setting up something stupid like kiddiefiddler.org or iblowupairports.com!

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Seriously?

I bet some wag has set up a 'kiddy fiddler' site featuring a child playing the violin.

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Alert

I'll wait for someone else to google that i think...

It's probabloy out there, but best not to look on a uni network

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Grenade

A crime we all seem guilty of

"possessing information likely to be useful to a terrorist" - aren't we all guilty of this?

Have a phone book in your house? Guilty - terrorists might want to know the phone number of a good fertiliser or diesel supplier.

How about a road atlas? Guilty - terrorists need to know how to get where they're going.

Flyer for your local curry house? Terrorists gotta eat.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A crime we all seem guilty of

What about Members of Parliament?! Think of all the classified information they have that would be *extremely* useful to a terrorist!

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FAIL

Words FAIL me

Wow, I'm sure every item in existence could be described as containing "information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism" so we're clearly all guilty!

If this blogger is a little bit naughty in the terroristy sense though surely some help from mental health professionals would do the trick, not a court case. And I'm giving the police and courts the benefit of doubt saying that as from the sounds of things all he did was make a list of publicly available information and he gets the blame for some nuttah he doesn't even know, actions!

Maybe it's the authorities who need the psychiatric help!

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WTF?

WTF?

So this guy posts a list of people who voted for war, some unrelated person stabs one of these people and now the poster of the names (which is just a reposting of public domain info anyway) is a terrorist?

Am I missing something here? I wonder if his name had been Mr. Jones or similar that the same fate would befall him?

Fucking stupid!

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Black Helicopters

I think I see the problem here...

"Bilal Zaheer Ahmad" <-- There's your problem. He probably wouldn't even get a call from the plod if his name was "John Stephens" or something like that.

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WTF?

List of mps!

They also have the list of the MPs on this scurrilous site: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/documents/upload/snsg-02109.pdf

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Stop

Perspective

I think it was less the listing than the incitement to commit violent acts against the people listed that was the problem - referring to the woman who tried to kill Stephen Timms as a 'heroine' for example according to the Press Association, and calling for Muslims to "raise the knife of jihad" against them (according to CNN).

The blog you couldn't find was apparently on Revolutionmuslim, the site that was forced to take the down the list a couple of weeks ago.

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David Stalin's country

Well if that's was passes for "information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism" they need to come and arrest totally everyone.

Oops ....

Also how come stuff on a blog is "in his possession" ? Unless he owns the server or rents space on it.

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Evidence?

Given that we've no idea what the evidence is here, then I guess we might have top do something radical and see what is presented in court rather than prejudging it. I assume it's rather more than a simple list of the name of MPs who voted in favour of the Iraq invasion. That's public information and available from sites such as http://www.theyworkforyou.com/ . In the meantime the headline does seem to be jumping to conclusions.

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@Steven Jones

But it's much easier to write articles saying he was 'arrested for listing MPs' than to be more long-winded (and possibly accurate)and say he was arrested in connection with a blog which, among other things, had a list of MPs on it.

If one is lucky, if, later on, it turns out that reality actually was less simple than the earlier headline suggests, some of the paranoid brigade will just end up concluding that charges were altered to get the guy, rather than simply having been misdescribed in the first place.

The non-existent changes could then be seen as yet more evidence of Big Brother at work (even if one doesn't have the fun any more of blaming Jacqui Smith for everything, and pretending that not a drop of one's vitriol was down to her being a woman.)

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Stop

None of my vitriol ...

... was because Jackie Smith is a woman, but because she was in my opinion stupid, insensitive, two-faced, and incapable of holding the office she had. That is my opinion of anyone of either sex that has held the position of Home Secretary in the last 25 years at least.

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Big Brother

Wait what?

This information is published, on the net, BY THE GOVERNMENT.

Or am I missing something? Perhaps Hansard has some small print about not being able to use the data if "you have a foreign sounding name" or "are a bit Arabic looking".

But then West Midlands plod has form for this sort of thing don't they?

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Anonymous Coward

What?!

Not touching the 'solicitation' thing - I guess the guy was too heated on his blog, or something - but that's only the secondary charge. Did my country really just arrest someone primarily for reposting publicly available, open license information? http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/ will give you records for all MPs for all votes since 1997. That's a lot of material to suddenly decide is illegal.

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Black Helicopters

wait, what?

so ordinary citizen's vote isn't a secret (thanks to that little barcode at the back.of the voting card) but duly elected representatives votes *in our friggin' name* are protected by anti-terror legislation? So how can they be accountable to their electors?!

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Sir

I know it's a bit off-topic, but could you explain how that barcode relates to me? I didn't get a specially assigned to me bit of paper at the ballot box that I'm aware of, I just got given the next one in the pile, I think.

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Anonymous Coward

sure

the number below tha barcode is written down next to your name when ballot paper is passed to you

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Anonymous Coward

Sir Runcible Spoon

When you vote they check your ID and make a note of which ballot paper you are assigned - watch what they do at the next election.

From the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/election_2010/8497014.stm

"The ballot papers contains a serial number: it is possible, but illegal, to trace all the votes to the people who cast them. The number is there to stop electoral fraud. "

From The Grauniad: http://www.guardian.co.uk/notesandqueries/query/0,,-1051,00.html

"Votes can be traced by matching the numbered ballot paper to its similarly numbered counterfoil; the numbered counterfoil also bears the voter's registration number from the electoral register which is hand-written by the Polling Clerk when the ballot paper is issued. As all the ballot papers for each candidate - including fringe candidates such as Sinn Fein, communists, fascists, nationalists, etc. - are bundled together, anyone having access to those documents can speedily trace the name and address of every voter for such candidates if they wish."

Scared yet?

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@Lee

>>"anyone having access to those documents can speedily trace the name and address of every voter for such candidates if they wish."

>>Scared yet?"

No, not really, since I'd reckon that in any system where such information would be likely to be meaningfully abused, there would be plenty of things to worry about far nastier than a possible twice-a-decade snoop at how people voted.

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Anonymous Coward

@lee

>>"anyone having access to those documents can speedily trace the name and address of every voter for such candidates if they wish."

>>Scared yet?"

nope! Because all this allows you to do, is look up who completed a ballot paper if you had hold of it. If you were to look up a person on the list, you would then have to spend hours, or days, going through all the papers to find theirs to see how they voted. you can't collate the information, or derive any trends. you can technically match individual votes back to the person who cast them, but it's a very hands on process!

Unless there are armies of people secretly keying all the ballot papers into a database against this id :o

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Right but..

it's the boiling frog effect...

People, like your self, reason that it's nearly impossible/pointless to trace me. And two elections down the line, everyone is sold to the idea and this whole barcode thing is forgotten...

Next come in the electronic ballot counting (which scan your vote as well as the barcode..) (and you get assurance that it's still a paper vote... just being counted by robots not humans)... And they start scanning the top and the bottom.. and lo they have a database.

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Anonymous Coward

Go visit the Dokumentum in Bavaria and then get back to me

Not equating the current government with the Nazis by any stretch but all this was managed in the 1930s with at most some basic mechanicals.

" If you were to look up a person on the list, you would then have to spend hours, or days, going through all the papers to find theirs to see how they voted."

You wouldn't generally do it that way - you'd look at the ballots cast for a certain candidate and then trace the people who voted for that candidate. You either go on a watch list for voting for party X or alternately for *not* voting for party Y.

"you can't collate the information, or derive any trends."

I am afraid I disagree totally: you can, from easily obtainable documents, establish the following information:

-A list of potential voters

-A list of registered voters

-A list of people who voted

-Who each voter voted for

I am afraid that there is plenty of information there to be "collated" and any schoolchild could derive the trends from that rich a data source.

"but it's a very hands on process!"

So was building the pyramids, or the railways or the Manhattan project.

"Unless there are armies of people secretly keying all the ballot papers into a database against this id"

I very much doubt this is happening. But there is a really big gulf between "not happening" and "not possible" - that is what is scary.

OK we are all "content" that no matter the hyperbole about our police state etc. we accept that our main political parties are either reasonably honest or too incompetent to perpetrate serious electoral shennanigans but would you feel the same way if people like the English Defence League, the BNP or the communists were a major force?

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Big Brother

soooooo....

are they going to prosecute lib dems for putting up www.holdthemtoaccount.com as well?

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 12:43 GMT

"Did my country really just arrest someone primarily for reposting publicly available, open license information? "

No, it didn't.

Britain isn't our country any longer. It, along with all of us are now the property of a Police State.

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I thaught we where all owned by the Chinese

Or should that be a comment for a different story?

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Paris Hilton

Re: I thaught we where all owned by the Chinese

Your spelling suggests we are!

Paris, coz she likes chinese, after performing french.

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Too much openness?

Not knowing a whole lot about the way our government works the thing that suprises me most is that it is even recorded how individual MPs vote. I assumed that such votes were anonymous, and cant see it being beneficial that they arent, for reasons including but not limited to the ones these "home grown" terrorists have just highlighted.

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Re: Too much openness?

"I assumed that such votes were anonymous, and cant see it being beneficial that they arent, for reasons including but not limited to the ones these "home grown" terrorists have just highlighted."

I can as I would like to know whether the MP I voted for is a lying hypocrite who says one thing and does another.

That's why it isn't just beneficial but essential that their votes are public.

As for the terrorists, they have already stolen enough of our freedom, do you want to hand over what's left of out tattered democracy?

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Anonymous Coward

@ The elephant in the room

When we elect an MP we are effectively entering into a contract of sorts with them - they promise to do stuff we want so we give them our vote - and teh accompanying big salary, stupendous pension pot and rediculous expenses regime.

We can only tell if they keep their side of the bargain by recording how they vote. Remember, an MP is not elected to vote the way the MP wants, they are elected to vote the way their constituents want. In practice they vote the way their party leader wants but that again is only provable if votes are recorded.

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Sorry?

"Remember, an MP is not elected to vote the way the MP wants, they are elected to vote the way their constituents want."

You really don't understand the concept of a parliamentary democracy do you? This is how it works:

1. You vote for an MP.

2. The MP with the most votes gets a seat in the house of commons (note: this is not necessarily the MP you voted for).

3. The MP votes how they want for their tenure in the house.

4. If you don't like how they performed you vote for somebody else at the next election.

There is no requirement for that MP to do as his/her constituents want for the next five years. Once they are in they are in.

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@Grease Monkey

>>"There is no requirement for that MP to do as his/her constituents want for the next five years."

Indeed.

Which is probably good, since there's no mechanism in place for working out what the constituents actually want.

However irritating it might be to hear MPs who got elected on about a third of the votes of the people who bothered to vote talking about having a 'mandate', one of the main guides to an MP on how (the people who voted for them) want them to vote is the promises that they personally made or that their party in general made before an election, and even then, events can overtake promises fairly easily.

While many people may find it hard to trust someone who says they intend to do X but then does Y, equally, many people would also find it hard to trust someone to run a country if they made a decision at some point in time and then refused to even think about changing their mind if the situation changed, or better information became available.

In practice, most people's ideas about the value of consistency on the one hand or the possibility of someone thinking twice on the other are not based on Deep Unchanging Moral Principles, but more flexibly on whether they think the person in question should or shouldn't change their mind on a particular issue.

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