The U.S. Should Strongly Support Britain's Anti-Terrorist Measures

Report Homeland Security

The U.S. Should Strongly Support Britain's Anti-Terrorist Measures

August 26, 2005 9 min read
Nile Gardiner
Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow
Nile Gardiner is Director of The Heritage Foundation's Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow.

British Home Secretary Charles Clarke this week declared his government's intention to deport or exclude individuals who advocate or support the use of terrorism. Clarke outlined a list of "unacceptable behaviors" for foreign nationals. It includes the expression of views that "foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of political beliefs" or "seek to provoke others to terrorist acts."[1] This covers "any means or medium," including publications, public speaking, preaching, websites, and positions of responsibility such as teaching or community leadership.


Publication of the list has sent a clear warning to advocates of terror, especially radical Islamic clerics, that they will no longer be tolerated on British soil and that they will face the full force of British law. The British government recently detained ten foreign nationals on national security grounds and is likely to begin deportations in the next few days. It is in the process of negotiating a series of agreements with North African and Middle Eastern governments on the deportation of terror suspects and has sought guarantees that deported individuals will not be subjected to torture or inhumane treatment.


The new deportation rules, which have the support of the opposition Conservative Party, are part of a powerful array of anti-terror measures to be formally introduced in coming weeks. Formulated in response to the July 7 London bombings that killed 52 people and injured hundreds, they will be a vitally important asset in Britain's war against Islamic terrorism.


They include the banning of groups such as Hizb ut Tahrir and its successor Al-Muhajiroun, a tightening of both asylum and citizenship laws, the possible closing of mosques found to be harboring extremists, an increase in the number of special judges dealing with terror cases, the introduction of biometric visas, and the creation of a database of foreign extremists.[2]


Britain is and always will be one of the world's most open and tolerant societies, and it must be careful to draw a line between terrorist-supporting extremist speech and legitimate peaceful political dissent. Britain can no longer tolerate the Islamic militancy in its midst, which seeks to destroy British society and impose an Islamic state. Every effort must be made to energize Muslim leaders in Britain to work actively against the extremists in their communities.


The United States should strongly support Britain's anti-terrorist measures, which are clearly aimed at the "preachers of hate" who played an instrumental role in radicalizing British Muslims. Their enactment will not only increase British security, but American security as well.


UN Interference

Predictably, the strongest opposition to elements of the UK's anti-terror plans has come from the United Nations. The UN's "special rapporteur on torture," Manfred Nowak, has criticized the plan to deport extremists to countries such as Jordan and has called on the British government to reverse its plan to draw up memorandums of understanding with Middle Eastern and African countries. Nowak is appointed by the discredited UN Commission on Human Rights, whose membership includes brutal dictatorships such as Sudan and Cuba. The Commission, meanwhile, is threatening to report Britain for human rights violations to the UN General Assembly when it meets in September. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has also condemned Britain's deportation proposals.[3]


Once again, the UN, which has struggled for decades to reach a definition of terrorism and whose failed leadership is reeling from a series of major scandals, demonstrates its lack of moral clarity on the world stage, as well as its arrogant eagerness to intervene in the national security affairs of a sovereign democratic state.


As the Home Secretary remarked in an interview with British television,


The human rights of those people who were blown up on the Tube in London on July 7 are, to be quite frank, more important than the human rights of the people who committed those acts… I wish the UN would look at human rights in the round rather than simply focusing all the time on the terrorist.[4]


The United Nations must be reminded that appeasement of violent extremists is always doomed to failure. The British government, along with the United States, should strongly reject the hectoring of unelected UN bureaucrats and call for the world body to take a more positive role in combating international terrorism.


Further Anti-Terror Measures Are Needed

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the seven weeks since the July 7 attacks. He is the most visible public face of the global war against terrorism. While actively engaging moderate Muslim leaders, Blair has clearly identified the threat the West is facing today: the evil ideology advanced by Islamic extremists whose ultimate goals are the destruction of liberal democracy across the world and the establishment of a Muslim caliphate. This is an ideology that cannot be appeased or negotiated with, but must be defeated:


Its roots are not superficial, but deep, in the madrasses of Pakistan, in the extreme forms of Wahabi doctrine in Saudi Arabia, in the former training camps of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, in the cauldron of Chechnya, in parts of the politics of most countries in the Middle East and many in Asia; in the extremist minority that now in every European city preach hatred of the West and our way of life.[5]


Blair has also stood firm on the British commitment to the people of Iraq and has vowed not to be intimidated into withdrawing British forces from the country. Unlike his Spanish counterpart Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Blair will not allow the foreign policy of his country to be dictated by barbaric terrorists.


Still, the Blair administration can and must do more to combat the terrorist threat.[6] Britain cannot fight this war with one hand tied behind its back, constrained by European conventions that weigh more heavily in favor of the rights of the terrorist than those of the British public. The incorporation into British law of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was a major error of judgment that fundamentally undermined both national sovereignty and the ability of Her Majesty's government to protect her own citizens. The Human Rights Act of 1998 must be amended if the new anti-terror laws are to be fully implemented, and the UK should immediately withdraw from any provision of the ECHR that weakens British national security. Further, Parliament should debate a withdrawal from the Convention as a whole.


The London bombings also highlighted the need for greater powers of detention of terrorist sus­pects. The UK should enact legislation that permits the indefinite preventive detention of suspected ter­rorists in secure prison facilities. House arrest provi­sions and "control orders" such as curfews and tagging are not powerful enough to deter ter­rorists. In order to ensure a fair sys­tem of checks and balances, individual suspects' cases should be subject to periodic review by British (not European) courts.


The British government should consider several measures pioneered in the highly suc­cessful USA PATRIOT Act, including increased surveillance authorities for British police and the prevention of charities from providing assistance to terrorist organizations. U.S. and British authori­ties should employ a far greater degree of coordination in counterterrorist measures, and the Blair gov­ernment should show a greater willingness to extradite terrorism suspects wanted for trial in the United States. As well, Washington and London should carefully coordinate their lists of terrorist groups.


At the same time, both the Bush Administration and the U.S. Congress should strongly consider importing aspects of British anti-terror legislation that may be beneficial, especially rules governing the deportation and exclusion of foreign extremists. In addition, the White House should follow the lead set by Downing Street and adopt a more aggressive stance in clearly defining the United States' enemy in the global war on terror.


Britain: The Front Line in the War on Terror

Great Britain is at war, and times of great danger and turmoil require extraordinary measures in the interests of national security. The new anti-terror provisions are a major step in the right direction. They will send a clear message that Britain is no longer a safe haven for Islamic militants and terrorist organizations. Other European governments will no doubt seek to emulate this stance with similar measures.


The British bulldog tradition of strength and resilience in the face of adversity has returned with a vengeance. The culture of liberal complacency that dominated the domestic thinking of a large swathe of Britain's political elite since the passing of the Thatcher era is finally coming to an end. For far too long, Islamic radicals preached sedition and hatred while protected by a naïve policy of "see no evil, hear no evil."


The twilight of Britain's age of innocence has coincided with a sharp renewal of the Anglo-U.S. special relationship, which had shown signs of strain in the months before the bombers hit London. Ironically, the terrorists, for whom a central goal was to divide Britain and the United States, have only succeeded in strengthening ties between the two nations. At no time since the Second World War has joint British and American leadership been more important on the world stage. Indeed, the greatest threat to al-Qaeda's twisted vision is the enduring alliance between Washington and London.

[1] "Tackling Terrorism - Behaviours Unacceptable in the UK", British Home Office Press Release, August 24, 2005, at


[2] For a full list of proposed UK anti-terror measures, see "New Terror Plans", BBC News Online, August 5, 2005, at


[3] See "Expulsions Illegal, UN Tells Clarke", The Guardian, August 25, 2005, at,15935,


[4] Quoted in "Row Over New Rules for Deporting Hate Preachers", The Times Online, August 24, 2005.


[5] Blair Speech on Terror, July 16, 2005, at


[6] For further background, see Nile Gardiner Ph.D. and James Phillips, The London Bombings: How the US and UK Should Respond, Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 1871, July 21, 2005, at


Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., is Fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy of the Shelby and Kathryn Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.


Nile Gardiner
Nile Gardiner

Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and Bernard and Barbara Lomas Fellow