27 May 2013

New taskforce on UK govt powers on extremism

6:01 am on 27 May 2013

The British government is setting up a new taskforce to look at whether new powers are needed to deal with extremism and the radicalisation of young Muslim men.

It will be chaired by the prime minister and include senior cabinet ministers and security chiefs.

Prime Minister David Cameron's office said on Sunday the group aimed to fight radicalism in schools and mosques, tighten checks on inflammatory internet material, and disrupt the "poisonous narrative" of hardline clerics.

"It will assess the range of strategies to disrupt individuals who may be influential in fostering extremism. It needs to confront those religious leaders who promote violence head on," said a statement.

Home Secretary Theresa May said thousands were at risk of being radicalised.

"You have people who are at different points on what could be a path to violent extremism," she told the BBC. "We need to look at the laws."

On Wednesday in London, Drummer Lee Rigby, 25, was run over and then attacked with machetes outside Woolwich Barracks.

Two men arrested on suspicion of murder at the scene are in custody in hospital. One was previously arrested in Kenya as a terrorism recruit for the al-Shabab group, which is affiliated to al-Qaeda.

The total number of arrests in the case is now nine.

Mrs May said "500 officers and others" were working on the case, including counter terrorism officers brought in from elsewhere in the country.

She said the government had introduced "a new programme, which is not for those immediately at danger of radicalisation, but for those who are perhaps further out".

Around 2000 people had been worked with within the last year, she added.

When asked if she would now push ahead with a Communications Data Bill, Mrs May said:

"The law enforcement agencies, the intelligence agencies, need access to communications data and that is essential to them doing their job."

The BBC reports Mrs May has previously said such a bill would help modernise crime-fighting laws, to combat criminals' use of internet-based phone calls and social media sites.

The bill was sent back for reassessment in December after criticism from a joint committee of MPs and peers. It includes plans for internet service providers having to store for a year all details of online communication in Britain.


When asked if there were mistakes made by the security services in dealing with this case, Mrs May said: "What we have is the right procedures which say when things like this happen we do need to look at whether there are any lessons to be learned."

She also said the Intelligence and Security Committee will review what the security service's actions in this case, but added that this report "won't happen immediately, because they will look back at the operation and the case".

Former Home Secretary Alan Johnson said a Communications Data Bill should be "on the statute book before the next election".