Cameron gets Tough with British Islamic Fighters

In a mid-August post on the American Thinker blog, I noted that British law allows subjects to travel abroad, fight alongside Islamic militants, and then return home apparently with no questions asked. I said I thought these laws amounted to “lunacy” and suggested they be changed before it was too late. I recommended that Americans “put travel plans to England on hold.”

Does 10 Downing Street read American Thinker? I have no idea. Did they spot my item? Again, I have no idea, though I very much doubt it. However, what was obvious to me evidently became obvious also to Prime Minister David Cameron because he made essentially the same proposal in an impassioned 1 September 2014 speech to the House of Commons:

When police suspect a traveller at the border, they are not currently able to apply for the royal prerogative and so only have limited stop-and-search powers. We will introduce specific and targeted legislation to fill this gap by providing the police with a temporary power to seize a passport at the border, during which time they will be able to investigate the individual concerned. This power will include appropriate safeguards and oversight arrangements

The Home Secretary (Theresa May) already has the authority to withhold passports in some cases but Cameron evidently thinks more needs to be done to make sure police at border crossings can act in time to intercept terror suspects and seize their passports.

The prime minister added:

We should be clear about the root cause of this threat: a poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism that believes in using the most brutal forms of terrorism to force people to accept a warped world view and to live in a medieval state. We should be clear this is nothing to do with Islam, which is a religion peacefully observed and devoutly observed by over a billion people and one that inspires countless acts of kindness every day.

In a related move, Cameron also announced the reinstatement of powers to order terror suspects to relocate to other parts of the country. Recall that the state had such powers under the Labor government but the coalition ministry Cameron formed in May 2010 scrapped them in favor of Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures -- so-called TPIMs. In his speech, Cameron promised to strengthen TPIMs. Under the new legislation airlines will be required to hand over passenger lists to help identify Islamist fighters. A plane carrying a person whose name appears on a watchlist may not be permitted to land in the UK.

Cameron expressed anger that Britons who fought alongside ISIS and vowed to return to “wreak havoc” in the UK are able to return home:

We have all been shocked and sickened by the barbarism we have witnessed in Iraq this summer, the widespread slaughter of Muslims by fellow Muslims, the vicious persecution of religious minorities such as Christians and Yazidis, the enslavement and raping of women and, of course, the beheading of American journalist James Foley with the voice of what seems to have been a British terrorist recorded on that video. 

Will legislators go along with Cameron’s sweeping proposals? That remains to be seen. Britain last week raised its terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe,” meaning that a terrorist attack is now considered highly likely. Legislators may feel pressured to go along or else explain to constituents why not.

Former leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ming Campbell advised that the government should proceed carefully to ensure consistency with rights protected under existing laws, such as the right to appeal a police decision to seize the passport of a British subject. The country’s obligations under international law would need to be taken into account as well, Campbell added.

It may seem unfair to end with a swipe but I can’t resist observing that Prime Minister Cameron did not take a two-week golf vacation while ISIS was busy chopping off heads; nor would he have dreamt of referring to these cutthroats using the British equivalent of “JV team.” Such foolishness would have greeted him with jeers in Parliament and might easily have led to a no-confidence vote. Too bad we don’t have that in America.