A Terrorism Expose, Dead-Tree Edition

Today’s New York Times has a long and very interesting article on the recent plot by radical Muslims in Britian to blow up a bunch of airplanes. But the article, written by Don Van Natta Jr., Elaine Sciolino, and Stephen Grey, is not available online (not yet, at least), because of legal concerns. As the Times explains, “This arises from British laws that prohibit publication of information that could be deemed prejudicial to defendants charged with a crime.” So not only is the article missing from nytimes.com, but also from the U.K. edition of the International Herald Tribune (which the Times owns).

If you care about this story, I would therefore suggest getting a dead-tree copy of today’s newspaper. The article explains how British law enforcement first caught wind of the plot (from investigating the successful 7/7/05 London subway bombings), how the Muslim plotters bought a safe house/”bomb factory” for $260,000 cash (I would have thought they’d be willing to carry a mortgage in order to stick it to the bank once they blew themselves up, but I guess a cash purchase better suited their purposes), and, most significantly, the internal dispute among British, European, and American law enforcement officials over whether they should have stepped in when they did or let the plot unfurl further in order to glean a lot more information. The authorities had the suspects’ apartment thoroughly tapped with audio and video, and were learning a great deal. And although the plotters had already done a lot of work, it seems they were nowhere near carrying out their plan. But I think it would be idiotic for someone in my position, and for practically anyone outside the investigation itself, to second-guess at this point whether the time was right to shut things down.

Among the gleanings from the surveillance and the subsequent raids: “more then 400 computers, 200 mobile phones and 8,000 items like memory sticks, CD’s and DVD’s”; a last will and testament from one of the accused and the “martyrdom videos” of several others; and what appears to have been a prototype for the weapon that would have carried out the airborne assault: a disposable camera whose batteries had been scooped out in order to be replaced with an explosive chemical compound made in part from the sports drink Lucozade.

As I was typing the above paragraphs, I realized that I was in effect doing exactly what the Times hoped to prevent by not posting its article online: i.e., putting facts of a potential criminal trial online where they can be read by anyone in the U.K., or around the world. I do not know enough about British law to guess whether my own actions are someone a violation, however slight, but I cannot believe they would be. It does raise for me, however, a different question: considering the grave difference between how future criminal trials are covered in the U.S. and U.K. press, how does such coverage truly affect judicial outcomes?

[Update: as of 2:49 p.m. E.T. on Monday, the article was available online here.]


Piso Mojado

One assumes that the decision to purchase the house for cash was a rational decision---what were the motivating factors? Did the loan documents require information that the purchase documents did not, or were there cultural factors involved?

onlineoddities

About the last paragraph:
Foreign press that does not have a material stake in a country (as in they only disseminate outside of their area through the Internet) and even some that do have encountered similar legal issues with Canada. Canada traditionally bars reporting about ongoing court proceedings and bloggers and other news outlets from this side of the border have tested it. One Minneapolis blogger is even being investigated by the Canadian Attorney General.
http://news.com.com/U.S.+blogger+thwarts+Canadian+gag+order/2100-1028_3-5656087.html
The Internet has far too many legal issues in the gray area and only time will provide answers.

katre

Actually, it's entirely in character for radical Muslim extremists to not get a mortgage, since a strict reading of the Quran forbids not only giving out loans at interest, but taking a loan at interest. This has led to a large market in the US (and, I suspect, the UK) for "Islamic Mortgages", where the home buyer and the bank take co-ownership of the property, and then the owner buys back the full ownership slowly over time, with a small dividend added.

Which is, of course, pretty much exactly the same as a mortgage, but under a different name.

Most non-radical Muslims I know (such as myself) just go ahead and take the mortgage.

rmschne

I'm living in the UK (Edinburgh). Not sure where I picked up the info you reported in your blog, but much of this info already has been in the UK press (else I wouldn't have known). So I think you are safe from prosecution next time arriving at a UK airport.

I can't say how much non-divulgence of information helps the eventual court case. I can say with certainty that the UK laws are enforced seriously and they stop much media discussion of cases that are yet to go to trial. This compares to the USA where it seems all the discussion well before the court case.

rmschne

Interestingly, the NY Times article of note http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/28/world/europe/28plot.html?hp&ex=1156824000&en=09d0e2102978e4b1&ei=5094&partner=homepage is available here on a UK IP address ...

Web2.0Newspapers

Wow, that is something. We liked your comment, Stephen, 'cause it got us thinking about questions of bloggers and journalists, responsibilities and such. (We keep it going from there on our blog post.) The other thing, see, is that Mr. Schneider here posted the apparently UK-hosted NYTimes story in question (or "of note"). Anyway, take a look and see what we've done, wouldja? Thanks. It'll make more sense. We promise. Well, we hope.

http://www.web2.0newspapers.com/?p=23

- Web 2.0 Newspapers

rmschne

Web2.0Newspaper: The NY Times article I referred to wasn't, to my knowledged, HOSTED in the UK. I was just accesing it from the UK on a computer with IP address that NYTimes web server should have been able to detect was UK-based.

Web2.0Newspapers

Ah, thanks for that, rmschne. Noted.

Cybersoc

As I was blogging this story myself, from London on a blog service (typepad) based in the US, I found myself wondering if I could be held liable for contempt if I pointed out ways that my audience could get around the UK IP ban on the New York Times site.

During the Falconio case in Australia (a British backpacker was murdered in the outback, his girlfriend survived the attack), the Australian courts issued a strongly worded legal warning that UK news and media organisations that published prejudicial information about the case on their websites - even if they weren't based or hosted in Australia - would find themselves facing contempt charges.

Now I don't think the UK courts are going to go after the NY Times or any other sites that post the information that those of us sitting in the UK aren't meant to have access to. What does worry me is that if the information becomes public knowledge, the mainstream media will decide that it's in the public domain and print/broadcast it. This could lead to the trial judge(s) throwing the case out of court with suspects in the alledged plot being released without trial.

How we reconcile the current law of contempt in the UK with freedom of speech, instant access to information and news from around the globe, etc is an interesting - and important - question for debate.

My post is at http://www.cybersoc.com/2006/08/the_ny_times_ar.html

(I also posted this at Web 2.0 Newspapers)

Read more...

Piso Mojado

One assumes that the decision to purchase the house for cash was a rational decision---what were the motivating factors? Did the loan documents require information that the purchase documents did not, or were there cultural factors involved?

onlineoddities

About the last paragraph:
Foreign press that does not have a material stake in a country (as in they only disseminate outside of their area through the Internet) and even some that do have encountered similar legal issues with Canada. Canada traditionally bars reporting about ongoing court proceedings and bloggers and other news outlets from this side of the border have tested it. One Minneapolis blogger is even being investigated by the Canadian Attorney General.
http://news.com.com/U.S.+blogger+thwarts+Canadian+gag+order/2100-1028_3-5656087.html
The Internet has far too many legal issues in the gray area and only time will provide answers.

katre

Actually, it's entirely in character for radical Muslim extremists to not get a mortgage, since a strict reading of the Quran forbids not only giving out loans at interest, but taking a loan at interest. This has led to a large market in the US (and, I suspect, the UK) for "Islamic Mortgages", where the home buyer and the bank take co-ownership of the property, and then the owner buys back the full ownership slowly over time, with a small dividend added.

Which is, of course, pretty much exactly the same as a mortgage, but under a different name.

Most non-radical Muslims I know (such as myself) just go ahead and take the mortgage.

rmschne

I'm living in the UK (Edinburgh). Not sure where I picked up the info you reported in your blog, but much of this info already has been in the UK press (else I wouldn't have known). So I think you are safe from prosecution next time arriving at a UK airport.

I can't say how much non-divulgence of information helps the eventual court case. I can say with certainty that the UK laws are enforced seriously and they stop much media discussion of cases that are yet to go to trial. This compares to the USA where it seems all the discussion well before the court case.

rmschne

Interestingly, the NY Times article of note http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/28/world/europe/28plot.html?hp&ex=1156824000&en=09d0e2102978e4b1&ei=5094&partner=homepage is available here on a UK IP address ...

Web2.0Newspapers

Wow, that is something. We liked your comment, Stephen, 'cause it got us thinking about questions of bloggers and journalists, responsibilities and such. (We keep it going from there on our blog post.) The other thing, see, is that Mr. Schneider here posted the apparently UK-hosted NYTimes story in question (or "of note"). Anyway, take a look and see what we've done, wouldja? Thanks. It'll make more sense. We promise. Well, we hope.

http://www.web2.0newspapers.com/?p=23

- Web 2.0 Newspapers

rmschne

Web2.0Newspaper: The NY Times article I referred to wasn't, to my knowledged, HOSTED in the UK. I was just accesing it from the UK on a computer with IP address that NYTimes web server should have been able to detect was UK-based.

Web2.0Newspapers

Ah, thanks for that, rmschne. Noted.

Cybersoc

As I was blogging this story myself, from London on a blog service (typepad) based in the US, I found myself wondering if I could be held liable for contempt if I pointed out ways that my audience could get around the UK IP ban on the New York Times site.

During the Falconio case in Australia (a British backpacker was murdered in the outback, his girlfriend survived the attack), the Australian courts issued a strongly worded legal warning that UK news and media organisations that published prejudicial information about the case on their websites - even if they weren't based or hosted in Australia - would find themselves facing contempt charges.

Now I don't think the UK courts are going to go after the NY Times or any other sites that post the information that those of us sitting in the UK aren't meant to have access to. What does worry me is that if the information becomes public knowledge, the mainstream media will decide that it's in the public domain and print/broadcast it. This could lead to the trial judge(s) throwing the case out of court with suspects in the alledged plot being released without trial.

How we reconcile the current law of contempt in the UK with freedom of speech, instant access to information and news from around the globe, etc is an interesting - and important - question for debate.

My post is at http://www.cybersoc.com/2006/08/the_ny_times_ar.html

(I also posted this at Web 2.0 Newspapers)

Read more...