So are the terrorists coming to get us or not?

On Monday the Guardian reported the former head of MI6, Richard Dearlove saying that the risk to the West of Islamist terrorism is overblown and the activity is now centred in the Middle East – “Muslim on Muslim” as he put it. And as he recently ran MI6 he probably knows more about this stuff than most of us. Dearlove was addressing the Royal United Services Institute from a pre-prepared speech just hours after broadcast an interview with a Briton who had appeared in an Isis video. Abdul Raqib Amin, from Aberdeen, said:

“I left the UK to fight for the sake of Allah, to give everything I have for the sake of Allah. One of the happiest moments in my life was when the plane took off from Gatwick airport. I was so happy, as a Muslim you cannot live in the country of kuffars [non-believers].”

This means that he is not going to come back to Britain to put his new military skills to use. It’s far more likely that Amin and his comrades will remain in Islamic regions to “fight the fight”.

So, if the domestic terror threat has receded, why is the British government using emergency powers to pass communications surveillance law that has just been ruled as illegal by a judicial review claim in the high court?

Cameron and his lapdog Clegg is carrying on with blowing the “threat” out of all proportion by using emergency powers to fast-track this legislation through parliament when there is no actual emergency. And Labour leader Ed Miliband is supporting it too! Labour MP Tom Watson says there was a secret deal between party leaders and MPs knew nothing about it until today! It’s being called a “stitch-up”. British democracy in action.

On a related note, the government has announced that anyone carrying an electronic device onto an aeroplane would have to demonstrate it actually worked, because of “intelligence” that terrorists have learned a new method to replace a battery with explosives. But this is just “security theater” – the practice of investing in countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually achieve it. Airport security is always playing catch-up with the “terrorist threat”. This week you’ll have to switch on your phone to prove it contains a real battery. Next week the terrorists will make batteries that work as batteries as well as containing explosives. And what if you’re like me and constantly forget to charge your phone? Dead battery, device can’t power up, and you’ll have a pretty stark choice: dump your expensive smartphone and go on the flight, or keep the device and go home. And it’s apparently going to be a random check! Okay, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic say they will send your device home for you if you can’t take it on the plane. But that’s just two airlines. And anyway, if the explosive in the phone can’t be detected by usual checks, what’s to stop the terrorist just putting it in his suitcase in the baggage hold?

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