If Terence Brown is a terrorist, so am I

Well, this is… weird. It’s the first time in my life I get to see the guy in the paper awaiting sentencing and go “hey, wait, I used to work with that guy!” This link points at a Daily Hate article, and hence has been deliberately broken so as to avoid giving the bastards any pagerank; just add the two missing letters, and you’re good to go. now points to a masking proxy that makes things more convenient; cheers, Ad.

But the gist is this: Terence Brown was making money from selling CD-ROM anthologies of articles from the internet, billed as a more up-to-date version of the notorious (but perfectly legal at the time) Anarchist’s Cookbook: bombmaking, lockpicking, all that sort of stuff. Y’know, the sort of stuff that most of you reading this could probably locate within ten minutes of trying it, given a working computer with an internet connection.

Welcome to the wonders of British anti-terror legislation! Terence Brown was “convicted of seven counts of collecting information that could have been used to prepare or commit acts of terrorism under the Terrorism Act 2000, two counts of selling and distributing the information under the Terrorism Act 2006 and a further count under the Proceeds of Crime Act.”

Let’s just look again at that highlighted crime, there:

“… collecting information that could have been used to prepare or commit acts of terrorism… “

That’s a staggeringly vague thing. A good lawyer – heck, just a skint lawyer – could probably look through my hard drive and bookshelves and get me on the same charge, right now: I have books on organic chemistry, electronics and practical nuclear fission*, for instance. But Terence probably didn’t even need to buy books to do it, either. Even the Daily Fail itself says the discs “contained a vast collection of material downloaded from the internet”. So stuff that people could have just got for free, in other words, if they’d taken maybe five minutes longer than they took looking up “anarchist’s cookbook” on Google.

Is it perhaps the selling of that freely available information, for profit, that elevates Terence to the loft heights of terrorist? Daily Fail again:

“The law is clear that it is a crime to gather this information without a reasonable excuse or to disseminate material which is clearly intended to be of use to terrorists. A person’s intentions or motivation for doing this is irrelevant.

So, selling free-to-read information that might be useful in planning a terrorist event to people who could have been terrorists, and making money from it, is a crime, regardless of the ideological reasons for doing so.

I’m assuming, then, given the legendary proportion and scale of British justice, that people who sold physical weapons and substances made for no other purpose than war or terrorism to people who were definitely terrorists, for profit, would be guilty of a far greater crime than Terence there, regardless of their reasons for doing it?

Well, of course it is.

For anyone other than the government that passed the law in question, that is.

I worked with Terence Brown for nearly three years; he was a doorman at The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth where I used to do box office and other FOH stuff. He’s no thug (yeah, I know, you’re thinking of the doorman stereotype; not a thug, nor even a “hard man”), he’s no terrorist, and he’s no callous nihilist either. The most he’s guilty of here is possibly some copyright infringement, along with making a fast and easy buck selling publicly-available information to lazy idiots – and if the latter’s a crime, the Daily Fail should probably unsaddle the high horse.

His is exactly the sort of theoretical case that we were repeatedly assured the Terrorism Act would never be used for. And I’ll say it again, publicly and for the record: you could search my flat right now and pin the “collecting information” charges on me, just because of stuff lying around on my bookshelves and hard drives… not to mention the library shelves in almost every decent-sized city in Britain, and the multitudinous servers of the internet.

The Terrorism Act, used in this way, is not about terrorism. It’s about freedom of speech, and the silencing of voices that dissent, or even ones saying things you just don’t like or want heard. If you value your voice, use it today and talk to someone about the Terence Brown case.

Yes, speaking out marks me as complicit in some of the same crimes as Terence Brown. Staying silent, however, would make me complicit in the crimes of the state.

Easy choice.