05/04/2012 Newsnight


05/04/2012

An interview with Babar Ahmad, the British terrorism suspect held without trial for seven years, plus the Cabinet Office proposals which may limit Freedom of Information enquiries.


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Transcript


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Tonight, wanted on terror charges in the US, this British man has

:00:13.:00:17.

spent eight years in a high security prison, fighting

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extradition, we have an unprecedented interview from behind

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bars, in which he asks the British Government to put him on trial here.

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I would ask the Director of Public Prosecutions to please put me on

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trial in this country, and to find out what has gone wrong in my case.

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On Tuesday he will learn his fate. I will speak to the US legal

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attache, about our controversial extradition laws, and will be

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debating whether they need to be changed. Newsnight has learned that

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Government is gearing up to charge for freedom of information

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inquiries, which David Cameron has described as furring the arteries

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of Government. The rigours of the Freedom of Information Act, that

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called mallet, has shrunk the space in which politicians feel they can

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talk freely, so much so that the back of a London taxi may actually

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be the last place they feel they can have a conversation privately

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and honestly. Last night the candidates for

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London mayor challenged each other on Newsnight to reveal the tax they

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pay. I'm happy to publish details of everything I have earned in the

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last fuer four years, are you going to do the same? Of course I will.

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Tonight we will tell you what we found out.

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Good evening, this week the political debate has been around

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secret courts, e-mail surveillance, and issues of justice, human rights,

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and now extradition. We begin the programme with the case of Barbar

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Ahmad, who has spent eight years in jail fighting extradition to the

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United States on terror charges. Next Tuesday the European Court of

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Human Rights will rule on his case and others. Following an

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unprecedented High Court battle, the BBC won the right to interview

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him in prison. He's the longest- serving British prisoner in jail

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never convicted of a crime. The US authorities are fighting to

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extradite him, claiming he ran extremist websites to support the

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global Jihad. They were the authoritative source,

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number one, for Jihad and mujahideen on the web. There was

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no-one else that came close to them. Not even close.

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In days he will find out his fate. In an exclusive interview from

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prison, Barbar Ahmad tells Newsnight he has been denied

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justice by the British authorities. I would urge the Director of Public

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Prosecutions to please put me on trial in this country, and to find

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out what has gone wrong in my case. There has been a serious and

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unprecedented abuse of process that has gone on in my case.

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For opponents of the extradition treaty with the US, this case

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highlights how unfair that treaty A British citizen, banged up in a

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high-security prison, in his eighth year, without trial, without charge,

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that is a Kafka-esque situation here, happening on British soil. I

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think this case shames us all. Barbar Ahmad is the man the

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Government said we couldn't meet. But the BBC challenged ministers in

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the High Court, and judges said it was in the public interest to hear

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his story from Long Lartin Prison, in wore chesser. He has been held

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on a special unit for half-a-dozen men, each of them is accused of

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being among the most dangerous extremists in the world. In a few

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days time the European Court of Human Rights will deliver one of

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its most important judgments, can men like Barbar Ahmad be extradited

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to the United States. When did they interview you?

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first interview was the next day. He was first arrested in 2003, in a

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Scotland Yard counter terrorism operation. Officers were briefed

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that he was providing logistical and financial support to terrorists

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abroad, through a website he had allegedly stet up. Days later he

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was re-- set up. Days later he was released without charge, and

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accused the police of assaulting him. That area is swollen, I had

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bleeding in that ear. I was punched all over my body, I was sneeed,

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handcuffs were placed on my wrists, and they were tightened until I was

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screaming in agony. They took me in the van, and for 20 minutes there

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was more abuse and more abuse of the handcuffs, until my throat

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became dry from screaming. Last year four police officers were

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prosecuted for support, and acquitted, it came after the Met

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agreed the assault had happened, and paid Barbar Ahmad �60,000 in

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damages. Months after he was released, he was re-arrested by

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Scotland Yard's extradition unit, now he was wanted by the Americans.

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At the heart of their case against him, a website they say he ran.

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matter where they are hiding, be it a cave, be it in the ground, be it

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in safe house, or the dark corners of cyberspace, law enforcement is

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there as well. The website was called azzam.com, the Americans say

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he used to raise funds and raise support for terrorism, first in

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Chechnya and then Afghanistan. The site no longer exist, but the words

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live on. Azzam Publicatinos has been set up to propagage the call

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:06:02.:06:10.

for Jihad, among the Muslims sitting down, the purpose of Azzam

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publications ...This man is likely to be called for evidence if Barbar

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Ahmad will be put on trial. He does his research in the United States.

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It was not hard to come across him, it was the undisputed king of

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Islamic Jihadi on the web. He shows me graphic footage filmed

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in Chechnya. This scene became known globally, because of Azzam

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Publications. You have here, foreign fighters dragging the

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bodies of dead Russian soldiers out of this convoy they have just

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ambushed. This is something nobody has ever seen before.

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The leader of the group then machine guns to death, a wounded

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Russian soldier. This video is going to appeal to

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people who are so angry, and are so furious, and so mobilised, that

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seeing people being murdered on camera, even soldiers, is something

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that is inspiring. I asked Barbar Ahmad if he agreed

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with the Americans, that this video had a sole purpose. They say that

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material was used to recruit people for violent Jihad, and that's why

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they want to put you on trial? there was anything on there that

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broke any law of the United Kingdom, or if there was anything in there

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that was wrong, I don't understand for the last 16 years where the

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police and Crown Prosecution Service have been. It is just a

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question of taste and decency as well? Something like that is a war

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crime, obviously I don't support the wanton killing of captured

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prisoners of war. Did you run the Azzam website, as the Americans

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allege -- Azzam.com website as the Americans allege? I want all this

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proved in a court of law, I call on the Crown Prosecution Service to

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put my heart and everyone else's party at rest, and put me on trial

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in this country. Barbar Ahmad is a British citizen, who grew up in a

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middle-class family in south London. As a teenager he became sickened by

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events in Bosnia. He revealed to Newsnight that he joined a

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volunteer brigade of the Bosnian army and force against the Serbs.

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Here were a defenceless people, to whom horrific things were happening,

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and everyone was sitting, and international community were having

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conferences and negotiations, and nobody was doing anything to stop

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the slaughter of the innocents. Bosnia was a turning point for some

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British Muslims, Al-Qaeda later tapped into the anger it caused.

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But Barbar Ahmad denies he ever supported Osama Bin Laden's Jihad.

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If by Jihad you mean defending yourself and your home and your

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family, then, of course I support that, as every human being should

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have the right to defend their home and their family and themselves. If

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by that one means attacking innocent people, or blowing up

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nightclubs or violence for political means, then I don't

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support that. After 9/11, everything changed for

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the man from Tooting in south London. MI5 installed a secret

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listening device in his home, and the Americans were slowly building

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their case. Investigators were alerted by a

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tip-off from a company, tucked away in a quiet corner of Connecticut.

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Days after 9/11, staff at this web hosting company contacted the

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American authorities. They were concerned about allegedly extremist

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material found on one of the websites hosted here. That website

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was Azzam.com. UK investigator -- US investigators say the records

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show the website was operated from Imperial College London, where

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Barbar Ahmad worked. This is a serious allegation made against me,

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I have never been questioned about this allegation or shown the

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evidence against me. The alleged crimes were on computers in London,

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but the website was based in America. It is this question over

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where he should be tried that is at the heart of Barbar Ahmad's battle.

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The Crown Prosecution Service decided in 2004 he couldn't face

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trial. But the CPS has told Newsnight, that it only saw a small

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number of documents seized by British police. Barbar Ahmad says

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the rest of the evidence was sent directly to the US.

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That allegation has led to questions in parliament, including

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questions about the role played by the Metropolitan Police.

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I would love to know exactly what happened to the evidence that they

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collected, how much of that was given to the CPS, how much of it

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went directly to the United States, why did it go directly to the

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United States, who asked for that to happen? I think there is a whole

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grey area here. It is very murky, we need to get to the bottom of it,

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which is why I called for a public inquiry.

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The Metropolitan Police say they Barbar Ahmad is appealing for an

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11th hour review of his files. His lawyers have compiled a dossier of

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evidence that could be used against him in Britain, they say other men

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have been prosecuted for similar crimes, including having material

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that began life on Azzam. If they charge you with fundraising for

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terrorism? I would happily stand trial for anything that the Crown

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Prosecution Service decided to charge me with. Because I wish to

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clear my name, I wish to get my life back.

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Although Barbar Ahmad alleges he has been the victim of an abusive

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process, the US says everything was above board, and cases like these

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are what the extradition treaty with the UK is designed for. Here

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we have an example of transnational terrorism, that, in our minds,

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continues to go to the top of the list, so to speak. The example of

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having him extradited to the United States to stand trial for what did,

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as a violation of US law, is the rightness of the issue, from our

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side. The US case goes wider than the

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website and terrorist fundraising. Prosecutors say Barbar Ahmad was

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sent classified material from a US sailor on board this battleship.

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Information about the ship's movements, that allegedly could

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have been used to mount a terrorist attack. Barbar Ahmad denies this.

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If he's extradited he will probably end up before a judge at this court

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in Connecticut, he wouldn't face the death penalty. He would have

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the opportunity to assert all the arguments that any other defendant

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would get to assert. He would be accorded all of the right, the many,

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many rights that are guaranteed to criminal defendants under the

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United States constitution, which is a very, very generous document,

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to criminal defendants. If convicted, he faces life in this

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maximum security prison in Colorado. His lawyers say conditions there

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are inhumane, this is the core issue that the European Court of

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Human Rights will rule on next week. If judges say he can't be

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extradited, the British authorities face a dilemma about what to do

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with him. I just try to take each day as it comes. Either way, for

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Barbar Ahmad the clock is ticking. I'm fighting for my life, and I'm

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running out of time. In a way, this interview is my last

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chance to try to convince the authorities here to end my

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nightmare by putting me on trial in this country.

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Barbar Ahmad is not the only extradition to the US that has been

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controversial in recent times. The called NatWest Three or Enron Three,

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the alleged computer hacking, Gary McKinnon, the Richard O'Dwyer, the

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student accused of copyright offences, and the businessman,

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Christopher Tapping, have all had public campaigns. To discuss

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extradition as the US embassy's legal attache, a former adviser to

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the former general attorney. I know you won't discuss any particular

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case, but there is disquiet in the US, and in a sense, the kind of

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crimes we are talking about, on- line, cyberterrorism, are very much

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20th century crimes, which is hard to decide where the site of the

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crime actually took place? You are right, I think there is public,

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there is some more difficulties in those kinds of cases in

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understanding where the crime took place. No-one has any difficulty

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when I talk about someone who is in London, picking up the phone to

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order a hit on someone they want to be murdered in Florida. And then if

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that hit takes place, that crime took place in Florida, even though

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the person who was on the telephone may have never left London. When it

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comes to things like computers, and on-line crimes, and even banking,

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banking is a global issue now, it is very hard to establish, and that

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is we're not talking about a specific case, but for a number of

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cases, it is hard to establish where the scene of the crime was?

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Computers make it thatch easier to commit crimes all over the world, -

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- that much easier to commit crimes all over the world, that is why it

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is increasingly important to detect them, because crime increasingly

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crosses boundaries, that is why the treaty is so important. One of the

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suggestions is there is an independent forum, to decide to

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judge where the scene of the crime took place. To decide between

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Britain and the United States where this crime should be prosecuted, if

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indeed it is a crime, an alleged crime. What do you say to the idea

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of an independent forum? Many people don't understand the system

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that presently exists for determining where a case should be

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tried. What happens is fairly early on in an investigation, prosecutors

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in the United States and in the United Kingdom, if there is

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jurisdiction in both place, will confer with someone another and

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discuss the case, and talk about the factors in the case, not only

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where the accused is located, but where the harm was insecured, where

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any loss was insecured, where any victims were located, and also

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where the witnesses are, where the investigation was conducted. There

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are quite a few factors that the prosecutors consider. The

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prosecutors are those who know best what the evidence is. Often the

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investigation itself may not even be public yet. But there is an

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imbalance, there is an unevenness between the United Kingdom and the

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US, for an extradition to take place from the US to the United

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Kingdom. Not only has the judge to decide if there is evidence there,

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the defendant is also enjoyed, it is not the case for the UK to the

:17:13.:17:16.

US, it is simply a judge deciding whether there is a quality of case,

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the defendant is not involved at all, so it is imbalanced? Many

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people think that is true, but the system you have just described is

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actually a myth, it does not work that way. People in the United

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Kingdom and in the United States have the ruent to challenge their

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extradition, in fact -- right to challenge their extradition. Many

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people in the UK have done that successfully. Many requests have

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been denied by the courts. People in the United States have a similar

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opportunity, yet nobody has successfully challenged their

:17:50.:17:53.

extradition from the US to the UK under the treaty. It is interesting

:17:53.:17:57.

but not correct. Isn't it absolutely right to say

:17:57.:18:03.

that in the US, for a UK extradition to the US, the judge

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doesn't have to decide if there is a prima as ifia case? That's

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correct. It is the same in the United States, if you are in the

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United States the United States don't have to present prima facia

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evidence, the standards are the same. Does it frustrate you that

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the idea of the treaty was to speed up the process, and actually, the

:18:30.:18:35.

process, in many cases, is elongateed beyond anything anyone

:18:35.:18:39.

could have imagined? It is frustrating, I don't think the long

:18:40.:18:47.

delays in these cases serve anybody's interests.

:18:47.:18:50.

One of the problems of extradition from the UK to the US, as some

:18:50.:18:54.

defendants see it, is the conditions in US prisons,

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particularly, but not only the supermax prisons, that actually,

:18:58.:19:02.

that conflicts with human rights, like that one we saw in Colorado?

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There are a lot of myths about prison conditions, our systems are

:19:06.:19:12.

very similar in so many ways. Our trial systems are as alike, I don't

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think there is another system in the world that is as much like the

:19:15.:19:19.

system in the UK as the system in the US. Our prison conditions are

:19:19.:19:24.

very similar as well. We have been talking in the United Kingdom about

:19:24.:19:28.

the question of secret courts, and the reluctance of the CIA to hand

:19:28.:19:31.

over evidence, which they then say would be used in open court, which

:19:31.:19:37.

would be counter to their modus op Peter Mandelson die, there is talk

:19:37.:19:44.

in -- modus operandi, there has been talk about secret courts here?

:19:44.:19:48.

We want a system to protect classified information here in the

:19:48.:19:50.

UK. The proposals under consideration are not for us to

:19:51.:19:55.

judge, because it is not our system. But it is important for our

:19:55.:19:58.

intelligence community that information be projected.

:19:58.:20:01.

Amy Jeffress thank you very much indeed.

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To debate Britain's extradition treaty with the US, is David

:20:05.:20:11.

Bermingham, one of the called NatWest Three, whose book The Price

:20:11.:20:14.

To Pay has been published, Mike O'Brien QC, solicitor general in

:20:14.:20:18.

the last Government, and Tory MP, Dominic Raab, who has campaigned

:20:18.:20:22.

for reform. Do you think, Dominic Raab, at the

:20:22.:20:26.

moment, it is dangerous now to talk about crimes committed without

:20:26.:20:30.

borders. Because, indeed, crimes committed without borders is very

:20:30.:20:35.

hard to decide where prosecution can take place? That is an abstract

:20:35.:20:38.

academic question. At the moment there are two fundamental problems,

:20:38.:20:41.

first of all, British citizens in this country, will not have the

:20:41.:20:45.

evidence against them locked at by a judge in the same way as it

:20:45.:20:49.

happens in the US. That is crystal clear. What about Barbar Ahmad, he

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has been eight years in a high- security prison, without charge in

:20:54.:20:59.

the UK, does that speak to justice? Absolutely not, it is reprehensible.

:20:59.:21:03.

The other issue, the idea of anyone held in pre-charge detention, for

:21:03.:21:07.

seven or eight years, is wrong in principle. If they are guilty they

:21:07.:21:10.

should be prosecuted, if they are not, they should be let free. The

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other problem is forum, where you have the cross-border cases, which

:21:14.:21:19.

is the bouyant you are making. The -- point you are making. This the

:21:19.:21:23.

US offers this foreign arrangement to other countries for protection

:21:23.:21:28.

for their citizens. When you have a cross-border case, that shouldn't

:21:28.:21:34.

be hagled by prosecutors behind closed doors, but under criteria

:21:34.:21:38.

set by the UK Government. Let's talk about Barbar Ahmad before we

:21:38.:21:41.

talk about the forum, is it justifiable to have a man in the UK,

:21:41.:21:47.

in jail, for eight years, without charge? No, that's much too long,

:21:47.:21:50.

and the system needs to operate much more effectively. I do think

:21:50.:21:55.

there needs to be some changes in it. Should there be a forum for

:21:56.:21:59.

deciding an, an independent forum for deciding where the alleged

:21:59.:22:03.

crime took place? I think that's a much more complicated issue, of

:22:03.:22:09.

course there is legislation in 2006, which tried to insert into the law

:22:09.:22:14.

an issue of forum, as they call it, where the case should be tried,

:22:14.:22:17.

with the idea that defendants should be able to be tried in the

:22:17.:22:22.

UK, if that's where the most significant part of the offence

:22:22.:22:25.

occurred. That is, of course, what some people want. However, the

:22:25.:22:28.

problem is, that is not where the witnesses may be, it is not where

:22:28.:22:32.

the victims may be, it is not where the investigation probably took

:22:32.:22:36.

place. Why did they not bring it into force. Therefore, it is the

:22:36.:22:40.

case that, I think forum needs to be looked at, I think there is an

:22:40.:22:44.

argument for a change on it, however it is not the change in the

:22:44.:22:49.

2006 act not brought into law. Actually a man or woman's chance of

:22:49.:22:54.

freedom or conviction, that should be the primary reason for having

:22:54.:22:58.

the trial, where it should be most he have Kayious? What we are

:22:58.:23:01.

looking at with extradition is an issue of arrest, what is the cry

:23:02.:23:07.

tear yum of which you should arrest someone, not the criteria of where

:23:07.:23:15.

you should convict someone. were part of the system. It should

:23:15.:23:20.

seem as if it works, you were tried, you were guilty and you did your

:23:20.:23:30.

time and you came back? extradition worked and we we were

:23:30.:23:35.

there. You pleaded guilty? We did what 80% of people did in the

:23:35.:23:38.

country, we took the plea bargain and we came home. Particularly with

:23:39.:23:42.

this case, it has striking parallels, not only with our case,

:23:43.:23:51.

but with a terrifying case of someone called Mr Riases, there is

:23:51.:23:54.

no ability for a judge to take a reasoned look at all the

:23:54.:23:57.

circumstances and say, hang on a minute, depifrpb all the

:23:57.:24:01.

circumstances of the case, this is -- differences of all the

:24:01.:24:04.

circumstances of the case, this ought more properly to be heard

:24:04.:24:08.

here. In terms of conditions, and we have heard Barbar Ahmad, the

:24:08.:24:12.

whole the point of going to the European Court of Human Rights,

:24:13.:24:16.

means the inhumane conditions would mean he wouldn't have his human

:24:16.:24:22.

rights, you were not in a super-max prison? I think the mere fact that

:24:22.:24:25.

the European Court of Human Rights has taken so long to look at these,

:24:25.:24:35.
:24:35.:24:35.

suggests a real issue. There is no doubt, it is not a secret, in

:24:35.:24:38.

supermax in Colorado are in solitary confinement for up to 20

:24:38.:24:42.

years, they never see another human being. Some say the system works

:24:43.:24:47.

perfectly well, David Cameron and Barack Obama talked about it, an

:24:47.:24:49.

independent inquiry, is it worth upsetting the relationship with the

:24:50.:24:53.

United States when the point about terrorism is one that is very well

:24:53.:24:59.

made all over the world, and is a global issue? The extradition

:24:59.:25:02.

arrangements for terrorist offences and serious crime are vitally

:25:02.:25:05.

important, which is precisely why you don't want the relationship

:25:05.:25:08.

soured by lots of these relationships becoming a thorn in

:25:08.:25:12.

our side, because there is no fairness to us. I find Mike

:25:12.:25:16.

O'Brien's position untenable. They brought in a lousy deal, and in

:25:16.:25:21.

2006 they partly corrected it, by enacted in law this forum test, now

:25:21.:25:24.

he's opposing bringing it into force. I can't understand it.

:25:24.:25:28.

you think the Tory Government will change it? I hope so, the House of

:25:28.:25:32.

Commons has unanimously called for the US and EU regulations for

:25:32.:25:36.

extradition to be reformed. What would that mean, you heard the

:25:36.:25:40.

ambassador here saying this works well, there is no need to change

:25:40.:25:43.

it? With the greatest of respect, the principle position of the

:25:43.:25:47.

United States Government is that they are more than happy to support

:25:47.:25:51.

their request for extradition with evidence. They have 130 treaties

:25:51.:25:55.

worldwide, there is only three where they don't produce evidence.

:25:55.:25:59.

France who don't extradite to the US, Ireland who will not extradite

:25:59.:26:03.

if the crime is deemed to be committed in Ireland, and us, that

:26:03.:26:07.

is it. There is no issue with the US saying they won't give evidence,

:26:07.:26:12.

they happily will. We gave it up, the Labour Government in 2003.

:26:12.:26:16.

Dominic has misrepresented my position, my position is we need

:26:16.:26:19.

change. There is a political crisis in relation to this legislation,

:26:19.:26:24.

rather than a legal one. The problem is, not only that we have

:26:24.:26:28.

Barbar Ahmad on detention, also the McKinnon case, which has raised

:26:28.:26:32.

serious concerns, but also the Government has come in and said

:26:32.:26:38.

this legislation is imbalanced. you agree with that? I think that

:26:38.:26:43.

is arguable, what we have now got is Dominic Grieve, no mean lawyer,

:26:43.:26:47.

saying it is not imbalanced any more, we listened to Scott Baker's

:26:47.:26:50.

report and we think it is not imbalanced. I think there is a

:26:50.:26:53.

crisis of confidence in this legislation, that must be addressed

:26:53.:26:58.

by the Government. Whether that is by trying to renegotiate the treaty

:26:58.:27:02.

with the US, that will be difficult, and EU partners, there is much of

:27:02.:27:06.

the same legislation in place. That is a big problem they have got.

:27:06.:27:09.

crisis of confidence is not enough for the legislation to be changed

:27:09.:27:13.

in itself, surely it is about imbalance? I'm not convinced that

:27:13.:27:17.

the argument that Grieve puts that there is an equality there is right.

:27:17.:27:22.

I think the argument that Dominic puts is there is a big difference.

:27:22.:27:29.

Will the treaty be be here in three times? We extradite five citizens

:27:29.:27:34.

to one of those that comes in, we need balance and a fair system.

:27:34.:27:41.

You idiot, you niave, irresponsible nincompoop, that is how Tony Blair

:27:41.:27:44.

describes his own actions in bringing in the Freedom of

:27:44.:27:48.

Information Act in 2007, which David Cameron says is furring up

:27:48.:27:52.

the arteries of Government. It is thought to have cost the Government

:27:52.:27:55.

almost �8 million, some say it is money well spent, others say it is

:27:55.:28:00.

a waste of precious Government time and tax-payers' money. Newsnight

:28:00.:28:03.

has heard there are moves afoot to reform.

:28:03.:28:07.

Looking back at bringing in the Freedom of Information Act, Tony

:28:07.:28:11.

Blair said it was a pretty imbecileic position. For political

:28:11.:28:18.

leaders he said it is like saying to hitting you over -- someone

:28:18.:28:24.

hitting you over the head with a stick to give them mallet. The

:28:24.:28:28.

Prime Minister's text messages letters and e-mails are going in.

:28:28.:28:32.

The rigours of the Freedom of Information Act, that called mallet,

:28:32.:28:36.

means that politicians feel the space where they can talk openly

:28:36.:28:42.

has been shrunk massively, the back of a London taxi may be the last

:28:42.:28:47.

few places they can talk to each other privately. A senior official

:28:47.:28:51.

is on the verge of putting out guidance saying no personal e-mails

:28:51.:28:55.

can be used for Government business. They want to put ministers in the

:28:55.:28:58.

position of being able to say all Government business is on the

:28:58.:29:03.

record. The aim of the civil servant,

:29:03.:29:09.

Whitehall head, is to draw a line under the issue, to protect the

:29:09.:29:14.

primal text messages. If everyone signs up to the new regime,

:29:14.:29:19.

personal correspondence of the past might be unknown.

:29:19.:29:29.
:29:29.:29:40.

In an unnoticed case, the Information Commissioner has

:29:40.:29:42.

recently ruled that if you were once in Government, and when you

:29:42.:29:45.

are in Government you used your personal e-mail account for

:29:45.:29:48.

Government business, even after you have left the job, it could still

:29:48.:29:51.

be searchable. For the people in this office, Labour headquarters,

:29:51.:29:55.

that could be quite a lot of searches, they were in power for 13

:29:55.:29:57.

years. But all of this is house keeping,

:29:57.:30:00.

compared to some of the really big freedom of information requests.

:30:00.:30:04.

Today the Government is facing new calls to release the risk register

:30:04.:30:07.

on the health bill. You are used to seeing the front of Downing Street,

:30:07.:30:11.

this is the back of Downing Street, the inner workings of the office,

:30:11.:30:13.

it is freedom of information requests that allow us to get

:30:13.:30:16.

closer in and see how they make their decisions. If you actually

:30:16.:30:21.

work inside the building, it doesn't have quite such a benign

:30:21.:30:25.

effect, at a recent meeting of senior civil servants, they

:30:25.:30:30.

discussed the FOI act, and the "effects" it was having across

:30:30.:30:33.

Government, according toe one official, it is simply paralysing.

:30:33.:30:37.

Someone who has been in Government and managed freedom of information

:30:37.:30:43.

requests, says it wasn't difficult. FOI requests, people could be loose

:30:43.:30:48.

about talking about things, it didn't mean they were better at it,

:30:48.:30:51.

FOI could make people more professional in the way they put

:30:51.:30:55.

things, it couldn't stop people having discussions, but they had to

:30:55.:30:59.

think about it being on the front of a newspaper. If you are positive

:30:59.:31:03.

enough about your policy decisions, you should have no problem

:31:03.:31:07.

defending the policy in public if it is released to. You have to look

:31:07.:31:12.

at people's loosely-worded e-mails that are personal about people,

:31:12.:31:15.

that is unprofessional, what is the problem. The Prime Minister has a

:31:15.:31:19.

different view? In my two years of experience with the Freedom of

:31:19.:31:23.

Information Act and all the rest of it. It seems to me the real freedom

:31:23.:31:27.

of information is the money that goes in and the result that is come

:31:27.:31:33.

out. Making Government more transparent is a positive thing. We

:31:33.:31:38.

spend an age of dealing with FOI requests that are all about

:31:38.:31:41.

processes. What the public, country and parliament needs to know, is

:31:41.:31:44.

what are you spending, how much are you spending and what are the

:31:44.:31:47.

results. The solution being discussed, no doubt on official

:31:47.:31:51.

Government phones and computers, is to make freedom of information

:31:51.:31:55.

applicable to more organisations in the name of transparency, but to

:31:55.:32:02.

put down on the frifous requests, the Government is gearing up to --

:32:02.:32:06.

friflous questions, the Government is gearing up for a change of tack.

:32:06.:32:09.

If there is a slight tweaking of the Freedom of Information Act, to

:32:09.:32:13.

deal with a few of the slight oddities coming out, that will be

:32:13.:32:16.

fine. If there is any sense of what we are seeing is a reduction in the

:32:17.:32:21.

access of information about what is going on in Government, I and the

:32:21.:32:23.

Liberal Democrats would be concerned about that and do our

:32:23.:32:27.

best to stop it. This will be a fight to define

:32:27.:32:30.

transparency s the Government believe it is about a barrage of

:32:30.:32:34.

data relosed from these departments, others believe it is about the

:32:34.:32:38.

public's right -- released from these departments, other believe it

:32:38.:32:46.

is the public's right to see what is going on The journalist Heather

:32:46.:32:51.

Brooke is a freedom of information specialist, and Steve Bomford of

:32:51.:33:00.

the first division association, -- and the first division association

:33:00.:33:04.

head. David Cameron said at first it was a disinfectant, what changed

:33:04.:33:08.

his mind? He will have to explain his change of mind. It is about the

:33:09.:33:14.

change of balance, there has to be a degree of transparency, we are in

:33:14.:33:19.

a an age where a great deal of information is available. Ministers

:33:19.:33:23.

have encouraged that. But there has to be a private space in which

:33:23.:33:27.

ministers and civil servants can discuss key policy issues. There no

:33:27.:33:31.

benefit to the public, indeed it will lead to worse quality

:33:31.:33:35.

Government f you try to make too much of that public as debate and

:33:35.:33:39.

dialogue takes place. Heather Brooke, you do agree, surely, that

:33:39.:33:42.

civil servants and ministers should be able to have private

:33:42.:33:45.

conversation about blue sky thinking, about some extraordinary

:33:45.:33:51.

things, that you don't need to know everything do you? Let's go back to

:33:51.:33:54.

why he has changed his mind, that is because he has been in power

:33:54.:33:59.

nearly two years. What always happens with transparency laws is

:33:59.:34:02.

politicians like them when they are in opposition, as soon as they are

:34:02.:34:06.

in power. That is true isn't it. They suddenly lose all appetite for

:34:06.:34:10.

them. That is true isn't it? There is truth, that is because Tony

:34:10.:34:13.

Blair and David Cameron had not held office before, once you hold

:34:14.:34:18.

office you realise how complex the issue is. You then realise what a

:34:18.:34:22.

pain it is to have the public asking you questions. I think

:34:22.:34:27.

that's what is lost is this idea that the citizen has a right to ask,

:34:27.:34:31.

and why should they have to justify being able to access information

:34:31.:34:35.

which was actually collected in their name by public servants, such

:34:35.:34:39.

as yourself, who are paid for by the public. The public, by and

:34:39.:34:43.

large, are smart enough to realise that there must be a conversation

:34:43.:34:47.

between civil servants and ministers, that might not lead

:34:47.:34:52.

anywhere, that might be misconstrued, and is aren't in some

:34:52.:34:57.

way sinister? I understand that, people have a real misunderstanding

:34:57.:35:02.

if they think it is a simple process to get information under

:35:02.:35:05.

the Freedom of Information Act. In my case I thought I was looking for

:35:05.:35:08.

basic information, how MPs spend money in the course of their public

:35:08.:35:12.

duties, that took five years and a trip to the High Court. That is not

:35:12.:35:16.

acceptable. You are by nature secretive? I think Heather ran an

:35:16.:35:19.

excellent campaign with MPs, and did the country a great service in

:35:19.:35:24.

bringing issues like that into the public domain, it has improved the

:35:24.:35:28.

quality, I think, of politics. We are seeing that in the Civil

:35:28.:35:32.

Service, a lot more information available, including about salaries

:35:32.:35:37.

for people at senior levels, which people have signed up to. I am

:35:37.:35:39.

concerned around the issue of policy determination. I do take the

:35:40.:35:44.

Prime Minister's point in that clip you ran, that a lot of the requests

:35:44.:35:47.

are trivial and about process. That doesn't add anything. I think it is

:35:47.:35:50.

this question of getting a balance. I think what's happening at the

:35:50.:35:56.

moment is the Government is sitting back and reflecting on what will

:35:56.:36:00.

allow considerable transparency and a lot more data that people can use

:36:00.:36:04.

as they wish, but still protecting the quality of debate within

:36:05.:36:07.

Government. We will end up with a technocratic Government, rather

:36:07.:36:11.

than a Government that makes radical policy? We are in danger of

:36:11.:36:15.

not reading the law. The law has an exemption for policy making.

:36:15.:36:22.

Ministers do have a veto over this sex section of the -- section of

:36:22.:36:24.

the Freedom of Information Act. They are protected in that sphere.

:36:24.:36:28.

It is a straw man argument to say we need to reduce our access.

:36:28.:36:34.

do you feel about, this is going to be a kind of minefield in itself,

:36:34.:36:38.

that there will be possible charging for different kinds of

:36:38.:36:43.

FOIs? I want to go back, when the act was first in place, in 2005,

:36:43.:36:47.

charl low Faulkner, if you remember, was the minutes -- Charley Faulkner,

:36:47.:36:51.

if you remember was the minister of justice, this is like history

:36:51.:36:55.

repeating, we had exactly the same conversation. The same arguments

:36:55.:37:02.

were put forward about frifl rouse requests. There are a lot? I made a

:37:02.:37:06.

freedom of information request to the Ministry of Justice, I want to

:37:06.:37:16.
:37:16.:37:17.

know how many of those requests are frivilrous, there were two. Civil

:37:17.:37:20.

Service resources are very stretched and every part of

:37:20.:37:22.

Government will have to be scrutinised in terms of value for

:37:22.:37:26.

money. It is for the Government to make the case about a particular

:37:26.:37:28.

fee structure, what I am concerned about, and we saw that today for

:37:29.:37:33.

example with the arguments about the NHS risk register, which I know

:37:33.:37:37.

we haven't touched on and which is technical and complicated. What

:37:37.:37:41.

that decision has done is threaten the quality of advice that comes in

:37:41.:37:48.

future. There is not only the danger of moving towards

:37:48.:37:51.

technocratic Government, because Governments are there to make

:37:51.:37:54.

ideolgical decisions and other decisions, that is appropriate, but

:37:54.:37:58.

about civil servants becoming politic sized, if they believe too

:37:58.:38:02.

much of what they say flows into the public domain.

:38:02.:38:05.

In America candidates for President regularly publish their tax returns

:38:05.:38:08.

and other financial statements. Will that soon become normal here.

:38:08.:38:12.

Last night on our debate for London mayor, all four candidates in the

:38:12.:38:17.

studio made a pledge to publish their tax returns.

:38:17.:38:21.

I'm just wondering why we don't end this by everybody just publishing

:38:21.:38:25.

what they earn, and what they have paid in tax, why not bring it out

:38:25.:38:29.

into the open. Then there is no more arguments, we can talk about

:38:29.:38:36.

some of the issues we all have in our manifestos. You will all do

:38:36.:38:42.

that? I will publish my accounts for the last four years and let the

:38:42.:38:50.

public see who is paying tax and who is not. I will put out my

:38:50.:38:56.

accounts, and I would love to see the former mayor's. You will

:38:56.:38:59.

publish your's? I will publish details of everything I have

:38:59.:39:05.

concerned in the last four years. Are you going to do the same?

:39:05.:39:08.

course I will. Allegra Stratton has been casting

:39:08.:39:10.

her eye over what happened the morning after the night before.

:39:10.:39:15.

What went on? This morning Boris has published what he earns, which

:39:15.:39:19.

is over �400,000, which is a lot of money. He has also published what

:39:19.:39:24.

he pays in tax, which is over �200,000, which is also a huge

:39:24.:39:30.

amount of money. He did campaign to reduce the 50p tax rate? We now

:39:30.:39:34.

know fully why. Brian Paddick has published his salary, and what we

:39:34.:39:39.

have learned from that is a large part of it is a generous police

:39:39.:39:43.

pension. What then happened was Ken Livingstone was also forth coming

:39:43.:39:49.

with some details. What he did was more technical, he published the

:39:49.:39:53.

dividends he gets from a company, his own company, what he didn't

:39:53.:39:57.

fully make clear is exactly what else is in that company. The man

:39:57.:40:01.

who campaigned on absolute clarity about tax issues will be dogged by

:40:01.:40:08.

more questions in the next few weeks. Here to work out the

:40:08.:40:12.

difficulty maths our tax experts. What do you make of this? I think

:40:12.:40:16.

two things, one that people like Ken Livingstone, who at their peak,

:40:16.:40:20.

were very astute politicians, should not have let this single

:40:20.:40:25.

story run for weeks and weeks, and add fuel to it himself at times,

:40:25.:40:35.
:40:35.:40:35.

like in your debate last night. How brilliant to remember all those

:40:35.:40:39.

figures, but the issues should be, the tax thing is relevant, but it

:40:39.:40:43.

shouldn't be quite so central one you are discussing things. He was

:40:43.:40:46.

selected in September 2010 by Labour, you would think they would

:40:46.:40:51.

have got their ducks in a row in the last two years? The trouble for

:40:51.:40:55.

Ken Livingstone is he's guilty of such hypocrisy, having made such an

:40:55.:40:59.

issue of it, having said all this stuff that he thought nobody should

:40:59.:41:02.

be allowed to vote if they are evading tax, he made it an issue,

:41:02.:41:07.

having done so, just as in many ways in the 1980s he has changed

:41:07.:41:10.

British politics again. This will now become part and parcel of

:41:10.:41:14.

British politics. People will have to and be forced to reveal issues

:41:14.:41:18.

like this, we will see more and more mud thrown. I completely agree

:41:18.:41:22.

with Ian, it is a central issue and deeply damaging one for Ken

:41:22.:41:27.

Livingstone. Whether, as a result, we should be determining the

:41:27.:41:32.

outcome of elections on what people earn, it will get ridiculous.

:41:32.:41:38.

at Boris Johnson, we know now he earns a huge amount of money, on

:41:38.:41:44.

which he pays tax, that might play a different way for him? It might

:41:44.:41:50.

be one more reason we have a chasam in the vast sums some people are

:41:50.:41:56.

earning. We live in a transparent age and we need to get used to it.

:41:56.:42:00.

There is nothing wrong with him earning vastly different sums of

:42:00.:42:03.

money with people in London, and there is nothing wrong with Ken

:42:04.:42:06.

Livingstone having a company through which he pays himself?

:42:06.:42:13.

has to explain why he does that. And he has done many times, perhaps

:42:13.:42:17.

not convincingly. People lol know Boris Johnson earns this money as a

:42:17.:42:24.

columnist, I note it with jealousy, as others note it. It is not the

:42:24.:42:26.

decisive issue. There is an interesting issue about transport

:42:26.:42:34.

and fares, and how the heck repay to renovate what is a rundown

:42:34.:42:36.

transport system. For selfish reasons, surely, we should make a

:42:36.:42:39.

judgment on who can deliver all of that, it is a tough call this time

:42:40.:42:46.

round. Isn't that, in the end, more important, that -- than what they

:42:46.:42:51.

earn. After the budget, George Osborne was asked what his taxman

:42:51.:42:55.

will be, it comes along with your CV as a candidate for community

:42:55.:42:58.

council, local elections, parliamentary elections, Europe,

:42:58.:43:03.

that will be one of the bottom lines? Steve is doing a noble job

:43:03.:43:09.

pretending this is an election where policy matters, the reality

:43:09.:43:13.

is it is about personality. Boris and Ken are cartoon characters and

:43:13.:43:16.

character is a big part of the question people are voting on. The

:43:16.:43:20.

reality is this is an important part, if people make an issue of

:43:20.:43:26.

tax, it is inevitable it becomes part of the test of character.

:43:26.:43:29.

Presumably true in times of austerity, these things have

:43:29.:43:34.

greater significance than in the boom years? Tax evasion and high

:43:34.:43:37.

earning and tax has become big issues. They are big issues today,

:43:37.:43:41.

and that is why we have seen other people caught recently. It would

:43:41.:43:45.

have been the same fascination bust or boom, they are fascinated by

:43:45.:43:49.

what people earn. In a political contest it becomes more highly

:43:49.:43:54.

charged. I'm not as ernest about people, I'm fascinated by what

:43:54.:43:57.

people earn. Interestingly if this debate had happened the first time

:43:57.:44:00.

round, we wouldn't have got the Congestion Charge, which has

:44:00.:44:06.

changed all our lives, those in London and outside. What in the end

:44:06.:44:10.

what decides elections is not the money. Do we ask Ed Milliband and

:44:11.:44:14.

David Cameron. If we move to a situation like the

:44:14.:44:17.

American presidential candidates, who have to be transparent about

:44:17.:44:21.

what they earn and what assets they have as well. Maybe we should go to

:44:21.:44:25.

the Norwegian system, whereby every single person has to put their tax

:44:25.:44:29.

returns in public, maybe we will end up there. We are going to a

:44:29.:44:33.

situation whereby politicians are, like it or not, rightly or wrong

:44:34.:44:38.

low, there will be questions asked on these sorts of issues. Likely

:44:38.:44:41.

there will be more mud thrown and putting a lot more people off

:44:41.:44:45.

plilgts. If in the end people make a decision on what people earn, and

:44:45.:44:49.

the individual flaws of candidates, rather than the policies that

:44:49.:44:52.

affect their lives, they will be the ones that suffer. You can't

:44:52.:44:59.

appreciate a great artist because he was a Nazi, you can still

:44:59.:45:03.

appreciate the art. We are not accusing any candidates of being

:45:03.:45:08.

Nazis, or great artists, if only they were. In the end you have to

:45:08.:45:16.

look at the art in this case, which is the policies here.

:45:16.:45:26.
:45:26.:45:59.

He was the man behind the ants who were in turn behind the greatest

:46:00.:46:05.

names in rock. Born in Southall in London, and called the father of

:46:05.:46:11.

loud, Jim marshall died today at the age of 88. We will leave you

:46:11.:46:17.

with ringing in your years curtesy of Jimi Hendrix and Mr Marshall.

:46:17.:46:27.
:46:27.:46:52.

Hello there, we have a frost tonight across the southern half of

:46:53.:46:57.

the UK, it could be down to minus four in some rural areas. The frost

:46:57.:46:59.

lifting in the morning. Cloud continuing to stream down from the

:46:59.:47:03.

north. A scattering of showers for England and Wales, but patchy rain

:47:03.:47:06.

for Scotland and Northern Ireland. Not much rain through the Midlands,

:47:06.:47:09.

not much sunshine either, or the cloud through the afternoon. As you

:47:09.:47:13.

move into southern counties of England, so we see more sunshine.

:47:13.:47:17.

Less windy than it was today. Temperatures higher, 12, 13, a big

:47:17.:47:20.

improvement on today. It should feel a little bit warmer as well.

:47:20.:47:24.

As you move further north back into Wales, we move into more cloud

:47:24.:47:28.

again, some brighter skies across the south of the country, more

:47:28.:47:31.

likely to catch showery bursts of rain in the north of Wales. For

:47:32.:47:35.

Northern Ireland not much sunshine here. Clouds getting into double

:47:35.:47:39.

figures, a little bit of light rain or drizzle. Most of the rain in

:47:39.:47:45.

Scotland will be across the northern half of the mainland, cold

:47:45.:47:48.

in the Northern Isles, double figures through the central

:47:48.:47:52.

lowlands. As you look through Saturday, there is cloudy skies in

:47:52.:47:56.

most areas, not a great deal of rain. Similar story across the

:47:56.:48:00.

south, always brighter on Friday across southern parts of England

:48:00.:48:04.

and Wales, again cloudy skies, generally dry on Saturday. It

:48:04.:48:08.

An exclusive interview with Babar Ahmad, the British terrorism suspect held without trial for a record seven years. And political editor Allegra Stratton has seen Cabinet Office proposals which could limit Freedom of Information enquiries.


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