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Why Prevent will never work A world in which we catch every killer risks being grimly authoritarian

How did the system let him through? (TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

How did the system let him through? (TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)


October 19, 2021   6 mins

There was a feeling of inevitability surrounding reports that Ali Harbi Ali, the man alleged to have murdered Sir David Amess MP, was referred to the Prevent programme some years ago.

Prevent is a much-mocked government counter-terrorism strategy, which looks out for warning signs that someone is at risk of being radicalised into some form of violent extremism. About 6,000 people are referred to it each year. 

Every high-profile murder or act of terrorism appears to be followed by a story like this. The Manchester Arena suicide bomber was known to the security services. Lee Rigby’s killers were known to the security services. At least one of the London Bridge attackers was known to the security services. It’s not just in cases of terrorism: the murderer of Alice Gross had a criminal record for sexual assault. Sarah Everard’s killer had a history of indecent exposure.

There is a further sense of inevitability over the fact that, three days after Sir David’s murder, Priti Patel, the home secretary, declared that Prevent is “under review” to ensure that it is “fit for purpose”. This is, in fact, an ongoing review that was launched in 2019 and due to report in December, rather than a response to the atrocity. Yet the announcement was clearly intended to suggest that the murder represented a failure on the part of the surveillance and deradicalisation system.

But is it? The sense of inevitability is real: these stories crop up a lot. But the truth is they will continue to keep cropping up, almost every time there is a terror attack, and almost no matter what we do with Prevent or whatever its successor is. Prevent may be failing — though I’ll happily defer judgment until the publication of the review — but even if it were successful, when terrorist attacks happen, it is likely that the perpetrators would be on its books, or known to the security services.

And more than that: as callous as it sounds, that may be for the best. To give a sense of why that is, it’s helpful to look at another system for spotting future risks: cancer screening.

You screen for prostate cancer with a blood test, which looks for levels of something called “prostate-specific antigen”, or PSA. If you’re between 50 and 69 years old, the “normal” level of PSA is given as below three nanograms per millilitre (ng/ml). If your test comes back higher than that, you are flagged as at risk of having prostate cancer.

But according to the NHS, about 15% of men who do have prostate cancer actually have “normal” levels of PSA: that is, below 3ng/ml. If you run a screening test like this, you’ll falsely reassure about one cancer sufferer in six that they are cancer-free.

There’s a straightforward solution to that, of course. Instead of putting your cut-off at 3ng/ml, you could make it 2.5ng/ml. Then you’d miss fewer cancers.

You can probably guess the outcome, though. If you move the cut-off lower, you’ll miss fewer real cancers, but you’ll scare more men unnecessarily. If you move the cut-off higher, you’ll get fewer false positives — you won’t tell as many men that they have cancer when they don’t — but you’ll get more false negatives: you’ll miss more real cancers.

You might think that it’s a pretty straightforward decision. Telling people that they have cancer when they don’t is inconvenient and alarming; telling people that they don’t have cancer when they do might kill them. So you err on the side of caution.

But that’s not how it works. False positives on cancer screenings can literally kill. People can end up having unnecessary surgeries, X-rays, chemo or radiotherapy. Complications are sufficiently common that the NHS says that the benefits of prostate cancer screening do not outweigh the risks.

The cost of getting it wrong is real with terrorism, too. The process is somewhat different, though. When it comes to the risk of someone being radicalised, unlike a blood test, there isn’t a number that you can read off. That doesn’t mean there can’t be one: it could be that the people who are passed on to Prevent are given a quasi-objective score. We do exactly that for, say, suicidality risk or autism or happiness, or any one of a thousand psychological functions. You tick boxes on a questionnaire about someone’s isolation, their anger, their ideologies, and if the score on the questionnaire adds up to more than 40 or whatever you declare them a terrorism risk. That is precisely what goes on, in a less obvious and open way, with things like AI parole decisions

But as it happens, there isn’t an explicit number. The Prevent guidance says: “There is no fixed profile of a terrorist, so there is no defined threshold to determine whether an individual is at risk of being drawn into terrorism.” So there’s no nice straightforward “Terrorism risk: 13.6” readout.

Nonetheless, the same process is going on. A person comes into contact with the counterterrorism services. Of the 6,000 or so who are referred to Prevent each year, about 500 or so are deemed “vulnerable” to radicalisation and are passed on to a subgroup called “Channel”. 

Since referral to Channel is not based on an objective score, it’s based on a subjective feeling (or “expert judgment”): people will be flagged up if the panel judging them feels sufficiently strongly that they’re a risk. They might not explicitly say “Terrorism risk: 13.6”, but still, there is a threshold of risk, over which someone is considered a threat.

And just like the PSA levels in the blood, that assessment will be imperfect. If you read some young man saying something disturbing online, is it harmless anger and braggadocio, or are they a terrorist? You can raise your implicit threshold and avoid harassing innocent people, at the cost of an increased risk of missing a genuine terrorist, or you can lower it and correctly identify more terrorists, but at the cost of labelling a lot of harmless people as potential terrorists.

It might seem, like the cancer test in reverse, that there’s an asymmetry here: a false positive annoys people; a false negative kills people. But also like the cancer test, it’s not as simple as that. The false positives will be a lot more common than the false negatives — simply put, there are more mouthy non-terrorists than actual terrorists in the world. As I said before, there were 6,000 people referred to Prevent every year, and 500 or so were judged to be of sufficiently high risk to be passed on to Channel. But there have been only four actual terror attacks in the last two years. 

If you lower your threshold, raise the alarm on more borderline cases, then you will waste more police time, put more innocent people under needless scrutiny and stigmatise more communities. (It seems inevitable that a lowered threshold will mean more young Muslim men, in particular, being picked up by the security services.) That may be a price worth paying — but, let’s be clear, it will be a price that you pay. If you take in everybody suspicious for questioning — every misogynist loser on incel subreddits, every angry racist or radical Islamist on dark-web chatrooms — you may prevent one or two more attacks, but you will undoubtedly fill up your jails and enrage the populace.

This doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do. Moving your threshold is zero-sum. But you can change your test: if instead of testing for PSA you looked for some other marker, you might be able to tell whether someone had cancer with more accuracy. In the case of counter-terrorism, you could do things like increasing police funding for surveillance, rather than simply being more strict about your criteria — although of course that would mean less money elsewhere.

An alternative suggestion might be to abandon “expert judgment” and introduce something like I talked about above, an explicit algorithm: human judgment is famously terrible at predicting complex things like the likelihood of a criminal to reoffend, and algorithms consistently outperform us, as the psychologist Paul Meehl demonstrated way back in 1954. They beat humans at predicting the price of wine, how long a cancer patient will live, who will win a football match, how likely a business is to succeed and dozens of other subjects. It is likely that some fairly simple algorithm could do significantly better than the best experts at predicting who is a terror risk, as well.

But it could only ever be a partial improvement. Humans are stubbornly hard to predict. Part of the reason why algorithms can outperform human judgment in those fields is because human judgment is consistently terrible: we are very often wrong about who will reoffend, who will live and die, who will win a football match. It is not that algorithmic prediction is great; the future is still hard to know. However good we make our systems for detecting terrorists, they will never be very good. So terrible things will always happen, and when they do, we will assume our systems are too lax and need to be tightened.

It is tempting to think like that in the wake of an atrocity such as David Amess’s murder: to think that we ought to lower our thresholds of what counts as a risk. Perhaps it’s even true. But just as it is an unavoidable fact of reality that reducing false alarms means missing more real ones, a world in which Sir David’s murderer was caught ahead of time could be grimly authoritarian.


Tom Chivers is a science writer. His second book, How to Read Numbers, is out now.

TomChivers

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Julia H
JH
Julia H
2 years ago

I used to think it was grimly authoritarian to send criminals to Australia for crimes such as stealing a loaf of bread. Now I think deporting people for being a potential terrorist threat is a perfectly reasonable idea. The human rights wheel has turned full circle for me: from no rights to too many rights. Granting a potential terrorist the right to liberty within our country comes at a price – usually the lives of innocent people. For me that’s too high a price.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Julia H

haha, Australia and their return to being a Prison Colony because of the plandemic!

The joke now days is the Modern Australians are not descended from convicts – but from the prison Wardens.

Brendan O'Leary
BO
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Most Australians now are actually descended from people who arrived after 1945.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Those are the people the ones descended from the original prison wardens locked down.

Australia and New Zealand, the lands of the sheep. baaaa

Brendan O'Leary
BO
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

You’re not making any sense. Free immigration to Australia exceeded convict transportation even in the convict era.

Alan Thorpe
AT
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  Julia H

Where do you propose to deport them if they are born here? Why do you think another country would be willing to accept our criminals?

alan Osband
alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

You could stop allowing Muslims to import their cousins in arranged passport marriages thus halving the number of potential Islamist terrorists down the line .

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

We are not talking about criminal we are talking about valuable human capital. Who wouldn’t want them.
Also anyone convicted of a serious criminal offence (carrying a potential sentence of a year or more) should face automatic deportation to the land of their birth

Ellen Finkle
Ellen Finkle
2 years ago

Or land of their second natioinality

Brian Burnell
Brian Burnell
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Rockall or St Helena would be good starting choices.

Frederick B
Frederick B
2 years ago
Reply to  Brian Burnell

Send them to South Georgia. Desolate and uninhabited so no need for fences. Hard luck, though, on the penguins.

alan Osband
alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Frederick B

Latvia ! The president is dumping Muslims on Europe .Give him some back . Of course we won’t . Putin and the Latvian guy know how to exploit Europe’s human rights culture .

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Brian Burnell

what about Sunningdale ?

John Lee
JL
John Lee
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Pakistan, they will accept any terrorist!!

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

In Germany I believe you are not considered a citizen automatically by birth, you need a few generations. Very sensible if you ask me. There’s more to being a British citizen than falling out of a vagina on British soil.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Julia H

Agree. I’ve always been a fairly liberal type but the last 10 years or so I’d happily sign off on forcible deportations of whole groups, including those born here, if they are of the Islamist persuasion. I’d go medieval on their asses frankly. It’s a weird feeling but the creeping influence of Islam is pushing me more and more to the right. I NEVER thought I’d see this country capitulate to threats of ‘blasphemy’ or give special exemptions for animal cruelty or turn a blind eye to mass rape. It makes me so so angry.

Claire Dunnage
Claire Dunnage
2 years ago
Reply to  Julia H

I think the point is, we don’t actually know who will carry out terrorist acts. 500 people a year are deemed “vulnerable” but they are not terrorists. We deport 500 people a year, presumably from Muslim communities? That’s going to go down well. Don’t you think it may lead to even more radicalisation? How about locking up all other potential criminals? Punishing them before they commit a crime.

David McDowell
DM
David McDowell
2 years ago

Reviews of Prevent or internet anonymity are intentional distractions from the fact that a failed immigration policy is the real reason why we have so many terrorist attacks on home soil. Foreign policy, or involvement in foreign wars, would have very little to do with it were our borders secure in first place.
The reason for the distraction is that our elected leaders have no intention of fixing this particular problem.

Last edited 2 years ago by David McDowell
David Owsley
DO
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

Spot on.

Kate Heusser
KH
Kate Heusser
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

We don’t ‘have so many terrorist attacks on home soil’. Look at the statistics on attacks and numbers of casualties in France, Germany, and other European countries, let alone India, Pakistan, Indonesia …

hugh bennett
HB
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

one is too many…” after the first death there is no other”, Dylan Thomas.
: a loss is incomparable and unredeemable; it is the first because it has no copies, and therefore,in that sense it is also the last. It is and can only be “deep with the first dead.”

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

All that says to me is wherever they go trouble follows. Germany let in millions and are now paying the price. France too. When are we going to face reality. It’s not worth the trouble importing people from Islamic cultures. Why should we be prepared to sacrifice our own children for theirs? Manchester Arena should have been a turning point – why wasn’t it???

Cheryl Jones
CJ
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  David McDowell

I find it weird that so many people who hate us for ‘colonialism’ or ‘islamophobia’ or foreign wars, want to come here. Could there be an underlying agenda perchance? If you move to a country you hate and think owes you something you are unlikely to be a productive member of society are you.

Diana Durham
DD
Diana Durham
2 years ago

This is rubbish. And the public is already enraged because we have way too light a touch in going after potential Jihadi terrorists. Wasting resources on fake hate crime incidents, for one thing. But the potential of real hate crime, we are not rigorous enough. How about checking up on the sharia law courts, the imams and the mosques who have inculcated and still inculcate – and thrive – young men in plain sight? They are not lone wolves, they are products of a network that hates this country.

Last edited 2 years ago by Diana Durham
hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Diana Durham

You may well be correct in all you say, and running alongside all that is the rise of other serious crime, a meltdown in the justice system, under-mining of public confidence in the police by groups like BLM …all areas where our elected leaders seem to lack any priority and real intention of turning things around.
And so, as many a common man gazes around himself in bewilderment as our great Prime Minister ( he of the artificially distressed hair and boyish grin), is out there strutting onto a climatic change platform, pledging further billions of debt for future generations on heating systems totally inappropriate for much of Britain`s housing stock. Its enough to make you cry.

Last edited 2 years ago by hugh bennett
Frank Wilcockson
FW
Frank Wilcockson
2 years ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

Sadly it has become obvious that our established political parties are no longer fit for purpose. Is it too much to hope for that new practical political parties will come to the fore?

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago

I used to think that my vote stood for something, that by dutifully writing my cross i could, joined with others of like mind, influence things. Now I realise it makes no difference as our “leaders” just wallow in the Westminster swamp, virtue signalling to each other and others like the useless and pointless WHO.
My instinct tells me that the vast majority of UK voters are not into this woke nonsense, they are incredulous at the attack on womanhood, most accept climate change as an eternal fact but most would also agree with looking at a sensible approaches to developing alternative energy production, but not at the cost of our nations competitive future.. as other powers sail blithely by with a grin and a wave.
Most voters are not against properly controlled asylum, and most would support a strictly controlled and funded immigration system ( all they want to be assured of is who is here, why, what can they offer) and if they don
t qualify they are on the next plane out.
Most voters cannot understand why immigrants have such quick access to full citizen rights when so many British families lost family members fighting so their children and grandchildren could enjoy the fruits of their sacrifices. But we see a outdated health system, a crumbling state education system, our infra structure falling further and further behind the curve while we waste billions on foreign aid.
And most voters cannot understand how the self promoted intellectual -liberal-lefty CRT obsessed elite have been allowed to infiltrate the BBC and other State funded organisations, our Universities which now churn out automaton young robots who despise free speech, who cannot tolerate a different opinion, who are unwilling to construct an argument and debate it, who cancel, and who will soon be burning books in town squares.
But many of us although disdainful of he hypocrisy we witness all around us seem resigned, may be we are now a tame populace, afraid of speaking out in case we lose friends even jobs. A populace that has had it so good for 50 years it is now happy to continue Instagraming and twittering itself to death, grabbing the meat ( or processed vegan cr-p) that it still gets tossed. All this as the clouds of decay, and the threat of totalitarianism creeps ever close.
But in the USA I sense things might come to a head that there folk will not keep their heads down, that there will be some sort of change in the order and structure of things, I know not what though.
Ah, that`s better got it off my chest !

Last edited 2 years ago by hugh bennett
Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
2 years ago
Reply to  hugh bennett

..if voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal..apropos Emma Goldman several decades ago. Why does it take so long to learn from our ancestors?

Julia H
JH
Julia H
2 years ago

I’ve just read that the mother of the Manchester bomber was receiving £1k in benefits each month to an account even though she was living in Libya. Her sons used the money to fund their terrorist attack. So we paid for them to murder our fellow citizens.

The reason economic migrants and asylum seekers are so determined to get here, rather than any number of other countries, is precisely because we are far too accommodating to them. If we grant asylum we should expect to be able to restrict any return travel to the countries they have left behind. We should also be able to place a time limit on the period of asylum and make it conditional on good behaviour. Why don’t we do any of these things? Instead we help them get here, house and feed them and give them equal rights immediately, no questions asked. This country is run by well-meaning idiots.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Julia H

This from the BBC website;

The elder brother of the Manchester Arena suicide bomber has left the UK ahead of an appearance at a public inquiry he had been ordered to attend.

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, said Ismail Abedi was “not currently in the country and there is no indication as to when he will return”.Ismail Abedi, 28, has always refused to answer questions from the inquiry in case he incriminates himself

We’re just not serious about defending ourselves anymore, are we?

Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Or, we’ve become generally incompetent in this country.
If so, when did it start ? and what else started at the same time which might have caused it ?

Last edited 2 years ago by Claire D
Alan Tonkyn
AT
Alan Tonkyn
2 years ago
Reply to  Claire D

I think we have indeed become ‘generally incompetent’ in this country in so many walks of life. For example, I know of at least one case where a foreign national and convicted criminal had already exhausted all his appeals and had been scheduled for deportation, but, months later, nothing had been done. So many of our officials have no eye for detail or concern for efficiency. Possibly this stems in part from the laxity of our education system

Kate Heusser
Kate Heusser
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

There’s no chance he was going to give truthful evidence at the enquiry. So long as we don’t let him back into the country, it seems we may have exported the problem.

hugh bennett
HB
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

….please send out 007.
M, “Bond, no revenge I do not want you to exceed the boundaries of justice. Measured retaliation is, however, permitted”
“Yes Ma`am ,in other words, i can inflict punishment to the extent of our hurt?”, replies Bond.
M just nods.
I wish…

Last edited 2 years ago by hugh bennett
Cheryl Jones
CJ
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

I’m glad he’s gone – but if he could leave so easily how do we know he won’t get back in just as easily?

Kathleen Stern
Kathleen Stern
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

We, the vulnerable people are,the politicians are mostly immune from the problems with the very sad exception recently.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

How the hell was he able to leave the country? Is his passport not on some watchlist ffs???

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

“A world in which Sir David’s murderer was caught ahead of time could be grimly authoritarian.”
Indeed, there are large numbers of angry nutters in the country but very few go on to try to commit murder. The problem is not so much identifying angry nutters but identifying the rare potential murderer among them with sufficient precision to feel confident that the sort of sever restriction on their liberty that would be necessary to prevent an act of terrorism is justified and just as important would be accepted as justified by the much larger pool of those sharing his basic beliefs who are less mad and not murderous but might be tipped over the edge by your restrictions on someone sharing his beliefs.
Internment rounded up and imprisoned a large number of angry IRA nutters who might bomb but ultimately was not a successful solution. Unfortunately, rounding up angry Muslim or far right nutters would not work and there are no concessions that could be made that would lower the level of threat from the small subset of murderous nutters.
The journalist Peter Hitchens has for a long time pointed out that most of the angry nutters who commit acts of lone Wolf terrorism are hashish smokers. Should we enforce the laws against the possession of such drugs or perhaps just be particularly severe when it comes to those already identified as potential terrorists?
Unfortunately there are no easy solutions to terrorism that can be committed by car, knife, bow and arrow or any number of fairly common instruments.

alan Osband
alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

How about taking measures to reduce the pool of islamists from which the terrorists come . Arranged passport marriages ( often first cousins with high costs for the nhs) obviously massively increase the number of potential terrorists , on the reasonable assumption that a proportion of all Muslims is always going to want to wage holy war on the infidel .

Jeremy Bray
JB
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  alan Osband

According to a recent study Islam has about 1.9 billion adherents world wide amounting to nearly 25% of the world’s population so we are talking about a large pool. It is true that most terrorists murders are carried out in Muslim and African countries but Pakistan is pretty far down the list of countries experiencing terrorism. Excluding Muslims from settling in the UK would exclude 25% of the world’s population and might actually generate more murderous rage among the nutter section of Muslims rather than resolve the problem.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I was slightly surprised that pointing out that about 25% of the world’s population is Muslim and attempting to exclude its adherents might have adverse consequences has already garnered 5 thumbs down.
My wife’s parents lived for many years next to an NHS psychiatrist of Pakistani origin and Muslim faith. We have exchanged Christmas presents regularly over the years and attended the reception for the weddings of two of their sons who have become doctors and who both married nice Catholic girls, one Irish the other Italian. When his wife’s mother died here in England (at a time before the threat of COVID arose) her daughter and nieces who wanted to come over from Pakistan for the funeral were refused visas to do so. This hardly suggests the current arrangements are too slack. Indeed knowing the family the decision came across as a piece of anti-Muslim spite rather than a sensible policy to reduce the risk of terrorism or illegal immigration.
I am entirely in favour of deporting and expelling back to their countries of origin illegal migrants and convicted criminals and would agree that the Home Office is not sufficiently successful in doing so, but I see no point in making the lives of Muslims such as our friends more difficult simply because a tiny proportion of Muslims engage in murderous terrorism. Particularly since anti-Muslim policies are likely to generate precisely the rage that might tip one of the few potential terrorists among them into carrying out such an act.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Correct. Same as all Irishmen are IRA, all English are football hooligans (no so severe I agree), all Catholic priests are paedophiles etc…
It is an extension of an internal Islam struggle: Muslims kill more Muslims than anyone else, mainly due to minor differences. Yes Christianity went through the same struggles but centuries ago; in the modern world you’d think reform would be easy.

Cheryl Jones
CJ
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

Why would we want to import Islamic conflict?

George Stone
GS
George Stone
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

How few is few? Tens of thousands? Let them all in, but please don’t kill us.

alan Osband
AO
alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Muslims in the UK who marry non-Muslims really are a tiny minority . There was also the case of a Pakistani -heritage accident and emergency doctor leaving a car bomb outside a west-end nightclub .
I’d guess psychiatrists have a more evidence based attitude to belief systems than others and this may have something to do with the open-mindedness of your neighbour .

Pakistan is a Muslim country and thus you wouldn’t expect Muslims extremists there ( of which there are many ) to be so riled against their neighbours .But the non-Muslim minority there still suffer horrible persecution , with forced conversion of young girls (wanted as wives) and trumped up charges using the horrible blasphemy laws .

Of course there can be moderate , charming believing individuals of any religion including Islam .My former squash coach was a good example , but he was here illegally and actually avoided Muslims because he was afraid his non -legal status would cause him to be exploited if known , so he had to mix with non -Muslims who generally helped him . He works now in the US .

Last edited 2 years ago by alan Osband
Cheryl Jones
CJ
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  alan Osband

No terrorism in Pakistan because the lynching and killing of blasphemers, infidels and ‘badly behaved’ women etc is NORMAL there

alan Osband
AO
alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Worrying about riling potential terrorists is not the way to go .
Your friend has integrated which is how you came to know him . That’s something to do with class , with education and with being a psychiatrist .

Psychiatrists have to empathise with all kinds of people . It’s part of their job. Your friend was happy his sons married non -Muslims . Many young women have been killed by their fathers for forming a relationship with infidels .

alan Osband
AO
alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Muslims who have settled here often arranged to marry their children to their cousins from Pakistan .
It’s generally reported that in UK schools Muslim children are told not to mix with whites ( I am not talking about Bedales where doubtless your neighbour sent his kids)
If arranged marriages are allowed it is obviously in the interests of Muslim parents to stop their kids becoming integrated by befriending infidels . Because then they may want to choose their own marriage partner
So our governments by allowing this system of arranged passport marriages have both doubled the number of Muslims living here and ensured they don’t integrate by giving them a practical financial motive not to , in addition to the normal motive of religious bigotry

Jeremy Bray
JB
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  alan Osband

See my comment on Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s article today. Perversely, I think that a significant element of the problem of Islamic terrorism is in fact fostered by leftist anti-racist rhetoric that paints white Britains as the problem. If the message you derive from British education is that Britain was an evil racist empire and we are institutionally racist the message of jihad will appear quite reasonable. Why not kill the infidel who admit their evil ways.

alan Osband
alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Certainly why would you jump from a culture that glories in its military conquests under the prophet and his successors to join one locked in wokey self loathing .

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Riiiiiight so because there are so many we should keep letting them in? What planet are you on? IF THEY GET ANGRY ABOUT IT DEPORT THEM FFS!

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  alan Osband

OMG don’t get me started. I’d deport all of them frankly.

Iris C
IC
Iris C
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

If I remember correctly, it was forbidden to name IRA terrorists in the media and thus give them the notoriety (fame) they craved. That could be one feature of terrorism that is not factored in and should be..

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Perhaps if all these angry nutters would get off social media platforms and stop muddying the waters we might be able to find the real terrorists. Chance would be a fine thing -sigh.

George Stone
George Stone
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The word ‘assassin’ originates from ‘hashish’.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

Personally I do not worry about terrorists, they are like covid, a way for the government to grab vastly disproportionate power for a moderate risk, and thus remove all us law abiding citizen’s rights wile spending Trillions.

I mean 2001 – the Patriot Act! Wow, talk about the loss of rights. Then the security services were turned loose on everyone, the President was given power to make war, TSA made flying a massive ordeal for no good reason, then Homeland Security became massive, meta data is collected by the NSA, we are all scored – it went nuts, and has just gotten worse. Now even the President of USA cannot control the security agencies and military, so powerful and secretive they became…

What I think is the real problem is Crime of the normal kind. That is what really impacts life and economy. But they are not bothered with much as that is mere police work – not the million strong gov agencies watching and listening and spying on every one around the world – SHEER POWER.

,The sort of psychopath who gravitates to the higher echelons of security system has been turned loose, budgeted Trillions, and allowed to bend any rules….Because some idiot like the one in the article.

So – – – NO, WE SHOULD NOT WORRY ABOUT STOPPING EVERY TERRORIST, as it ends up US that lost rights.

Just like covid in Australia. Insane, the pursuit of zero cases. How much more sane was Sweden, South Dakota….

Julia H
Julia H
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

We give up rights when we accept civic society. Most notably the right to dispense our own justice as we see fit. Criminals, especially organised ones, try to retain that freedom to do as they please to serve their own interests. When law enforcement fails law abiding citizens, especially in the most basic protection of life, then society has a big problem.

Last edited 2 years ago by Julia H
Kathleen Stern
KS
Kathleen Stern
2 years ago
Reply to  Julia H

Our legal system was created to avoid people taking their own revenge or attacking people who attacked them. Once citizens don’t believe justice is served by the system then the obvious danger is that they will act on their own behalf.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Kathleen Stern

Exactly. The social contract is broken when a blind eye is turned to racist sectarian gang rape on an industrial scale and the inculcation of murderous belief systems that hate us, in schools and places of worship, is allowed to continue. Why do we tolerate it? If the police and courts won’t protect us vigilantism will increase. In fact I think it has already started, except it is called ‘far right extremism’ (ignoring the fact this phenomenon has increased in response to Islamist atrocities not preceded it).

alan Osband
alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Terrorists come from a pool of people who may not all gravitate to terrorism ( likely to result in their own death or life in prison ) but will certainly be committing loads of other crimes . This because they will be without the inhibitions that stop people breaking the law . Lone wolf islamist terrorism is a myth. They are all highly socialised within their own subculture .
I am not including all Muslims in the pool of religious extremists from which the terrorists come . A proportion of all Muslims will be extremists , and a proportion of all extremists will be terrorists .

Last edited 2 years ago by alan Osband
rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  alan Osband

“A proportion of all Muslims will be extremists , and a proportion of all extremists will be terrorists”
I agree. I think we can easily overreact to a single horrendous crime (although it was also an attack on democracy)

“certainly be committing loads of other crimes”
I’m wondering about that. Maybe they would prefer to stay below the radar

alan Osband
AO
alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  rodney foy

They don’t commit crimes with the intention of being caught , so staying below the radar is irrelevant .
I think the latest stat is less than one in a thousand crimes of fraud end up in court .

John Lee
John Lee
2 years ago
Reply to  alan Osband

Not all Muslims are terrorists but, all terrorists are Muslims.

Kate Heusser
KH
Kate Heusser
2 years ago
Reply to  John Lee

Except for the outlawed right-wing extremists, the two factions in Northern Ireland who believe violence is an acceptable alternative to democracy, and every other nut job who wants to force his (overwhelmingly ‘his’) world view onto society.

D Glover
DG
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Kate Heusser

Ah yes, the right-wing terrorists. They haunt the dreams of BBC playwrights, but they are so seldom seen in real life.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

And only appeared at all in response to an utter lack of action on Islamist terrorism, immigration and mass rape.

Cheryl Jones
CJ
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I agree to a point. But this does not excuse the wilful importation of a culture that is utterly and irredeemably irreconcilable with our own and growing exponentially. The murder of little kids, by the son of asylum seekers, in Manchester in the name of Allah should have been a turning point – why wasn’t it??

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

If the long-feared ‘right-wing backlash’ were ever to have occurred, that would have been the moment.
But, teddy bears; candles; singing of ‘Don’t look back in anger’
There never will be any backlash.

Cheryl Jones
CJ
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

That’s so depressing it’s unbelievable

Jorge Espinha
JE
Jorge Espinha
2 years ago

One thing that could help would be to ask a simple question. Is he a national or a foreigner? If the “person of interest” is a foreigner, I believe the correct course of action would be to deport him (it’s always men) and forbid this person to return. The same should be applied to any foreigner convicted of violent crimes. The first duty of any decent state is to protect its citizens. For the nationals, it’s a bit trickier, no? I recently read that to properly monitor an individual you need 16 agents. Can you imagine that? That’s East Germany stuff! And let us not forget Jean Charles de Menezes, an innocent man murdered by security forces in London. If we want to live in freedom we need to accept a certain amount of risk, something we forgot and keep forgetting in the current pandemic and in our way of responding to terrorism.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Jorge Espinha

The foreign side of things you are right and we already have all the sufficient laws in place. The problem is that they are always (not much of an exaggeration) overturned by weak judges and human rights concerns.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Jorge Espinha

Citizenship should perhaps not be automatic until you are at least a 3rd generation immigrant.

Neven Curlin
Neven Curlin
2 years ago

You’re worried about a ‘grimly authoritarian’ world? You, the Unherd in-house germophobe lockdown activist? The contradictions between this latest article and your previous writings on the pandemic cannot be expressed in words.
The irony is that this latest high-profile murder might well be a consequence of your ‘grimly authoritarian’ world of lockdowns, medical segregation and peer pressure to conform to State edicts.

Sorry for being so harsh, but your articles annoy me to no end. Which is probably good for clicks.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Neven Curlin

Hear, hear.

David Owsley
DO
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Neven Curlin

such sense in a comment is good for clicks for you too 😉

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

Do we get prizes for most clicks? I think there should be one given out at the live meetings –

‘And this month’s ‘Blue Thumbs Up Award’ goes to Galeti Tavas for his (or their) getting 837 up votes by being a complete ass in his (or their) mad rants’.

And we should get a Unherd Baseball Cap with ‘UNHERD’ on it in gold letters. (unacceptable nonsense hailed entirely, radically, derangedly) or what ever the unherd acronym stands for….

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago

Hard to disagree with the analysis in here which is well presented and convincing. Far better to try and tackle the root causes of violent extremism than to try and prevent a violent extremist carrying out extreme violence through an inefficient screening regime.

But how does the author square his analysis here with his assertion in an earlier piece that “It may be government policy, but you should be extremely careful about ignoring a positive LFT, no matter what the “confirmation” test says.” and his view that the government should have rolled out more Covid testing infrastructure more quickly?

Is he not aware that false and actual positive Covid testing has resulted in misery for millions and cost the public purse huge amounts of money? That they have confined children to a fearful indoors existence, feeling confused, guilty, or shameful about their results? Or that some adults have been turned into obsessive hypochondriac compulsive testers, psychologically dependent on a negative result? Or that they have caused elderly people to die lonely and isolated when they could have returned to or been with their families?

The Covid cognitive dissonance will never cease to astound me.

Malcolm Knott
MK
Malcolm Knott
2 years ago

Is the problem our poor ability to predict the future or, rather, the sheer impossibility of the task?

Hosias Kermode
Hosias Kermode
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

The latter

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Hosias Kermode

I’d add a third; the belief held by some that it is possible to predict the future.

D Glover
DG
D Glover
2 years ago

I’m intrigued by this analogy of cancer screening. What happens if you keep injecting the subject with Human Papilloma Virus?

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago

Schools have become increasingly illiberal over recent decades, having to toe the line of whatever Stonewall say is right at any given moment, and now BLM to boot. In other words, today’s secondary school children are radicalised. So it’s not surprising that intelligent, unstable children from traditional faith backgrounds, esp. Muslims, are vulnerable to radicalisation the other way. As long as we think it’s ok to tell teenagers what to think, we breed radicals of all types.

Last edited 2 years ago by Michael Chambers
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

There was no Islamic Terrorism prior to 1973. Musllims from India, Pakistan and East Africa entered Britain and there was no terrorism. Why ?
The bombing of a Manchester arena concert by Ariana Grande, a women with an audience comprising many young girls was an attack on Western culture of the post 1960s. The attack on the Twin Towers was at basic level a statement that the Muslim religion was important.
The rise of the Muslim Bretheren( founded in the 1920s) post 1973 and the Yom Kippur War; funds from arab Wahabi Gulf oil money post 1979; General Zia becoming President in Pakistan in 1973; inspiration from the achievements of Khomeini; the USSR invasion of Afghanistan; civil war in Algeria, ability of West to defend Kuwait but not Muslims in Sarajevo; changes in morality in the West, especially sexual post 1960s. Writers such as Sayyid Qutb and Ibn Taymiyyah ( died 1328 ) becoming influential. One could say Qutb’s influence on Islamic terrorism is very similar to Gramsci’s on Cultural Marxism or Lenin on Marxism. The replacement of Sufi influenced Sunni Islam by a Wahabi/ Deobandi version within the Indian sub -continent.
Islamic terrorism is a rejection of the mores of the West post 1960s. In the 1960s women wore the mini-skirt in Cairo, Beirut and Kabul. Omar Sharif was a product of a sophisticated Egyptian culture. How many Egyptian actors can succeed in the West today ?
Ibn Taymiyyah wrote to defend Islam from the Mongols.
Many Muslims rhough not supporting violence consider Britain has become degenerate and decadent over the last few decades and is very different to the country to which they emigrated in the 1940s to 1970s.
In short ” Medieval Theology and Modern Politcs”.
Islamic Terrorists use Qutb and Taymiyyah to struggle against the post 1960s culture of the West, especially the sexual mores.
It is likely the concept of chivalry entered Europe after the first Crusade, probably originating with the Beduin. There is no history of chivalry in China. Poems of love were common in 9th Century Baghdad and may well have influenced the troubadors of the court of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
Has the decline of Chivalry, especially post 1960s in the West produced a coarse, vulgar and crude society which large parts of Islam rejects and also led to the creation of the Metoo Movement?

D Glover
DG
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Could you extend your analysis to explain the grooming gangs of Rotherham and Oxford? Were they caused by the west’s abandonment of chivalry?

Charles Hedges
CH
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

It did not happen thirty years ago. Why? An aspect of Islam has changed and so has the West. Who had care of the young girls ? One cannot expect a wise head on young shoulders.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

It did happen 30 years ago, ask the Sikhs. The gangs started on Sikh girls and soon realised the ‘wealth of opportunity and choice’ was greater than they expected.
This is in reply to your final comment in reply to D Nemo; your previous original comment is excellent

Last edited 2 years ago by David Owsley
Charles Hedges
CH
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

I have spoken to Sikhs and they told me what they promised to do to Muslims if they did not stop. The Muslims stopped.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Exactly. Swords…

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

Salman Rushdie was threatened with death in 1989

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Nasty things happen to nice people. It is the responsibility of adults using their greater experience to prevent nasty things happening to children. Why did the male relatives of the girls, Police, social workers, local politcians, civil servants, GPs, teachers, etc fail to do their duty which allowed girls to be raped? The same comments are relevant to the those in Muslim and Irish communities who chose not to know and ask awkward questions about suspicious activities of their members.
It is like the Germans saying they did not know what happened to the Jews from 1933 onwards.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

How do we know they didn’t try but the islamofriendly overlords prevented it?

Charles Hedges
CH
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

That is why I stated there was decline in chivalry in the West which requires a man to be brave, honest, courteous and ready to help those in need, especially women.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

It did happen. SALMAN RUSHDIE

Last edited 2 years ago by Cheryl Jones
Charles Hedges
CH
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Few supported Rushdie, the start of the decline in the defence of freedom.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Western vices corrode Muslims living here as much as the rest of us. Corruptio optimi pessimi. Traditional Muslims see that and want to hold the line, some going radical.

Michael Chambers
BT
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

I agree, There’s been a sea change in morality in the UK in the last 60 years. What my parents’ generation were taught was wrong is now celebrated and those who disagree are -phobic or worse. We’ve not moved as a country on these issues. In the meantime, Islamic thought hasn’t been swept up in this tide, but at the same time they are grappling with how to counter it, to protect themselves.

Cheryl Jones
CJ
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

They should leave for somewhere more suited to their nutty regressive belief system

Michael Chambers
BT
Michael Chambers
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Pure prejudice. Islamic civilisation is rich and we have a lot to learn from it.

Cheryl Jones
CJ
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

If they don’t like the decadent West they should leave

Geoffrey Wilson
Geoffrey Wilson
2 years ago

I agree the point that “warning systems” can never be perfect, and that attempting to catch all potential perpetrators/diseases usually has horrible collateral damage costs. The sensible, rational, approach is step-by-step, so for each issue we judge whether the balance of benefits is to increase control or decrease control. This is not one-dimensional, so the (likely) majority view now that we need better protection against Islamic assaults on our laws is not necessarily an argument for more people being referred to Prevent. Regardless of one’s views on the effectiveness of Prevent, it is surely the case that we need stronger legal and penal deterrence if a Muslim breaks our laws. This deterrence is absent from most of the West’s governments today (see Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book Prey if you doubt that). Until we strengthen that, Prevent cannot succeed in preventing Islamic assaults on our laws.

Ellen Finkle
Ellen Finkle
2 years ago

But there have been only four actual terror attacks in the last two years. 
The suggestion is that far too many people are referred to Prevent. But perhaps Prevent deters those referred from going on to become terrorists. Prevent may be a waste of money, but the numbers you quote do nothing to establish that it is.

Cheryl Jones
CJ
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

I’ve often thought it strange the way things like this always prompt talks of ‘never happen again’ as if somehow every potential nutter can and could be stopped. As we close the net tighter the nuts just find a way through it but the rest of us end up strangled by the net

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
2 years ago

So we just shrug our sagging shoulders and dismiss such regrettable incidents as part of the rich tapestry of life in a multicultural society?
Duly noted.

Charles Mimoun
Charles Mimoun
2 years ago

I prefer an authoritarian politics than this kind of dangerous jungle.

Last edited 2 years ago by Charles Mimoun
Terence Fitch
TF
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

Why would a liberal democracy allow time travel? That is importing huge numbers of people effectively living in a pre enlightenment misogynistic mediaeval era with no understanding of English common law or our parliamentary system. Look at Lebanon now- a judge with death threats because he dares to bring Hezbollah and other sects with power to even give evidence after half Beirutwas destroyed. To them group loyalty is far far more important than the state. Thus the UK is being fragmented and undermined. The frog is coming to the boil.

Margaret F
Margaret F
2 years ago

(The only prevention worth discussing is cutting off immigration from Islamic countries and deporting the ones who are here.)
So, on to punishment… European-style punishment has proven to be completely ineffective against Islamic terrorists/criminals. This is because we punish the individual but they think/feel/live in family groups.
The answer is collective punishment and reprisals. In addition to whatever we do to the individual we need to deport the entire family and confiscate their assets. This will not affect innocent families who can live on, unmolested and hopefully eventually blend in to our society.
This will put a stop to much of the crime and terrorism that we have been subjected to from immigrants who have no intention of assimilating. And don’t believe for a minute that these families are ignorant of what their sons/grandsons/nephews are up to. They benefit from it, they support it, and they often actively teach it.
They are all in it together and they should all bear the burden of the problem they are causing.

Michael Loudon
SD
Michael Loudon
2 years ago

A few years back I organised large scale training seminars for fellow GPs and was asked to include an introduction to Prevent (because the govt wanted it, I was told) and to encourage colleagues to engage with it. I quietly failed to comply, quietly believing that the price of treating patients suspiciously was far too high (effectively a price of false negatives) since the essence of GP work is confidential trust with patients. And mindful that no sensible terrorist would ever reveal true intent to anyone let alone to their GP.
thank you Mr Chivers for your surely relevant explanation of the problem of false positives and false negatives.
PS: I had several colleagues who shared the planning role, none of whom wanted to step in promote Prevent, so I didn’t actually prevent Prevent, I merely ducked it.

Julia H
Julia H
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Loudon

Thanks for undermining efforts to spot mental health disturbances in potential terrorists. Do you also disregard safeguarding measures because of patient confidentiality? We truly have a fifth column at work against the population of this country.

Michael Loudon
SD
Michael Loudon
2 years ago
Reply to  Julia H

I disagree of course. The issue is not relevant “mental health disturbance” (that supposedly might be evident in someone who was meanwhile likely to conceal intent). I don’t subscribe to the “they must be mad so why can’t doctors diagnose them” idea. I wouldn’t confuse mental illness with homicidal intent.
I posted because the downside of quizzing and reporting would really just be racial profiling, and quite destructive of patient-doctor relationships. So big loss, no gain. Finally I didn’t block or undermine, I simply declined – as the person who usually did most of the work – to take up the task. My colleagues, including the person who led the educational group, didn’t take up the slack. No regrets this end. I’ve never met anyone I remotely suspected as capable/likely to commit terrorist action. And yes I am familiar with safeguarding obligations and have acted on them correctly so can reassure you I didn’t disregard them.

Barbara Williams
BW
Barbara Williams
2 years ago

We are all killers at the moment, we are all causing ecological collapse by human activity. COVID is a symptom, the start of our inclusion in the Sixth Mass Extinction. We need to voluntarily embrace Degrowth to reduce our consumption and population size until we reach a stage where we are no longer in ecological overshoot.

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago

ok you first…………….

George Stone
GS
George Stone
2 years ago

The uk population, but by far, England’s population is growing enormously because of immigration. Those climate change deniers the Green Party want unlimited immigration to the UK.

Cheryl Jones
CJ
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  George Stone

The Green Party appears to be committed to increasing our carbon footprint by turning lots of 3rd world consumers into 1st world ones. If anything demonstrates their utter hypocrisy and that the climate is being used as a battering ram to force their watermelon philosophy on us all, then that’s it.