UK: Secret police on campus


Richard Moore

    SPECIAL branch officers are breaking away from their
    traditionally secretive role to target Scottish universities
    and colleges to prevent future terrorist attacks.

What are they really up to? 



Special Branch targets terror in colleges 

The Herald
LUCY ADAMS, Home Affairs Correspondent 
October 07 2005 

SPECIAL branch officers are breaking away from their
traditionally secretive role to target Scottish universities
and colleges to prevent future terrorist attacks.

The move follows a decision by MI5, the security service, to
establish a Glasgow-based operation in response to the need
for greater local intelligence gathering.

All of Scotland's forces are working on initiatives to improve
links with communities, and now Tayside police, which was in
charge of policing the G8 summit this year, is piloting a
scheme to gather information on potential extremism.

The force has created a special branch community unit in the
aftermath of the 7/7 London bombings and a growing
apprehension about "impressionable" young people becoming
home-grown terrorists.

John Vine, Tayside chief constable, said: "We have to accept
the risk of home-grown terrorism and take a more proactive
response. We need much better intelligence about what is
happening in all our communities."

Universities, colleges and community groups in Scotland are
expected to be involved in similar moves to improve
counter-terrorism intelligence.

Extremist Islamic groups have admitted they are still trying
to recruit students at Scotland's universities despite
attempts to ban them.

Special Branch, like MI5, has established a fearsome
reputation for secrecy. The pilot marks a significant
departure from this.

Universities now market themselves across the world and many
try to attract students from Muslim countries.

Mr Vine said: "We have set up this unit to ensure liaison,
particularly with young people, universities, colleges and
schools within the community."  He will discuss the new
Special Branch Community Contact Unit at the Police Symposium
at Dundee University today.  It will form part of Operation
Theseus, the Scottish forces' initiative on counter-terrorism
which in-cludes improvements on intelligence sharing and
heightened precautions, such as armed officers at airports.

Mr Vine said: "We can no longer feel inured from this threat
simply because of our geographic location."

Special branch officers have already contacted Dundee
University Islamic Society and the International Students'
Society in an attempt to ensure a flow of information between
the police and communities.

Earlier this year the National Union of Students (NUS)
Scotland said it was concerned extremist organisations were
trying to operate on campuses and that, although several had
been banned, they had circumvented this by changing their

Research by Anthony Glees, director of Brunel University's
centre for intelligence and security studies, documented 14
cases since 1993 of people being charged with terrorism
offences having been in contact with extremist groups on

This included the case of Shamsul Bahri Hussein, a Malaysian
who read applied mechanics at Dundee University and has links
with Jemaah Islamiah, accused of bombings in Indonesia,
including the 2002 Bali blasts. Dundee was also home to James
McLintock, a Muslim convert who allegedly fought as a jihadi
in Afghanistan in the 1980s against the Soviets and later in

Peter Wilson, president of the Association of Chief Police
Officers in Scotland, said the Tayside "initiative provides a
very real opportunity to work even more closely with
communities, developing trust and providing reassurance".

He added that it was just one of a range of innovative schemes
being used by forces.

Copyright © 2005  Newsquest (Herald & Times) Limited. All Rights Reserved 


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