The Royal Courts of Justice granted Shamina Begum, the teenager who travelled to Syria in 2015 married and had had three children with an ISIS fighter, ‘Leave To Enter’ UK for her appeal against the deprivation of her British Citizenship before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), on the grounds she cannot have a fair and effective hearing if she is not present. A secondary issue raised by Lord Justice Flaux was if the SIAC had sufficiently considered the evidence of “real risk” to Ms Begum on transfer to Iraq and Bangladesh and mistreatment there, or failed to evaluate whether the effect of the deprivation decision was to prolong Ms Begum’s detention in the Syria camp, where conditions were such as would have breached her Article 3 rights if that Article applied.
Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary at the time, hit back against the judgment and the government almost immediately, saying her restrictions are a consequence of her actions, and a virtual appeal would be more fitting considering the national security implications of Ms Begum being in UK, and once in UK it would be impossible to remove her. Javid said that “judgements and precedents set could bind the hands of government in past and future cases.” And that Ms Begum walking the streets would be a lightning rod for Islamist and far-right extremists, Javid said there were only limited options for prosecution of crimes in a foreign war zones, he concluded that the Home Office should appeal against the judgment.
Priti Patel, current Home Secretary, has been slow to comment. Ms Begum is a courtroom drama that has been waiting to happen, Patel has been preoccupied with her points-based immigration system, the illegal migrant landings from France and keeping her head down following bullying allegations from her former permanent secretary. Likewise there has not been any comment from Attorney General Suella Braverman, this judgement in the wake of Black Lives Matter could not have come at a worse moment for The Prime Minister.
In June 2020 Europol reports “While efforts to travel to war zones have all but ceased, returning jihadists, their children and those individuals prevented from travelling will continue to pose a long-term challenge for security services. Continued calls by IS and al-Qaeda to carry out attacks in countries of origin have meant that individuals who previously would have travelled might now be encouraged to perpetrate terrorist acts in their home countries.”
A Redfield Wilton poll found 51% in favour of reinstating the death penalty for those convicted of terrorism in the UK.
Chris Grayling was deprived of the chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, this specialised committee was established in 1994 and its job is to oversee the work of the intelligence agencies. Grayling, who was considered by many an unqualified choice, was kiboshed by another Tory MP Julian Lewis, who staged a coup with 4 opposition MPs. Lewis has previously been a member of ISC, National Security Strategy Committee, The Committee of Arms export Controls, the Liaison Committee and chaired the Defense Committee. The government swiftly removed the whip, Lewis says it was improper for the government to impose a ISC chair, as the ISC Act of 2013 explicitly removed the right of the Prime Minister to choose the chair. Just as the new ISC unanimously agreed to release the infamously delayed Russia Report this week, Dominic Raab said it was “almost certain” Russians sought to interfere in 2019 UK election through publishing illicitly acquired documents online.
The report is expected to reveal Russian funding made its way to the Conservative party, and to add more to the Digital Media Sport and Culture Committee report of 2019 about Russian intervention in the 2016 EU referendum and politics beyond. Bill Browder, Magnitsky Acts campaigner, has suggested that Russia has deployed agents and influencers in British society.
It is possible the government will hold a debate and vote Lewis out of the ISC chair and leave the ISC rudderless till after the summer recess, and conveniently the recess will remove all MP’s from commenting to the press about the report.
On Thursday the National Cyber Security Centre (NSCC) advised Russian cyber actors were targeting organisations involved in coronavirus vaccine development and intellectual property, UK security officials detailed activity of the threat group known as APT29, which has exploited organisations globally. The NCSC assesses that APT29, also named “the Dukes” or “Cozy Bear” almost certainly operates as part of Russian intelligence services. This assessment is also supported by partners at the Canadian Communication Security Establishment, the US Department for Homeland Security, Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency and the National Security Agency.
The Decision to ban Huawei follows a technical review by the NSCC in response to US sanctions, but there is not so much to get excited about as buying new Huawei 5G equipment is not banned until after 31 December 2020. Thus Telcos could potentially stockpile equipment and install it over the next seven years and still remove it by 2027, by which time China would be all knowing and the 5G era/error would have come and gone, Samsung plan to develop and deploy 6G by 2026. Tom Tugendhat has suggested Telcos submit an annual report to Parliament, this would usefully document the chronology of equipment in use and decommissioning progress; presently only O2, owned by Spanish Telco Telefonica, does not contain Huawei components.
On Friday Health Minister Matt Hancock called for an urgent review into how Public Health England (PHE) have been recording Covid-19 deaths. It seems that PHE decided to record Covid-19 as the cause of death if the deceased had previously recovered from Coronavirus, even if the death was actually from natural causes. The government temporarily allowed deaths to be certified virtually without scrutiny, and it seems Covid-19 was used to tick the cause of death. If this is true the daily death rate could reduce by as much as half. Boris Johnson pledged a future independent inquiry into the handling of the pandemic, there is much to review: testing, track and trace, lockdown timing, quarantine, timing, expenditure, efficacity, failures and accountability. This latest PHE revelation is an embarrassment for the government, previous reviews can find fault with previous administrations but the pandemic happened on Johnson’s watch.
Although the above does not make the Conservatives look very shiny, according to Redfield & Wilton polling on 15th July the Conservative Party’s lead over the Labour Party is 7%, which is a weekly increase of 2%, and Boris Johnson’s approval rating increased by 5%. YouGov finds that Conservatives are polling 3 points higher than on election day with a 10% lead over Labour.