Who watch him lest himself should rob / The prison of its prey


in Politics, Rants, Security

In case anyone doubts that the War on Terror creates situations straight out of Kafka, reading this article from The Guardian is in order. Sabbir Ahmed, a British citizen, was held in a detention centre for nearly two months because officials thought he was Pakistani and wanted to deport him there. He couldn’t prove that he was British because his passport was in his London flat and they offered him no other means by which to prove that he was, in fact, born in Blackburn as the son of two other British citizens.

He ought to be receiving some pretty heavy compensation, and high level apologies and/or sackings, for this kind of massive incompetence. Of course, this also speaks of institutional racism. Frances Pilling, chairwoman of the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees, said: “They chose not to pursue any avenue of investigation at all.” If he had been white and named John Brown, they might have accepted that he was from Blackburn after calling the Passport Office, or even some people there who would vouch for him.

It goes to show, yet again, that we have more to fear from government than from terrorists.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous March 1, 2007 at 11:05 pm

It goes to show, yet again, that we have more to fear from government than from terrorists.

Being locked up for two months is bad, but getting blown up is a lot worse, no?

Milan March 1, 2007 at 11:13 pm

Yes, but we know about all the people who get blown up (in rich countries, at least). We have little way of knowing how many undeserving people are being detained or even tortured.

Anon @ Wadh March 2, 2007 at 12:56 pm

Your blog was down for a number of hours earlier today. It said something about a database error.

Anonymous March 2, 2007 at 3:58 pm

A Belgian UN worker travelling with a full diplomatic passport recount the nightmarish experience he had with US customs when he landed in New York to chair a UN meeting


tom March 2, 2007 at 6:25 pm

while interesting, the UN case doesn’t seem comparable

Milan March 2, 2007 at 6:29 pm

Your blog was down for a number of hours earlier today. It said something about a database error.

I know. GoDaddy’s MySQL server crashed, once again.

When that happens, it is usually just one part of the site that dies: the wiki, this blog, or the nsn section. Irksomely, it is usually this blog, which is the most used bit by far.

Mike Kushnir March 3, 2007 at 11:46 am

it’s pretty similar here. as i was returning from san sebastian last night, the police ended up tearing apart the luggage of an arab family at hendaye station.

the racism was all the more striking due to the fact that, that night, i was the one without papers.

Sarah March 4, 2007 at 2:41 am

It is interesting that these people had already been in prison, cos by that point there have been multiple points in the criminal justice system where race will probably have affected the way they were handled:
in being initially arrested (there are notable racial disparities, especially for driving offences, carrying a weapon or drugs),
in the likelihood of getting bail (which affects your chance of prosecution),
in the likelihood of being convicted,
in the length of the sentence given,
in the proportion of the sentence served before you are released,
& then to top it all off, they use racial criteria as a basis for determining your nationality & hence for deportation.

I don’t know the facts of the specific case, but the racial trends in who gets stopped when driving suggests that it is quite likely if the guy was white he would never have been arrested, let alone imprisoned or had people try to deport him.
So, really, the ‘War on Terror’ is just the cherry on the top of our profoundly racist criminal justice system.

Anonymous November 1, 2007 at 10:06 am

Even worse: after someone reports a “terrorist threat,” the whole system is biased towards escalation and cover-your-ass (CYA) instead of a more realistic threat assessment.

Watch how it happens. Someone sees something, so he says something. The person he says it to — a policeman, a security guard, a flight attendant — now faces a choice: ignore or escalate. Even though he may believe that it’s a false alarm, it’s not in his best interests to dismiss the threat. If he’s wrong, it’ll cost him his career. But if he escalates, he’ll be praised for “doing his job” and the cost will be borne by others. So he escalates. And the person he escalates to also escalates, in a series of CYA decisions. And before we’re done, innocent people have been arrested, airports have been evacuated, and hundreds of police hours have been wasted.

Anon April 7, 2008 at 1:24 pm

“No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.”

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