Monday's broadcast of the BBC2 tv programme The New Al-Qaeda: jihad.com is worthy of comment.
We were expecting something like the presenter Peter Taylor's award winning documentaries explaining and interviewing various "talking heads" e.g. convicted/reformed terrorists, policemen, secret agents and politicians from all sides of the Northern Ireland conflict. Series such as Brits, is an important historical documentary series.
However, this latest programme, which involves "the internet" and "Al Quaeda" is not in the same league, and appears to support the the "Climate of Fear" agenda.
John Lettice writing in The Register seems to be as unimpressed as we are by this programme, particularly by the amateur "internet agent provocateurs" interviewed in the USA, whose reliance on entrapment, would be illegal in the UK.
The programme editors seem to have gone for tabloid "dumbing down" of the complicated issues, in favour of strong visuals produced by repeatedly re-broadcasting to millions of people, some disturbing web video images of roadside bombs being detonated.
Only a tiny minority of people in the UK have seen such images via extremist Islamic websites, as, quite rightly, the mainstream TV news does not usually show actual killings on screeen. It is no wonder that most viewers are shocked.
Most of the vehicles being ambushed seemed to be Soviet style armoured personnel carriers, so , presumbly, these were from the Afghan or Chechen conflicts, but, hey, a dramatic explosion, is a dramatic explosion , isn't it ?
However, being shocked by the visual images, most of which were used to illustrate the interview with the Saudi Arabian dissident Mohammed Al-Massari.
He runs a website where which include discussion forums where images and video links can be posted by anyone on the internet. To give the impression that this website is somehow the source of various Islamic extremist propaganda video clips such as terrorist kidnapper beheadings etc. is rubbish. Similarly, the ignorant calls for this website or others to somehow be "shut down" or even "attacked" hardly seems like a solution to the fundamental problems of radicilised young Muslims and the internet.
Where are the popular Islamic websites which counter this violent pornography ?
The programme seemed to criticise the fact, that this website and others, would, in the USA, be protected by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, the right to free speech.
Astonishingly, despite hiding the name of someone accused of terroist related activity in new Jersey USA "for legal reasons", the programme chose to focus on Babar Ahmad, a British citizen, who used to work at Imperial College in London as an IT support worker, and who is facing extradition to the USA , on dubious grounds, ander the controversial "no priima facie evidence" Extradition Act 2003 procedure to the United States of America.
Is this person in New Jersey actually Mazen Mokhtar, who seems to be the person mentioned in the indictment against Babar Ahmad, as athe administrator of a backup nirror website of Babar Ahmad's websites ?
Why were are the BBC portraying Babar Ahmad, who, even though he has obviously held extremist Islamic views, which we do not support, as some sort of Al Quaeda lynchpin, even though he has not been charged with any such crimes in the United Kingdom ?
The most serious charges that the US authorities are trying to bring against him are the possible donation, via his websites, and not by him personally, of a few thousand dollars to Chechen separaits or to the Taleban in Afghanistan, for "charitable" purposes. Even if theis money was actually used for buying weapons, that was not illegal in the United Kingdom back in 1999 or 2001, and even today, neither the Taleban nor any Chechen separist groups are on the Home Office's list of "proscribed terrorist organisations".
Babar Ahmad's supporters are rightly furious, and considering official complaints and possible legal action against the BBC.
Imperial College should be critical of the programme, as it definately gave the impression, to the non-technical audience, that Babar Ahmad's Islamic websites were actually hosted on the "powerful computers at Imperial College", rather than at a website hosting company in the USA, which is why the US authorities can claim some sort of legal hurisdiction in the case.
The programme "reveleaded" the supposed links with the alleged Al Quaeda communications expert, Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan. This is the man whose capture and alleged "turning" into a cooperative double agent by the Pakistani authorities, was blown by officials in the US Republican administration, leading to claims that somehow several buildings in the financial districts of New York, New Jersey and Washington were under immediate threat according to "high quality intelligence", leading to an increased state of alert being declared, just after John Kerry's Democratic Party Convention, when the Republican Presidential candiate George Bush's opinion poll ratings were starting to slip.
The side effect was to destroy any usefulness of this "double agent" and it seemed to lead to the premature arrest of several terrorist suspects in the UK, some of whom, apparently evaded capture.
This was widely reported in the UK press at the time, but it only seems to have now filtered through to the US media like ABC news, who are now claiming that these escaped terrorist suspects may perhaps be linked with the 7th July 2005 London suicide bombers
Apparently there is a family link between Babar Ahmad, and Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, they are some sort of cousins (not specified).
However, if Babar Ahmad and his relatively harmless websites (which he seems to have stopped after the September 11th 2001 attacks) were really such a key part of the Al Queda online network, then why were they not under surveillance, and why did that surveillance not lead to the capture of Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan months or even years earlier ? Remember that Babar Ahmad was arrested and released without charge in December 2003, and Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan was captured in mid 2004.
"The New Al-Qaeda" serieshas started off badly, and seems to be contributing to the NuLabour "Climate of Fear" and is already being used by politicians to support the Association of Chief Police Officers controversial "shopping list" of even more repressive legal powers aimed at the Internet and catch all "indirect" terrorist support.