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May's terror review reveals state of unknowns

al-Qaeda really is in the library

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Home Secretary Theresa May has revealed the results of Lord Carlile's review of Prevent, the anti-terror program.

The £46m program includes action to improve internet filtering at government departments and libraries. It also revealed the creation of a Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit of police officers which investigates internet material which is illegal under UK law.

CTIRU was formed in early 2010 and has removed material on 156 occasions, it is also liaising with other forces around the world. CTIRU can receive reports via the Home Office website, which also explains how to complain directly to companies like YouTube.

The review notes that the US, as the world's largest host of internet material, is also hosting large amounts of extremist material. The report says UK authorities are "engaged with the US Government in this area on a basis of mutual understanding and valuing of each others' legislation." It also working with "the internet community".

The review notes that although Section 3 of the Terrorism Act allows police to serve notice to those hosting terrorist material, in practice this has never been used. Close relationships between police and industry means material has always been removed voluntarily. It notes these powers have proved ineffective internationally.

The Prevent strategy makes clear that the government needs to get its own house in order first. It warns that it does not have a government-wide filtering product to stop access to extremist material from schools, libraries and government departments.

Or rather there might be. The review states: "We are unable to determine the extent to which effective filtering is in place in schools and public libraries."

To stop the government itself providing access to material it is trying to block, the review said: "We want to explore the potential for violent and unlawful URL lists to be voluntarily incorporated into independent national blocking lists, including the list operated by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)."

The review dismisses the threat from right-wing extremists in the UK, although it does note that in 2010 a man was sentenced to 11 years for one of the largest weapons caches found in England.

It also warned that the internet has a fairly limited role in radicalising people. It says: "We know that comparatively few texts circulate on the internet and in hard copy and will be known to people who have been radicalised here."

The report adds that "the activity of influential and often charismatic propagandists who have covert face-to-face contact with vulnerable people is a key part of the radicalisation process".

Work has started on getting the principles of Prevent being included in undergraduate doctor training.

The report looks forward to a time when "a healthcare worker – be that a speech therapist, community psychiatric nurse or general practitioner – encounters someone who may be in the process of being radicalised towards terrorism, it is critical that the individual is offered the appropriate support."

The Channel program deals with people who are considered at risk of radicalisation: 1,120 people have already been referred to the scheme by police officers, teachers and youth offending services. Two hundred and ninety of these were under 16 and 55 were under 12.

The Prevent review documents are here, as pdfs. ®

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