British Government to Change Counterterrorism Language

By Matthew Harwood

Government officials are changing how they talk about terrorism in the United Kingdom, acknowledging it hurts community relations with Britain's Muslim community.

The Guardian reports:

Counter-terrorism officials are rethinking their approach to tackling the radicalisation of Muslim youth, abandoning what they admit has been offensive and inappropriate language. They say the term "war on terror" will no longer be heard from ministers. Instead, they will use less emotive language, emphasising the criminal nature of the plots and conspiracies. The government in future, they add, will talk of a "struggle" against extremist ideology, rather than a "battle".

"We hadn't got the message right," said one senior official. He added: "We must talk in a language which is not offensive." Another said that the terrorist threat must not be described as a "Muslim problem".

In the article, the Guardian also notes that the head of MI-5, Britain's domestic intelligence agency, is expected to tell Members of Parliament (MPs) today that the length of time the government should be able to hold terrorism suspects for is not up to the security and intelligence agencies, but a matter for Parliament and the police services to decide.

Precharge detention is a judicially supervised process whereby the police service can hold a suspected terrorist for a legislatively determined amount of time before charging the suspect with a crime. The current time limit  for precharge detention is 28 days, but a maximum of 90 days has been discussed. There is widespread opposition to extending precharge detention any further from civil liberties advocates as well as conservative MPs.

As a recent report from the International Herald Tribune put it, conservatives in Britain have found their "inner Liberal" on the issue of precharge detention. As Raymond Bonner reports, conservative opposition isn't mere political pragmatism to deliver a blow to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his majority Labour Party.

The basis for the Conservative Party opposition is not only political but also philosophical, party officials and independent analysts say. The party has long expressed a deep commitment to individual liberty. It opposes national identity cards, which Labour has proposed, and control orders, which let the police restrict the movement and activities of suspected terrorists.

Stay tuned for the January issue of Security Management, where our cover story tackles how Britain's counterterrorism efforts, including the government's use of language and precharge detention, have been percieved by British Muslims and whether it's helping to sabotage the radicalization process.


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