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  • ‘Suspect’ not allowed to study chemistry/biology

    by Sunny
    23rd July, 2008 at 8:44 am    

    ukliberty highlights this example of Jacqui Smith banning a student identified as ‘AE’ from studying AS level Biology or Chemistry.

    (a) the objective of the Secretary of State in seeking to prevent or restrict involvement by AE in terrorism related activity is sufficiently important to justify limiting the right of AE to education;

    (c) the decision of the Secretary of State refusing consent was no more than was necessary to accomplish the objective of seeking to prevent or restrict involvement by AE in terrorism related activity. As I have explained AE contends that the “primary” purpose for him in doing these two AS Level course in the words of his witness statement “was an effort to start on the ladder to my medical studies”.

    Lee Griffin has some wise advice for future policy:

    Expect these subjects to be strictly off curriculum by 2010 along with P.E (encourages too much physical contact, something proven to be important in all knife crime), English (teaches you to say things that might offend another person) and Electronics/Computer science (for the obvious connections to easy routes to terrorism).

    Hmmm… what other subjects could be put on the ‘suspect banned list’? Clearly flying lessons are out of the question. No photography lessons either, the Met police will have you. Mathematics? Foreign languages? The list is endless. Move along people, no one’s civil liberties are being infringed on here.

                  Post to

    Filed in: Civil liberties,Terrorism

    16 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. School for scoundrels - Chicken Yoghurt

      [...] the Home Secretary has banned a suspected terrorist from studying AS level Biology or Chemistry, Sunny asks… Hmmm… what other subjects could be put on the ’suspect banned list’? Clearly flying [...]

    1. douglas clark — on 23rd July, 2008 at 9:10 am  


      Reading comprehension would be a good start. Damn dangerous things, words, in the wrong hands.

      I am astonished that ‘Liberty’ hasn’t taken this case up. The weasel word in the above is, of course, suspected terrorist. They can’t prove it, but they can act on a hunch? Welcome to 1984.

      Lees’ commentary is excellent, btw.

    2. Letters From A Tory — on 23rd July, 2008 at 10:07 am  

      I would have thought that with the availability of bomb-making information on the internet, A-level chemistry is the least of our worries.

    3. Justin — on 23rd July, 2008 at 11:00 am  

      Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford should definitely be top of the list. It’s sent an inordinate amount of bastards out into the world to ruin our lives.

    4. Random Guy — on 23rd July, 2008 at 1:31 pm  


    5. The Common Humanist — on 23rd July, 2008 at 1:34 pm  

      I mean, who knew that AS Level chemistry involved bomb making………..things HAVE* chnaged since I did my A Levels………..

      OK, we did make TNT……but there were no rucksacks, pipes, bus timetables or Korans in sight!

    6. Graham Smith — on 23rd July, 2008 at 2:36 pm  

      I assume religious studies is already on the list?

    7. Kulvinder — on 23rd July, 2008 at 2:51 pm  

      Douglas im also surprised that Liberty haven’t made more of this.

      The decision is obviously idiotic ‘AE’ wanted to take up medicine at university and needed those particular a-levels to do that, the judgement makes it clear that there are other ways for him to gain entry into university, but it doesn’t make clear what would happen if he did get in via alternate routes. After all its hardly like he’d be isolated from learning about chemistry and biology during that degree.

      We’re now in a situation in Britain where an individual who has not been found guilty of any crime has no right to study at the level of 16 or 17 year olds and we’re not entirely sure why because the judgement against him is partially based on closed material; whats even more shocking is the lack of any apparent reaction in the media or political world.

      But then i suppose all the government has to do is label someone a terrorist for the country to stop giving a shit.

      Presumably when a tv programme featuring the use of laboratory equipment comes on, or when gcse/alevel bite size is shown on the BBC he should just close his eyes and stick his fingers in his ears.

    8. Kulvinder — on 23rd July, 2008 at 3:13 pm  

      nb I take it advanced chemistry sets are soon going to be declared illegal just incase someone uses them to practise the ‘wrong type of chemistry’.

      As for the issue about sulphuric acid ‘being snuck away in a lab coat’, it took 2 mins to google this, and i have to say the fact 13 year olds are finding out how to create dangerous chemicals cheered me up no end.

    9. Hermes123 — on 23rd July, 2008 at 3:24 pm  

      I wonder if AE has a bloody long beard and a shaved head, in which case he should be given compulsory hairdressing lessons.

    10. persephone — on 23rd July, 2008 at 8:39 pm  

      from what I read AE was under a control order for a reason - with some orders you have to do quite a bit before being issued with one. Do we await for what is termed as an actual crime to be committed then?

      I am not saying that preventing AE to do AS levels is the answer as that is obviously farcical.

    11. Philip Hunt — on 23rd July, 2008 at 9:06 pm  

      This is not actually a new story. I wonder if he’s been banned from reading books about chemistry, too.

    12. Wanderer — on 24th July, 2008 at 2:38 am  

      You do not need college-level chemistry, or even instructions on the Internet, to make a bomb. Take your basic pipe bomb, for instance. It’s pretty damn obvious how to make one if you think about it for a minute. You obviously need a pipe (duh!), a way to seal it up, an explosive, and a fuse, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or a chemist) to figure out how those go together. Want something bigger? Anybody who didn’t know before the Oklahoma City bombing that you could make a bomb out of fertilizer soaked in fuel sure knows now. How about a more exotic technology? Defective gas water heaters regularly demonstrate how a fuel/air explosive works, generally by scattering a house halfway across town.

      It should also be noted that some pretty ignorant people, strung out on their own product, successfully synthesize methamphetamine. That’s a process which is much more complicated than making bombs out of commonly-available materials. Actually, given the notoriously explosive nature of meth labs, it could perhaps be described as an example of making bombs out of commonly-available materials without intending to do so.

    13. Kulvinder — on 24th July, 2008 at 5:10 am  

      Do we await for what is termed as an actual crime to be committed then?

      If the state has enough evidence to suggest you are about to carry out a terrorist attack - or any crime - they will prosecute you. The fertiliser bomb plot was hardly an instance where the police and CPS waited until an attack had been carried out. Infact they’ll even prosecute you if your ‘plot’ is of such a fantastical nature that its little more than science fiction (as was the case in the ‘Red mercury’ trial).

      The powers that be are neither impotent nor indecisive.

      What we have is a situation where a man who has not been found guilty of any crime; who has not even been charged with an offence has had his liberty curtailed to the point it would be an offence for him to study at the level of 16 and 17 year olds. Furthermore the full rationale for this judgement is kept from us.

      If this had occured in any other nation it would have rightly been condemmed as authoritarianism; yet our subservience to the state is such that it barely creates a ripple. Our history from the Magna Carta onward has been about limiting the power of the state and bringing into practise a system of law wherby those accused of a crime are brought to be tried before their peers.

      ‘AE’ has not been found guilty by any jury and i categorically refuse to condemn someone when the manner of their restraint is utterly alien to everything our predecessors fought for.

      I will not accept nor will i agree with the state placing such farcical limitations on a man whilst pointedly refusing to formally prosecute him or letting the public know why he is a threat.

      It is the very antithesis of open justice.

    14. BevanKieran — on 24th July, 2008 at 2:37 pm  

      Recent terror attacks in the U.K have succeeded at a low percentage rate because the terrorists lacked the proficiency in basic science skills; in addition to the cases where the bomb failing to go off, they have set of other signals such as buying ingredients in unnaturally large quantities. Efficient bomb-makers, such as the British university trained Ramzi Yusuf, are vital to the success of Al-Qaeda operations. Where someone has links with violent Islamist organisations, I have no problem with cutting this particular educational route to them; in contrast to the case involving the 50-year old BNP councillor bus driver who was sacked, it could be argued that AE has considerably more flexibility in the job market as an A-Level student with a panoply of non-combustible options open to him acceptable to our entropic needs.

      People going onto study A-level Chemistry and Biology (I am extrapolating from reports of people working in science and those in medicine) are disproportionately likely to be Asian and white-middle class; in recent years, my local sixth form college shut its chemistry and physics department with more people (mainly white-working class) entering hairdressing and other vocational courses. In contrast to other some other countries such as Ireland, the provison varies dramatically between the private and public sector in a numbers of ways: whether the teachers have degrees in the specialist subject and whether students can opt for single science GCSE’s or not. Also, the proportion of 2:1′s and higher degrees entering the teaching profession is lower than that compared to humanities. It used to be the case that women scientists (such as Kathleen Lonsdale) had to go to private boy’s school for furthering science studies; today, private girl’s school are disproportionately generating today’s female scientists. Is active curtailment of a particular individual’s choice worse than the bias inherent in the system which disenfranchises (in terms of participation in post 16-year old science) many thousands more, both today and historically; the analogy I would use is of an Islamist being denied a right to vote in a (pseduo) democratic system where there was property qualification which had already disenfranchised a large percentage of the population.

    15. Sunny — on 24th July, 2008 at 3:01 pm  

      I assume religious studies is already on the list?

      haha! good point.

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