From The Telegraph U.K.
Anti-extremism scheme ‘spying on muslims’
A multi-million pound government scheme designed to prevent the radicalisation of young British Muslims is being used to gather intelligence about innocent people not suspected of terrorism involvement, it was claimed.
By Andrew Hough
Published: 8:00AM BST 17 Oct 2009
The “Preventing Violent Extremism”, also known as Prevent, was launched three years ago as part of the Government’s four “Ps” anti-terror agenda – Prevent, Pursue, Protect and Prepare.
It was designed to stop people being lured to al-Qaida ideology, prevent the radicalisation and committing acts of terrorism.
But reports have suggested the programme was instead being used to used to gather intelligence about innocent people who are not suspected of involvement in terrorism.
Critics criticised the scheme as being Britain’s biggest spying programme and a breach of civil liberties.
The Institute of Race Relations said the Prevent scheme had been used “to establish one of the most elaborate systems of surveillance ever seen in Britain”.
Some involved in the programme told the Guardian of their fears that they are being co-opted into spying.
Several sources involved in the programme reportedly said it gathered intelligence about the thoughts and beliefs of Muslims who were not involved in criminal activity.
Among the topics asked included gathering information about the sexual, religious and political views of innocent people as well as information about their mental health.
Ed Husain, of the Islamic think tank, the Quilliam Foundation, said: “It is gathering intelligence on people not committing terrorist offences.”
Shami Chakrabarti, the director of civil-rights group Liberty, criticised the project.
“It is the biggest domestic spying programme targeting the thoughts and beliefs of the innocent in Britain in modern times,” she said.
“It is information-gathering directed at the innocent and the spying is directed at people because of their religion, and not because of their behaviour.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “Any suggestion that Prevent is about spying is simply wrong. Prevent is about working with communities to protect vulnerable individuals and address the root causes of radicalisation.”