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Man Who Downloaded Bomb Recipes Jailed For 2 Years 741

Posted by Soulskill
from the throw-out-your-old-cookbooks dept.
chrb writes "Asim Kauser, a 25-year-old British man, has been jailed for two years and three months for downloading recipes on how to make bombs and the toxin ricin. Police discovered the materials on a USB stick Asim's father gave to them following a burglary at the Kauser family home. Asim pled guilty and claimed that he only downloaded the materials because he was curious. A North West Counter-Terrorism Unit spokesman said, 'I also want to stress that this case is not about policing people's freedom to browse the Internet. The materials that were downloaded were not stumbled upon by chance — these had to be searched for and contained very dangerous information that could have led to an explosive device being built.'"
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Man Who Downloaded Bomb Recipes Jailed For 2 Years

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  • by killfixx (148785) * on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:02PM (#38842055) Journal

    Title should read, "Man arrested for possibly planning to become a terrorist". But still, arrested for criminal possibility.

    His potential crime would have been a physical one. It needed bomb ingredients, guns, etc... He had none of the equipment, just the knowledge.

    Everything about his crime is just conjecture. How do you prove that he WOULD have done anything. Were there dates of action?

    I guess what it boils down to, if you're gonna have "evil" thoughts, don't write them down.

    Pre-crime, here to protect you from yourself.

    I'm feeling less special every day. I used to think I was a paranoid outsider. Nope, just observant.

    Why do the countries witht the highest Press Freedom Index [wikipedia.org] have to be so damned cold.

    Update: [rsf.org] Looks like Cape Verde has risen in the rankings... Hrmm...Might be worth the change of address.

  • by countertrolling (1585477) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:03PM (#38842091) Journal

    Dangerous to the state, that is. Oh well, gotta remember that the UK has no real free speech rights codified into law.. for what that's worth..

  • by Baron_Yam (643147) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:06PM (#38842147)

    They ALSO uncovered letters where he stated he was prepared for jihad and was seeking guidance, plus he'd gone so far as to spec and price out his weaponry.

    He wasn't just some curious chemist who happened to have an arabic-sounding name.

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:06PM (#38842157)

    Prosecuting someone for a device that "could have been built" (if only the suspect had things like a motive, and the materials) is like slapping me with a paternity suit for all the girls I "could have got pregnant" (if only they would have sex with me).

    Let's face it: this guy's crime was not downloading information on bombs and ricin. His crime was downloading said materials while having a Middle Eastern name.

  • by Blue Stone (582566) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:07PM (#38842173) Homepage Journal

    >So I got this copy of the "Anarchist Cookbook", is this terrorism?

    In order to answer this question, please stand next to this Dulux colour chart featuring the natural wood range.

  • by dean.collins (862044) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:08PM (#38842181)
    and the number of Bankers who were sent to jail for misuse of the knowledge they have.....zero
  • by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:11PM (#38842231) Homepage

    They ALSO uncovered letters where he stated he was prepared for jihad and was seeking guidance, plus he'd gone so far as to spec and price out his weaponry.

    He wasn't just some curious chemist who happened to have an arabic-sounding name.

    Reading TFA and commenting on anything but the skewed summary is discouraged.

    Bombs+weapons+expressed desire to use them = probably a bad guy. "Probably" should not be enough for prison, though.

  • by Ecuador (740021) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:11PM (#38842235) Homepage

    Uh, oh, I am really worried about myself. Not only can I think of many ways I could construct explosive or incendiary devices, I can think of OVER 100 WAYS TO KILL someone! And there are quite a few people I don't really like! Many of them are sitting in the parliament (note: I am Greek) so they have connections to the police!
    I am surely a prime suspect for potential terrorism, murder, political assassination and I don't know what else!
    Oh, shit! I just realized I know where the VAGINA is! Potential for RAPE right there!!!
    Where do I hide guys???

  • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:17PM (#38842373)

    What exactly did he do that you think should be illegal? He downloaded information off the internet; price lists, and bomb recipes. He possibly contacted someone (a single letter that may or may not have ever been sent) asking for spiritual guidance in relation to jihad. Note: not asking for support or guidance on how to perform jihad, but asking for spirtual guidance in relation to his having prepared for it. I'm not saying the guy shouldn't have been investigated, watched, and quite probably seen by a psychiatrist, but he hadn't done anything outside his computer and his head. And when we start locking people up for what they're thinking, we're already 90% of the way down the slippery sloap.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:20PM (#38842429) Homepage Journal

    I would point out that England has long had it be illegal to engage in communications that are preliminary to serious crimes. There's no implicit assumption in the British legal system that communications are harmless.

    2 Years seems a bit drastic, when a month or two would have been better for preventing polarization. As an American, of course, I find this antithetical to my values, but I don't have as much of a stake in British law.

    Sometimes, America doesn't seem like such a bad place to live after all.

    Give it time.

    I remember a day when the Government didn't track every single thing you did on the internet on some monster database. When I could come and go between Canada as I pleased, without a passport. When my personal computer wasn't loaded with DRM software and the DMCA hadn't even been dreamt of.

    It's creeping in - there are actually quite a lot of people who think it would be a good idea -- of course, not for them, but for, y'know, them other people, the ones who need watching.

  • by blackC0pter (1013737) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:21PM (#38842443)
    IANAL. Conspiracy to commit a felony can be punished pretty severely as is evidenced by this situation. Some people will argue that this tramples rights because you cannot even read something without risk of going to jail. The flip side is how do you arrest someone that is planning on blowing up a building without this law? Do you wait until they blow up the building so you can actually arrest them? What about someone planning to kill someone or rape someone? Do you wait until they commit the crime to arrest them or arrest them when you have enough evidence that they are planning to commit the crime? What if someone was planning to kill you or blow you up? Wouldn't you want them arrested BEFORE they killed you?
  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:22PM (#38842457) Homepage Journal

    Think of it from the other side too, if I had a USB stick full of credit card numbers (yours & your families, let's make it personal), and I told the fed I got them accidentally and was merely researching the sequencing credit card companies used for the their # assignments, does that sound like I'd be in the clear?

    Well, while it *does* sound suspicious...if they cannot show that you obtained them illegally, and cannot show that you have in fact, USED them. I can't see that you could be arrested.

    The mere possession of credit card numbers is NOT a crime. It is merely information.

    Heck, you could have used one of the freely available CC algorithm generators that will generate valid CC numbers,and yes, you might have done this for pure research.

    But if you had not broken in somewhere and stolen them.....if you had not knowingly purchased stolen CC numbers....just having them should not be a crime.

    In the US...at least for now...merely possessing information on how to generate CC's, or how to make a bomb or be an assassin are not crimes. It isn't a crime to own the Anarchy Cookbook, nor that book out years back that described how to kill people and get away with it...etc.

    However, if they find evidence that you were in fact, conspiring to USE that knowledge to commit a crime, then yes...this info could be used as corroborating evidence in the conspiracy case.

    But possession of knowledge is not and should not be a crime.

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:22PM (#38842459)
    Actually, both England and the United states have, for centuries, had a common legal principle that information, of itself, is not harmful as is protected. It is only acts based on that information that are actionable.

    This censorship of information is actually pretty recent, even in England. Don't mistake policies made in and around your lifetime for "long-standing" policies; it just ain't so.
  • Re:Sad day (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dave420 (699308) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:23PM (#38842477)
    Yet another person who doesn't know what a police state actually is... Hint: The UK is not one, and not even close.
  • by Marc Madness (2205586) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:26PM (#38842543)
    Interesting that later in the article we find the following quote from Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Porter: "This case has never been about proving an endgame and we may never know what his intentions were". So they admit to not knowing his intentions, how can they in good conscience say they are arresting him for intent?
  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:30PM (#38842611) Journal

    Bombs+weapons+expressed desire to use them = probably a bad guy.

    Just like every president in memory.

  • by g0bshiTe (596213) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:33PM (#38842647)
    Governments fear their citizenry knowing how to combat them in the event that it came down to the citizens vs the government.
  • by TaoPhoenix (980487) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:33PM (#38842665) Journal

    Hmm, I'll compromise a hair and say I don't mind needing a passport for visiting entirely different countries. After all, escaping to South America is the legendary trick used for 200 years by suspects, whereupon they invoke Nelson's HaHa. (At least Canada has one government, possibly saner than ours. You could tie up $100,000 in diplomatic costs in South America if you didn't need a passport and were on the run.

    But yes, all the rest of it is back toward the march to Big Brother. Oh Noes, Mystery Novels describe Murders! We can't have that!

    The only choices left are which depressing SF/SciFi/SyFy dystopia you like. "Choose your misery flavor!" I'll even let it be the same author: Philip K. Dick. Your choice of Minority Report or Eye in the Sky. Maybe BladeRunner vs. Total Recall.

  • by Artraze (600366) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:33PM (#38842667)

    I wouldn't call these "pre-crimes", as, after all, possessing these material is apparently a true crime. I'm not sure what a snappy word would be for them, but they come from "crime prevention" laws which have been around for a long time. Arguably by definition, _all_ possession laws fall into this category: can't own guns because you might shoot someone, can't have alcohol in the car because you might drink some (and being impaired you might hit someone), can't own drugs because you might sell/use them.

    Now, you may say 'but if the goal was to prevent people from getting blown up, wouldn't it be better to just make owning bombs illegal?" Sure, which is why it already is: owning a bomb is a crime... A crime we must prevent! And to way to stop that we is to make it illegal to know how to make a bomb!

    Now, what makes these laws appealing and neat is that they achieve their goal by definition. After all, the original crime is still a crime, but now you can also _maybe_ catch someone before they do it. However, in the grand scheme of things they are awful because they increase the scope of the law beyond the actual crime. At best, you still catch all the perpetrators of the base crime, but the also law opens the ability to 'catch' people that never would have committed the crime you seek to 'prevent'. Thus, while you may prevent one specific crime, you have actually increased crime overall.

  • by dnewt (2457806) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:34PM (#38842691)

    The police certainly aren't doing themselves any favours with this statement though:

    "I also want to stress that this case is not about policing people's freedom to browse the Internet. The materials that were downloaded were not stumbled upon by chance - these had to be searched for and contained very dangerous information that could have led to an explosive device being built. That is why we had to take action."

    I don't know about everyone else, but that really doesn't follow to me. Whether he actively seeked out the material or not, taking action on that basis alone is still "policing people's freedom to browse the internet" in my opinion.

  • by killfixx (148785) * on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:36PM (#38842723) Journal

    Prepared for jihad. That's your argument.

    If I wrote a letter that said I am prepared financially and spiritually for violence and had a shopping list containing weapons. Should I be arrested?

    If I have a erection and tell a friend, "Man, I'd really like to rape that chick." Should I be arrested?

    The question isn't whether terrorism should be illegal, it's whether unclear and unsubstantiated intent is illegal. Were the plans for when and where he would strike?
    No, just a letter saying he was ready if called.

    As much as I detest violence and (insert all bad things here), I vehemently oppose others controlling what I'm allowed to think.

  • by JSBiff (87824) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:41PM (#38842803) Journal

    "has long had it be illegal to engage in communications that are preliminary to serious crimes."

    But there's the crux - where's the evidence this is preliminary to a serious crime? Where is there anything which strongly indicates *intent* to build a bomb or commit a crime.

    I mean, it's one thing if they've got a phone recording of someone giving very explicit instructions to a hitman to kill someone, and making arrangments for payement. That's communications preliminary to a serious crime. That shows definite intent.

    How does downloading plans, but never acquiring any parts, making any threats or anything else, show actual intent?

  • by pla (258480) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:42PM (#38842825) Journal
    I don't mind needing a passport for visiting entirely different countries. After all, escaping to South America is the legendary trick used for 200 years by suspects, whereupon they invoke Nelson's HaHa.

    You realize, of course, that you don't need a passport to leave the US - Only to get back in with a minimum of hassle? Which if you never planned to come back, seems like a moot point.

    Not to mention that someone fleeing life in prison probably wouldn't get cold feet over mere doc fraud. :)
  • by killfixx (148785) * on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:43PM (#38842843) Journal

    Perhaps my irony detector is busted but I seriously doubt any banker INTENDED to lose a shedload of money and most probably weren't intendiing to blow up the world. The they did do some sockingly stupid things, especially in retrospect. But if we make stupid a crime I doubt we would have enough space if we used a couple of continents as penal colonies.

    HA! :) I actually LOL'd when I read that last bit. Unfortunately, I think they did. The choices they made (dis)respecting where they invested were clearly in their best interest. While the corp may have lost money, it knew the govt would bail 'em out. It had already done so with the airlines. As soon as the banks saw that, they knew they had a golden ticket to fraud. Lost shitloads of cash (I mean SHITLOADS!), and still handed out bonuses to top executives.

    Normally, I'm the first one to subscribe to Hanlon's razor, "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity", but not this time. This entire thing was willful from the beginning.

  • by fish_in_the_c (577259) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:46PM (#38842887)

    So what if his spirtial guidance turned out to be 'don't do it man'! ... you shouldn't punish people for being tempted, because EVERYONE is tempted to do what is wrong from time to time. It is only when they actually DO it that they have DONE something illegal.

    Sorry , but the though police should have no place in the modern world, but Europe has never fully had the same ideas as america on that.
    Our constitution was designed to allow for citizens to actually talk about plan and attempt to carry out a rebellion if the government every stopped listening too them, by people who had just recently done exactly that.
    So, you are not supposed to be able to arrest people for 'treason speech' or 'intent' in this country ( the kings of Europe routinely did such things.) They expected oaths of loyalty and anyone who wouldn't take them could be punished etc. etc.

  • by hacksoncode (239847) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:48PM (#38842905)
    More like suicide, actually.

    That book is almost tailor made to kill terrorists by giving them dangerous recipes, rather than to actually enable them.

  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Friday January 27, 2012 @02:56PM (#38843041) Journal

    0 days would've been better. If he had Rommel's book on armored warfare would the UK government charge him with planning an invasion of Russia?

  • by Garridan (597129) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:31PM (#38843625)
    They'll still let you across the border. Unfortunately, when you try to come back across the border, you'll probably run into problems unless you're white and have a local accent.
  • by citylivin (1250770) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:33PM (#38843647)

    "what if he actually WAS planning on trying to make a bomb? Why should we wait until this person has actually killed potentially hundreds of people with a bomb or some similar device or act before acting against him?"

    Yes of course we should wait till he commits an actual crime to charge him with one. But here i stupidly believe that one should have to commit an actual crime to go to jail. Of course i haven't been brainwashed by CSI and chuck bauer to believe that people are guilty until proven innocent. Fuck this "thought crime" stuff.

    If he is indeed a danger, they could you know, gather real evidence, get a court order to tap his phones, etc. Then they should have no problem proving in court that he was meeting with terrorists, or buying supplies for bomb making or whatever. He could simply be researching a book or something! Saying he is definitely a terrorist based on a few files on his hard drive is making quite a leap that would have been an un thinkable position in the mid 90s, when MOST of us had a floppy disk with the anarchists cookbook on it. I don't believe that "times have changed". Freedom never goes out of style.

    Id rather have thousands of innocent people getting killed (even if i was one of them), than have one innocent person going to jail for a crime they have not even committed. I am sure we all wrote crazy stuff in our diaries in middle school which could be taken out of context by the right government official. So if those thousand people survived, and I was one of them, would I want my children growing up in a world where people can be rounded up based on the contents of a text file and nothing more?
    Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils. Still the best American motto in my opinion.

  • by DarthVain (724186) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:48PM (#38843871)

    I bet the communication had to be immediate or at least a "plan"...

    "I'm going to go kill X right now!"

    or

    "I'm going to kill X on July 3rd, 2014"

    Etc...

    Otherwise you might as well go arrest anyone who has any information whatsoever on chemical, biology, physics, science...

    Maybe if I draw a diagram of a piano, attached to a rope, on top of a building, with a stick figure at the bottom of the building... heck even better I could make it a flip book, and anyone that downloaded it would have nefarious plans worth arresting. Also anyone that had read a murder mystery book. I know last weekend I was part of a fictional murder mystery dinner party, and yes I was the murderer... I could have used that plan in real life! Of course I am not an 81 year old Italian named Papa Vito either, Mamma Mia!

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday January 27, 2012 @03:52PM (#38843925)

    in 5 yrs or less, TSA will convert 'drivers licenses' into internal US passports.

    ie, they'll install themselves at every point where people change planes, busses, trains, etc. highways/tollboothes are not out of their reach, either, in their eyes.

    so, to pass around in the US, you'll need to stay off this or that 'bad guy' list. move around in your own country? you'll have to reverify yourself.

    but its all for our own safety, don't you know.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday January 27, 2012 @04:10PM (#38844129) Journal

    That's not clear intent, that's wishful thinking. Where and when did he intend to bomb? If there's no plan, there's no intent.

  • by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Friday January 27, 2012 @04:17PM (#38844241)
    Well you did have Goldman Sachs selling things to people that they knew were going to or very likely to fail (and did fail in the end)...precisely because Goldman Sachs were making bets that they would fail.

    That's pretty much the definition of fraud....
  • by Hatta (162192) on Friday January 27, 2012 @04:27PM (#38844371) Journal

    This will likely get modded as flamebait and/or I'll be told I'm some sort of communist against free speech, but the simple fact is that if they were able to prove in a court of law that this person was actively looking for this information - you don't go actively looking for such information, and keep a shopping list of the sorts of things that you could use to commit such an act at hand unless you're either working in a particularly specialised field or actually looking to commit some sort of atrocity.

    Yes, you are some sort of communist against free speech. You just criminalized curiosity. You are more dangerous than any terrorist. Terrorists can only kill people. Censorship kills ideas.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Friday January 27, 2012 @04:33PM (#38844451) Journal
    Exactly, this would be like claiming you were intending to counterfeit Windows because you downloaded the Win2K source code that hit the net awhile back. Hell who HASN'T looked at the anarchist cookbook just to see what the fuss was about? Most of the same stuff they listed in the book you've seen in movies about hitmen, I remember one using the whole 'rig a light bulb with Joy liquid and gas to make a timed bomb' trick, i think it was a Charles Bronson movie. this is no different than demanding libraries give out a list of everyone who has ever checked out 'The Catcher In The Rye' because some nutball had a copy when they went apeshit. If they found him with a bomb lab in his kitchen fine and dandy, otherwise its "ZOMFG he can read! that's no good, he might have thoughts and stuff ZOMFG!" Allow me to say though thanks to the UK, every time I think the USA is the douchebag jackboot country you gotta come along and top us, thus making us feel a little better about our country, so thanks.
  • by Bootsy Collins (549938) on Friday January 27, 2012 @04:35PM (#38844473)

    God, who modded this up? In what way does that clearly show intent? It might, or it might not, depending on how he meant the word "jihad," which normally does not mean terrorism or, to western Muslims, even any kind of armed fight with or assault on enemies. It can (and frequently does) mean nothing more than the personal struggle to lead a good life.

    Mind, I'm not saying he didn't have nefarious ends in minds; I have no idea. But how are you so sure he did, from those words?

  • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday January 27, 2012 @04:49PM (#38844701) Homepage Journal

    The only choices left are which depressing SF/SciFi/SyFy dystopia you like

    SyFy != Sci Fi. Sci fi is Asimov and Heinlein and Star Wars and 2001. SyFy is stupid shit on a useless cable channel that is an embarrasment to anybody with half a brain.

  • by Beerdood (1451859) on Friday January 27, 2012 @05:52PM (#38845505)
    Jesus, how many "thought crime" references does this thread need to have? This man was not arrested for *thinking* about blowing something up, it's because he documented it and wrote it down - which has already been discussed multiple times.

    Here's why half this thread is freaking out over the arrest - and why it's littered with references to thought crime & Minority report : Intrusive thoughts [wikipedia.org]. Everyone's had these from time to time - maybe one day you're looking at your wife sleeping and you might think something like 'I could strangle her right now' or something equally perverse, then you wonder why the hell you would even think such a terrible thing. Intrusive thoughts. I'll bet half the slashdotters here have secretly thought to themselves how cool it would be to blow something significant up - maybe a Walmart or Monsanto, Apple, IBM or Microsoft HQ, or a parliamentary building etc.. But the thought only sticks around for a few seconds, before you realize how bad an idea that is and you wouldn't do that in a million years. But the point is, you briefly thought of it for a few seconds. That's why there's such a disdain here for what appears to be *thought crime* - because we all have dirty, perverse thoughts about things very illegal - and that this ruling sets some sort of precedence.

    So what do we all do when we have some intrusive thought? Well hopefully if you're smart, you never mention it to anyone ever. What you don't do is download bomb making plans and write a letter saying you have prepared yourself physically and financially for jihad. Hell, he even had a list of prices of some weapons and things, including a motherfucking grenade launcher. That's no longer 'just a bad thought', this is elaborate investigation into killing people.. Simply having bomb-making plans probably wouldn't be enough to justify this an arrest, but the other info (like the list of weapons and prices, and the 'jihad' reference) is more than enough for a conspiracy to commit murder charge. I don't know if that's the actual charge he was arrested under, but it would seem fit.

    This man was not arrested for 'thought crime'. This is a clear 'conspiracy' charge. *Apologies if this is the 2nd post, didn't seem to go through the first time
  • by AdrianKemp (1988748) on Friday January 27, 2012 @08:04PM (#38846699)

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with arresting people for having detailed bomb plans and no explaination for why.

If it smells it's chemistry, if it crawls it's biology, if it doesn't work it's physics.

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