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Is the West Building Its Own Iron Curtain? 337

Posted by timothy
from the come-now-citizen-what-are-you-hiding? dept.
New submitter pefisher writes "The British are apparently admitting that they track their citizens as they travel the world (through information provided by intelligence agencies) and are arresting them if they have been somewhere that frightens them. 'Sir Peter, who leads the Association of Chief Police Officer's "Prevent" strategy on counter-terrorism, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that those returning from Syria "may well be charged and investigated, but they will be put into our programmes".' The program seems to consist of being spied on by the returnee's cooperative neighbors."
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Is the West Building Its Own Iron Curtain?

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  • No (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sideslash (1865434) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:35PM (#46076125)
    The Iron Curtain kept people from escaping from oppressive regimes. This article is just talking about prosecuting people who have been fighting for terrorists, and scrutinizing those suspected of hanging around with terrorists. It has auras of creepy surveillance, but definitely is not an Iron Curtain.
    • Dimwit. The oppressive regime is yours.

    • Re:No (Score:5, Informative)

      by gmuslera (3436) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @08:51PM (#46076635) Homepage Journal
      Fighting for terrorists? Like the ones sending drones to schools and weddings? The club may be far bigger than you think.
    • Re:No (Score:4, Funny)

      by crutchy (1949900) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @09:41PM (#46076959)

      The Iron Curtain kept people from escaping from oppressive regimes

      oh you mean like the united states government

      This article is just talking about prosecuting people who have been fighting for terrorists

      oh you mean CIA operatives

      scrutinizing those suspected of hanging around with terrorists

      oh you mean congressmen

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by schnell (163007)

        The Iron Curtain kept people from escaping from oppressive regimes

        oh you mean like the united states government

        I know I shouldn't feed the trolls, but this just pissed me off way too badly. Whom has the US kept from escaping its regime? The US has had thousands of willing expatriates [barnesandnoble.com] over the years to Communist countries.

        Do you seriously want to draw an equivalency between the NATO (US and European allies) policy on expatriation versus that of the Warsaw Pact countries? Are you utterly ignorant of the Refuseniks [wikipedia.org]? Do you really dishonor the memory of the Berlin Wall dead [wikipedia.org] so badly in the name of your political hatred

        • by Bogtha (906264)

          Whom has the US kept from escaping its regime?

          Perhaps you missed it, but there were a bunch of people who didn't want to be part of the USA back in 1861, and the USA fought a war to force them to stay. Your country is literally defined by its unwillingness to let people leave.

    • Oh, it's an iron curtain... it's just that this new and improved one encircles the whole of the world.

  • by SecurityTheatre (2427858) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:36PM (#46076137)

    In discussions about government spying and surveillance, there is often a vocal group who says "if you don't have anything to hide, then this spying should not bother you."

    The counter argument is that governments have tended to take information they are given and when the right person is in power, or the right sentiment strikes the public, those programs are expanded and distorted beyond their original intent.

    I'm sure in the 1970s and 1980s when these programs were first beginning to be set up, they had noble intentions of only ever targeting known criminals and spys, and eventually were justified by saying that if makes people feel more secure in a post-9/11 world.

    But the reality is, even without these programs, we live in the safest time that humanity has ever seen. The odds of dying of a freak accident like choking on a grape are more real to the average person than terrorism, or crime.

    This is not the right solution to this invented problem.

    • by tapspace (2368622) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @08:05PM (#46076361)

      Spot on. I just lost my modpoints, or I wouldn't be commenting, I'd be promoting.

      Like all rational policy, there needs to be some sort of risk/reward analysis objectively performed on the "security" aparatus in the West. For 100 years of claiming superiority as the "first" world, we seem to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater at an alarming rate seemingly in reaction to the various growing pains in the "second" (and, in some cases, "third") world. What happened to our example? Even more frighteningly, what WILL happen? The massive security aparatus of the West (and, obviously, the US first and foremost) represents an enormous risk to future security of the freeman. And, it counters an absolutely miniscule risk in comparison. This is no sensible policy. I pray to God (literally) that this is reversible.

      • by Aighearach (97333) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @08:26PM (#46076471) Homepage

        The US is not "first and foremost," the UK has 100% information sharing with the US. We are fully and entirely the same team in this.

        • Lots of countries have 100% information sharing with the US.

          It's called strongarming/bribing/blackmailing/flat out threatening.

          • It's never "100%" There's always phase lag, transcription errors from data reformatting, and simple deceit in what is transmitted to other country's security forces.

            • by Aighearach (97333)

              That is the old days

              They have direct access, it is different than getting a copy in their email.

            • by dbIII (701233)
              It's also one way. Even PFC Manning had access to a lot more than people with a high clearance level in allied nations. That's mostly due to a fuckup in classification levels and bad defaults but it happened and probably still is.
          • by EasyTarget (43516)

            Lots of countries have 100% information sharing with the US.

            It's not really sharing, in the traditional form of the word.

            More like paying protection money, to be honest. I mean, you might get back something you can use against your political enemies (so long as they are Americas enemies too), but mostly you have to hand it over and not look them in eye; and all the while some thug is poking under your head of sate saying thing like 'this parliament looks a bit old to me, positively a fire hazard really, be a shame if it burned down.. what do you think?'

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I pray to God (literally) that this is reversible.

        I see. Well, thanks for nothing. Some of us are trying to do something about it. Maybe you could help instead of chatting to your invisible friends about it...

    • by Shakrai (717556) * on Sunday January 26, 2014 @09:08PM (#46076765) Journal

      The counter argument is that governments have tended to take information they are given and when the right person is in power, or the right sentiment strikes the public, those programs are expanded and distorted beyond their original intent.

      You don't even have to look at surveillance programs to prove this point. My favorite example? The US Census was used to assist in the rounding up of Japanese-Americans for internment. It was also given to General Sherman during the Civil War and helped his Army identify productive areas of the South to destroy during the March to the Sea. Neither usage was condoned by the laws in force at the time the data was collected. The usage to track down Japanese-Americans wasn't even legal at the time and remained secret for decades after the war.

      I get my census form and they get one piece of information: X number of people live here. Race? "Other: American"

      • by dwater (72834)

        iinm, something similar happened in the UK too, if you can count the Isle of Man as the UK :

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/worl... [bbc.co.uk]
        "Isle of Man church service marks Manx link to Holocaust"

        "The Manx Holocaust memorial service is a "poignant" reminder of the Isle of Man's role as an internment centre during WW2, said organisers.

        Between 1940 and 1945 thousands of Jewish refugees were held as "enemy aliens" in six island internment camps."

        Shameful. Kind of reminds me of Gitmo...

        • by dbIII (701233)
          Australia did the same thing, and with a twist held the Jewish refugees under far more rigorous conditions than the actual prisoners of war. My parents had a lot of contact with Italian P.O.W.'s who were let out unsupervised on day passes.
          The UK and British Commonwealth had a similar suspicious attitude back then to Jewish refugees that is being shown to Moslem immigrants now.
      • by hjf (703092)

        How about the one of... i don't know what country, which recorded peoples' religions so they could give them proper burial. Until they were invaded by the nazis. You know how germans love efficiency, you can only imagine what a happy day it must have been for them.

      • by rastos1 (601318)

        While I like your post and stance, I have to say something: I live in a country of about 5 million people. From that it is estimated that about 400 000 are gypsies. And it is estimated that at about 100% of them are on unemployment benefits and social welfare (which is a significant cost for the state). But those are just estimates. We are not allowed to track the race or ethnicity by law here and so we don't know any of that for sure. We don't know how many schools need to have teachers speaking their lang

    • by dido (9125)

      Very well put. What I like to say to people who say that they have nothing to hide is a quote from Cardinal Richelieu: "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him." This massive trove of surveillance data can and will be used against anyone whom the powers that be don't like, and it is very easy to twist casual remarks and jokes out of proportion, to destroy the credibility of someone who may rock the boat. God forbid you are act

    • by ignavus (213578)

      In discussions about government spying and surveillance, there is often a vocal group who says "if you don't have anything to hide, then this spying should not bother you."

      Answer: "So, if that is the case, then you won't mind giving me your name and address and phone number. After all, `if you don't have anything to hide, then this spying should not bother you'."

  • Irony (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:39PM (#46076165)

    That Britain is the place where 1984 actually happens.

    • Re:Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Adam Colley (3026155) <mogNO@SPAMkupo.be> on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:49PM (#46076249)

      War is Peace
      Freedom is Slavery
      Ignorance is Strength

      More seriously, it is getting a bit that way here and the idea that you can be held simply for travelling to a country the government of the day doesn't like is outrageous.

      For a start anything you do outside the country is none of their damn business. Secondly people may well have very legitimate reasons for going, perhaps they have friends/family there, perhaps they're working for an aid agency, amnesty, independent media or doctors without borders? This country is going to hell in a handbasket.

      Additionally, this scumbag government is trying to get rid of the human rights act and withdraw us from the european convention on human rights, the tabloid fodder they're using to justify it is that prisoners may get the vote if we stay in. (which they should have anyway, they're supposed to lose their liberty, that is all, not be tortured/raped/beaten in private prisons or detention centres and not disenfranchised.)

      • by hjf (703092)

        Some countries (i think the US) have laws against sex tourism. So if you go to another country, where it's legal, and have sex with a prostitute, you could be prosecuted for that. Yes, I know, the point of the law isn't that. It's about discouraging sex tourism to places like cambodia where people go to have sex with children. But really, even with that, it's really a bit too far fetching. The intentions of the law may be good... but punishing people for what they do outside their own sovereignity isn't the

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bing Tsher E (943915)

      Well, George Orwell, who was British, wrote the novel.

    • I believe it was refered to as "Airstrip One"
    • Re:Irony (Score:4, Insightful)

      by gmuslera (3436) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @08:55PM (#46076673) Homepage Journal
      This Britain is where 2014 is actually happening, and is making 1984 look outdated, and optimistic.
      • by Guy Harris (3803)

        This Britain is where 2014 is actually happening, and is making 1984 look outdated, and optimistic.

        So a boot stamping on a human face forever is better than the UK now?

  • Iron curtain? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by benjfowler (239527) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:41PM (#46076179)

    The notion of this being an Iron Curtain is a bit silly IMHO.

    However every country on Earth has laws against their citizens defecting to the enemy, and serving as enemy combatants. Why should Muslims get a free pass, because it's currently unfashionable to call them out on antisocial and illegal behaviour (under the rubric of "anti racism")?

    You don't, as a Muslim or anybody else, move to the land of milk and honey, take advantage, and then go and wage war against your country's interests. If you do so, then your adopted country is well within its rights to deal with you as they would any traitor.

    • Re:Iron curtain? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by greenbird (859670) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @09:05PM (#46076745)

      The notion of this being an Iron Curtain is a bit silly IMHO.

      You're right. What they're doing is far more oppressive and effective than anything the creators of the Iron Curtain ever dreamed of.

      However every country on Earth has laws against their citizens defecting to the enemy, and serving as enemy combatants.

      Those laws are supposed to be applicable when the country is at war, at least in a country with rule of law. I wasn't aware that Britain was at war with Syria.

      Why should Muslims get a free pass, because it's currently unfashionable to call them out on antisocial and illegal behaviour (under the rubric of "anti racism")?

      So now what you're saying is that "antisocial behaviour" is the equivalent of serving as enemy combatants.

      The Western Democracies are so far down the slippery slope people like you can't even see the top anymore. They've got their propaganda machines cranked up to a level that would leave Goebbels in a highly admirable daze.

      As someone further up posted, your chances of dying from choking on a grape are far higher than dying from a terrorist attack. Yet here you're defending the government monitoring and oppressing a group simple for have what you define as "antisocial behaviour".

      • by dwater (72834)

        > what you define as "antisocial behaviour".

        Perhaps he/she was just being literal - I think it is literally correct, no? Perhaps he's English who are famed for their use of 'understatement'.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dkleinsc (563838)

      Why should Muslims get a free pass, because it's currently unfashionable to call them out on antisocial and illegal behaviour (under the rubric of "anti racism")?

      Because the vast majority Muslims who either enter or leave "the land of milk and honey" are not enemy combatants or terrorists or intending to fight any kind of war. For every genuine terrorist in the Muslim community, there are approximately 250,000 who have nothing to do with it. What you seem to be arguing is that we should oppress 249,999 innocent people in order to catch the 1 bad person.

      My guess is that you don't know any Muslims personally. I've known a few over my life, from a bunch of different ar

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said "The objections to despotism and monopoly are fundamental in human nature. They rest upon the innate and ineradicable selfishness of man. They rest upon the fact that absolute power inevitably leads to abuse."

    Look at what happened to people's politicians like Tony Blair and Obama, or government goons like Clapper and Alexander who defile the Constitution and flip us the bird. History as far back as we know it shows absolute power is always abused, to the point now w

  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:46PM (#46076225) Homepage

    The Iron Curtain's primary goal was to keep the information (about West's superiority) out — and own citizenry in.

    As long as the British are free to leave their country, things are Ok... Letz [wikipedia.org], I believe, once said: "A country you can leave is the country you can live in."

    • by Solandri (704621)
      Bingo. I think a lot of people too young to remember the Cold War look at China, see that it's Communist, and figure the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain was like that. It wasn't. The Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War was more like North Korea.
  • Well, duh... (Score:5, Informative)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @07:48PM (#46076241) Homepage Journal

    Is the West Building Its Own Iron Curtain?

    Gee, ya think? What has it been, like over a decade since the Patriot Act and people are just now figuring it all out?

    I'm glad that the totalitarian impulses of the global elite are finally starting to penetrate peoples' realityTV-addled brains. Maybe pretty soon they'll figure out that it's just a mechanism to promote the redistribution of wealth upwards.

    Then it will get interesting. I can't really fault people for taking a long time to figure out that ubiquitous surveillance and a corporate/government surveillance regime is a bad thing. I didn't want to believe it myself until around the middle of last decade, when it became impossible to deny.

    But it's one of those things that once you see it clearly for what it is, you can never un-see it. Now, it's impossible to see practically any major news story without seeing the effect of developed, industrial nations turning into gulags.

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      I can't really fault people for taking a long time to figure out that ubiquitous surveillance and a corporate/government surveillance regime is a bad thing. I didn't want to believe it myself until around the middle of last decade, when it became impossible to deny.

      Considering that there is still substantial disagreement and debate about if it is good or bad, I don't think you're going to persuade anybody by telling them that their opinion is impossible.

      I think a better approach is to communicate why it is bad. You're probably going to need to figure out how to get that message into a "Reality TV" format in order to get through to most people.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        Considering that there is still substantial disagreement and debate about if it is good or bad

        So we are told.

    • I'm glad that the totalitarian impulses of the global elite are finally starting to penetrate peoples' realityTV-addled brains. Maybe pretty soon they'll figure out that it's just a mechanism to promote the redistribution of wealth upwards.

      So you are suggesting a scheme along the following lines?

      1) Track people going to terrorist training camps / fighting alongside terrorist groups
      2) Arrest them when they return home
      3) ???
      4) Profit!

      I'm not sure what #3 is, and how it leads to meaningful profit for the "global elite."

      Does arresting something on the order of 40 people for this over the last 2 years really make Britain a gulag?

      • by ewibble (1655195)

        Here you go
        1. Track people
        2. If they do anything that you don't like arrest, them terrorism is a convenient starting point Really a very small problem.
        3. Track any exchange of information, knowledge, can't have the people owning knowledge that is the domain of super rich. Evil pirates you know.
        4. Charge people for using, that information
        5. Anybody who runs for political office against you have a convenient database of information against them and/or their family.
        6. If that fails you know exactly where they

        • There isn't much profit to be made in trying to corner the market on training to fire an AK assault rifle.

          I think very few people that fight along with al Qaida are going to be running for office in either the US or UK. There isn't much profit in trying to exploit them either.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947)

        Does arresting something on the order of 40 people for this over the last 2 years really make Britain a gulag?

        The story didn't say we had an Iron Curtain, but asked whether or not we are building one.

        Have you ever heard the expression "soft tyranny"? Well, it's getting harder. Ask people whose political web sites are being blocked by Britain's "porn filter". Or people who have found themselves on a no-fly list in the states, who are offered a fair hearing to be taken off the no-fly list, as long as they

  • by julian67 (1022593) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @08:00PM (#46076323)

    There are British citizens or residents who, in a private capacity, engage in armed conflict abroad, often due to alliegance to ideologies and religious beliefs that deem their home country to be a target, and they come to the attention of the state, and other states who also fear being targeted by the same people for the same reasons. They may have to explain themsleves on their return home, and may be arrested if suspected of criminal activity. In the mind of some slashdot submitters and editors this can apparently be equated to the imprisonment of hundreds of millions of people, and the killing of many hundreds or even thousands simply for trying to travel abroad.

    Dear fucking cretins at slashdot,

    here is a small hint: there was no equivalent of Heathrow or Gatwick airports or Dover or Southampton ferry ports in the DDR, the USSR, or any of the other "people's" republics. If you're British and you want to travel abroad do you know how hard it is? You go to the ferry port and get on a ferry. You need some money and some ID such as a driver's license. That's it.

    I'm pleased that people who train for and engage in murder and kidnapping are actually faced with the prospect of being held to account, whether they do it here or in Syria or Pakistan or Ulster or anywhere else.

    So if you think just getting on a boat or aplane and crossing a national boundary should amount to a license to do as you please and some kind of immunity then just fuck off and get a clue or if that is too difficult maybe you can ask mommy, but please stop whining and regurgitating your misunderstandings, half truths, and flat out lies.

    • by Aighearach (97333) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @08:44PM (#46076595) Homepage

      Yeah, this is no different than Americans traveling to Northern Ireland in the past, and having their finances examined when they get back to check if they gave money to terrorists.
      I say that as a Celtic-American with Irish Republican sympathies. I can imagine being on either side of this sort of issue, in the right circumstances. My country should check me out if I come back from a conflict region. That is simple and practical.

    • Exactly. In the Netherlands and Belgium, there have been hundreds of youths recruited to go fight in Syria. Dozens of them have been killed already, often by fellow fighters or competing groups. They mostly end up with the most radical factions, related to Al Quada, adhere to strict Sharia law, and are too extreme for all other groups (citizens and "decent" rebels alike). These are the guys that send back videos of them decapitating innocent elderly people, playing football with their heads, raping and muti

  • by Anonymous Coward
    After WWII, technology grew by leaps and bounds, and lots of naive optimism about how we'd have a leisure society or end world hunger. Instead we're regressing to how humans have always behaved: high school students with armies.
  • Iron Curtain? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mbone (558574) on Sunday January 26, 2014 @08:12PM (#46076391)

    Iron curtain, no. Stasi, maybe.

    • Iron curtain, no. Stasi, maybe

      http://www.rawstory.com/rs/201... [rawstory.com]

      Even a true-blue Stasi operative (retired) couldn't help but to marvel at the level of sophistication the Western Stasi has in their possession.

      Wolfgang Schmidt, 78, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Stasi, lamented that during his stint in the Stasi organization, their listening devices could only spy on 40 telephone lines at once. Targets had to be prioritized, and to take on a new spying subject, an old one had to be let go.

  • Do you have freedom?

    There are ideas that get you thrown out of your job, ostracized by others and possibly arrested or publically censured.

    If you don't toe the line and you lose your job, you probably don't have the money to hold out for long.

    We have the same totalitarian state as the Soviets, we just found a decentralized method to control it.

  • What is the average number of comments before any problem can be blamed on or deflected to the US? Must be something like 3 or 4.
    • by GrahamCox (741991)
      That many? But it's obvious that basically ALL problems are the responsibility of the US, so it may as well be first post.

      Yes, I'm kidding, but only a bit.
  • Just try traveling to North Korea for a nice pickup game of basketball and see what happens to you when you get back.

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe

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