Opening Up Social Media In Fight Against Terror Isn't Far Enough: David Mellor

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As the Home Secretary prepares to meet with social media bosses to argue for access to encrypted messages, David Mellor explains why it doesn't go far enough.

Am I missing something here?

The police assert Adrian Ajao/Khalid Masood was acting alone. And yet a full scale war between Home Secretary Amber Rudd and the social media companies has broken out over the contents of Masood’s final WhatsApp message, sent 3 minutes before he began his murderous assault.

Presumably the police have his handset, so they will have been able to access the message, and it didn’t amount to much. Otherwise, why would they say (though I don’t actually believe them) that he was acting alone?

Wherever the truth lies, I’m not against bringing these overmighty subjects, the social media behemoths, to book.

For generations it has been accepted that if there are legitimate reasons to monitor a suspect’s communications, that should be possible, with a judicial order. There’s no reason to allow technology - impenetrable encrypted messages - to prevent that.

The social media companies – those who own them, those that manage them, those who work for them, - are also part of society. They can’t opt out of their responsibilities, by allowing terrorists to spread evil propaganda over their platforms, and then take no responsibility. “Nothing to do with us, guv”, is a feeble excuse, which not only Amber Rudd, but the rest of us find unacceptable.

I do have a serious problem though with this debate. Surely by the time sinister messages are being exchanged on WhatsApp between persons unknown, and murderers like Masood, it’s too late. The authorities need to intervene further up the chain.

How did Adrian Ajao, a violent thug and common criminal, become Khalid Masood, a murderous religious fanatic?

Some people in Luton, or Birmingham, (both places where he lived), or some people online, got to him. And gave him a set of beliefs which allowed him to persuade himself his propensity for violence was somehow justified because he was serving a greater cause.

Who are these people? And who else are they turning from an Adrian Ajao into a Khalid Masood?

Time to face facts. We have allowed our country to become a base for all manner of foreign fanatics. It was more than twenty years ago that the name “Londonistan” was coined by the media to describe the extraordinary array of violent fanatics that have assembled here.

We have allowed extremist preachers to be imported to pollute vulnerable minds here, often paid for by the Saudis and the Qataris, with our consent, because we didn’t want to offend major trading partners. Time to admit we were wrong?

It’s actually not enough to bring Google, YouTube and Facebook to book.

Our country should be cleansed of the fanatics who created Khalid Masood. Most of them came here from overseas. They have got their British passports, or right to remain here, under false pretences; that they are going to be positive, law abiding members of our society. The rule used to be that no one could get asylum here, unless they pledged not to engage in political activities. That went by the book long ago, as the Home Office abdicated their responsibilities to deal with the problems caused by these enemies within.

The Germans faced up to this last week by stripping two fanatics of foreign family origin, though born in Germany, of their passports, and deporting them.

Khalid Masood is the end result of a complex network of fanatics, intent on radicalising and turning into murderers, vulnerable people.

Until we get to grips with that reality, Khalid Masood, I dare predict, will just be the first of many home trained fanatics, ready to bring death and destruction to our streets.