Tuesday, 22 July 2008

no right to study terrorism materials

Researchers have no 'right' to study terrorist materials
Times Higher Education

"In a statement issued to the university last week, Sir Colin Campbell says: "There is no 'right' to access and research terrorist materials. Those who do so run the risk of being investigated and prosecuted on terrorism charges. Equally, there is no 'prohibition' on accessing terrorist materials for the purpose of research. Those who do so are likely to be able to offer a defence to charges (although they may be held in custody for some time while the matter is investigated). This is the law and applies to all universities.""

"Oliver Blunt QC, of the Anti-Terrorism team at Furnival Chambers in London, said that academics do have a "right" to "access" terrorist materials, whether for research or otherwise, as long as they do not "possess" them.

He said: "Once the researcher knowingly downloads or saves the materials that he is accessing, then he is in 'possession' of terrorist materials.

"There is no 'right' to 'possess' terrorist materials and, while a genuine researcher would be able to establish a defence, the evidential burden is on the researcher to do so.""

What the hell does the distinction between 'access' and 'possess' mean in terms of digital files? If I click on a link to a pdf, it downloads. I can't read it unless it is on my system. Once there it'll leave a trace. The distinction collapses.

So, as somebody doing research into terrorism, should I have a lawyer on retainer, should I get legal advice about preparing a proper case about what I'm doing and what is necessary to my work? They didn't teach me that in the research methods classes.

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