British counter-terrorism police have charged a 33-year-old man with a variety of terrorism offences.
33-year-old Samata Ullah was arrested by officers on a street in Cardiff in September, and according to a Metropolitan Police news release is charged with belonging to ISIS, training others in the use of encryption programs (with the knowledge that the skills would be used for perpetrating terrorist acts).
Ullah is said to have had in his possession books about guided missiles, and… a pair of USB-equipped cufflinks:
On or before 22 September 2016 Samata Ullah had in his possession an article namely one Universal Serial Bus (USB) cufflink that had an operating system loaded on to it for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism, contrary to section 57 Terrorism Act 2000.
I was curious as to what section 57 of the Terrorism Act actually said, so here it is for your edification:
A person commits an offence if he possesses an article in circumstances which give rise to a reasonable suspicion that his possession is for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.
It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that his possession of the article was not for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism.
In proceedings for an offence under this section, if it is proved that an article –
- was on any premises at the same time as the accused, or
- was on premises of which the accused was the occupier or which he habitually used otherwise than as a member of the public,
the court may assume that the accused possessed the article, unless he proves that he did not know of its presence on the premises or that he had no control over it.
A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable –
- on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 15 years, to a fine or to both, or
- on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or to both.
I am not a lawyer, but my reading is that if the cops find a USB stick in your possession, and they have “reasonable suspicion” that you’re going to use it in connection with terrorism, it’s up to you to prove that there’s a perfectly innocent explanation.
The question is, would the British police be more suspicious of a USB stick containing Windows 10 or TAILS?
And would the fact that you have said operating system installed on your USB cufflink prove that you’re up to no good, or just a bit of a geek? After all, I imagine many an IT spod would be keen to purchase just such a pair of cufflinks from Amazon now they know they exist.
Whatever answer you may have to those questions, I really hope that charges like this won’t lead to the public thinking that encryption is a bad thing, typically used by terrorists, rather than a tool that helps protect all of us against criminals every day.
Ullah has been remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on 28 October.
Hat-tip: Thanks to Rob Rosenberger for suggesting the title for this article.