Al Jazeera

Cleric claims MI5 harassment over airport stops

London, England — Usman Ali has grown used to the routine whenever he passes through an airport on his way in or out of the UK.

Usman Ali says MI5 offered him a briefcase full of banknotes to turn informer.

Usman Ali says MI5 offered him a briefcase full of banknotes to turn informer.

As he walks to catch a flight, or shortly after touching down, he says he will be stopped by police and questioned without access to a lawyer and without the right to silence.

His laptop and mobile phone are examined and their data copied. He has also been searched, fingerprinted, obliged to give a DNA sample and photographed repeatedly.

Ali, a London-based Muslim cleric who travels frequently as part of his work for a charity delivering aid to Syrian refugees, says he has been stopped six times this year alone, and many times prior to that, often for several hours.

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Al Jazeera

UK surveillance claims heighten privacy fears

Almost a decade ago, the head of the UK’s privacy watchdog voiced concerns about how advances in technology coupled with greater powers vested in the police, security services and other authorities to tackle issues such as terrorism and immigration risked undermining the liberties of British citizens.

GCHQ faces allegations of unlawfully tapping internet traffic. (Crown Copyright)

GCHQ faces allegations of unlawfully collecting and analysing the online data of millions of web users. (Crown Copyright)

“My anxiety is that we don’t sleepwalk into a surveillance society where much more information is collected about people, accessible to far more people shared across many more boundaries, than British society would feel comfortable with,” Richard Thomas, the then-information commissioner, told the¬†Times¬†newspaper in 2004.

Following revelations by Edward Snowden, the US whistleblower, about the volume of internet and telephone data being secretly compiled about them by state intelligence services, and shocking allegations about the activities of undercover police officers, even the least paranoid of Britons could now be forgiven for adopting the restless fidgeting and sideways glances of an inveterate conspiracy theorist.

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