The U.S. government should shut down websites promoting extremist views that could lead people to carry out terrorist attacks, Britain’s new minister of security, Pauline Neville-Jones, told National Journal today.
Visiting Washington for the first time in her new position, Neville-Jones planned to meet with White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, as well as officials from the FBI and Homeland Security Department, to discuss Britain’s new national security strategy and ways the two governments can collaborate on counterterrorism efforts.
In an interview, she said the U.S. government should help take down websites hosted on servers in the United States that espouse radical ideology and “lead people down the road towards becoming terrorists or engaging in violent acts.”
“We understand that this is a complex issue,” she said, adding that the British government values free speech. But she said the U.K. government has given police the power to shut down radical Web sites.
In a speech prepared for delivery at the Brookings Institution today, Neville-Jones noted that U.S.-born radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who has encouraged attacks against Western nations, spreads his message via the Internet.
“The websites which feature his terrorist message would categorically not be allowed in the UK -- they incite cold-blooded murder and are surely contrary to the public good,” Neville-Jones said in her prepared text. “If they were hosted in the UK they would be taken down.”
“Many of these websites are hosted in the US and we want to work closely with you to find ways of preventing such hateful material acting as a recruiting sergeant for men of violence out to harm our citizens,” she added. “Many would argue -- quite correctly -- that freedom of speech means allowing people to say things that any reasonable person would find abhorrent. But when you have incitement to murder, when you have people actively calling for the killing of their fellow citizens, and when you have the means to stop that person so doing, then I believe we should act.”
The U.S. and U.K. governments are developing a comprehensive cybersecurity agreement, Neville-Jones said in the interview. The agreement is aimed at helping them better share information, intelligence, and expertise, and conduct joint operations to protect critical information-technology networks and combat adversaries electronically, she said.
Britain’s new national security strategy calls for the U.K. government to spend about $1 billion over four years on cybersecurity efforts.
But Neville-Jones said she did not expect to come away from her visit this week with a signed agreement between the two countries. “We’re very much in the beginning of talking about this,” she said.
On other matters, Neville-Jones said the threat of terrorist attacks in Europe, which led the State Department to issue a travel warning earlier this month, still remains. “I don’t think the situation has much changed from a few weeks ago,” she said.
She declined to state when the travel warning should be lifted, saying that would be a decision for the U.S. government to make.
Overall, Neville-Jones said the U.S. and U.K governments are working well together on counterterrorism efforts. “I am personally very happy with the degree of cooperation that we’ve managed to achieve,” she said.