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uh-oh, prejudicin' trials
August 29, 2006 2:02 PM   Subscribe

The New York Times doesn't want people in Britain to read this article (try to access it from a British IP address and you'll get an error message). Of course, this is the web, stupid (scroll down to read it).
posted by reklaw (42 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
It seems like this issue should have come up before, considering that the NY Times has been online for a long time now.
posted by smackfu at 2:12 PM on August 29, 2006


Covered today on Slashdot: "The New York Times explained that this move 'arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial.'"
posted by knave at 2:13 PM on August 29, 2006


I read on The Inquirer that some Canadians and Australians were also blocked from reading the article. The INQ bring up the fact that others pick up stories from the Times like the Toronto Star which can be read from the UK.
posted by birdherder at 2:21 PM on August 29, 2006


Yep, it's our contempt of court laws. The article says it contains information that might be used in a court case against the people. While the proceedings are active it's a criminal offence to mention the evidence lest you prejudice the trial.

This law was brought in in 1981 after the media jumped all over the Peter Sutcliffe case.
posted by randomination at 2:21 PM on August 29, 2006


(The article doesn't actually contain anything I hadn't already picked up from other UK media, interestingly enough. It seems the NYT was erring on the side of caution.)
posted by randomination at 2:22 PM on August 29, 2006


The "banned" article is interetsing reading, and has a lot more detail than I've seen elsewhere.

I find the following passages interesting:

A chemist involved in that part of the inquiry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was sworn to confidentiality, said HMTD, which can be prepared by combining hydrogen peroxide with other chemicals, “in theory is dangerous,” but whether the suspects “had the brights to pull it off remains to be seen.”

and

“In retrospect,’’ said Michael A. Sheehan, the former deputy commissioner of counterterrorism in the New York Police Department, “there may have been too much hyperventilating going on.”

Can we have our liquids back now?
posted by Artw at 2:31 PM on August 29, 2006


BTW, I've not seen anyone block pages in that matter, but it's not been unusual for the British Media to be coy on details of a case that's in court long after they've emerged on the internet. Usually some dumb celebrity thing.
posted by Artw at 2:33 PM on August 29, 2006


Anyone know what kinds of publications these contempt laws cover? If I mirror the NYT article on my own UK website, is that potentially illegal (copyright issues aside)? What if I post a blog entry summarizing the facts in the article? What if I do these things outside the UK?
posted by brain_drain at 2:34 PM on August 29, 2006


It sounds like the real issue is that the NYT has recently begun taking advertising specifically for British readers; that is, that they are geotargeting ads from British companies to British readers, and are thus worried that their UK outfit could be held responsible for breaking the UK's contempt of court laws.

The laws in Britian are very intersting, and perhaps valuable. In the states, anyone charged with a crime that is in the public view is almost immediately found guilty on every crappy talk show on cable news. This no doubt taints the jury pool. But it will be increasingly difficult to prevent that from happening in the UK, as not everyone will be blocking stories like the NYT has here.
posted by JakeWalker at 2:38 PM on August 29, 2006


eh... so when they say "liquid explosive HMTD" they actually mean a solid explosive formed from liquids?

or am I misunderstanding?
posted by knapah at 2:43 PM on August 29, 2006


Ha! More likely it's prejudicial to the pants-wetting histrionicists who were telling us they'd narrowly averted "mass-murder on an unimaginable scale." Thanks for posting this - I'd wanted to read this forbidden article too.
It's becoming like a stuck record, these post-terrorist hysteria reality checks. Unfortunately, most people only pay attention to, and remember, the big scary headlines. How long can this kind of shit go on?
posted by Flashman at 2:48 PM on August 29, 2006


I fail to see how anyone could make HMTD on an airplane without being noticed. I wonder how long it takes to dry also. Prior to drying I do not think it would be explosive. Perhaps I am wrong.
posted by caddis at 2:49 PM on August 29, 2006


From wikipedia and other less reliable sources, making HMTD seems to be an exothermic reaction, so it needs to be cooled as it's made, otherwise you make a mess and lose you face, but probably don't destroy a plane. The same issue was raised with plain old nitrogylcerin. Plus, like nitro, HMTD is extremely unstable. And apparently it takes up to a day to completely precipitate from solution. This page (with pictures of the process, no less) does indicate that it needs to dry before it's dangerous.

I, for one, am not really scared of someone doing this on a plane.

Getting bitten by snakes while I make out with my hot girlfriend in the bathroom, that's another matter.
posted by GuyZero at 3:02 PM on August 29, 2006


Was the plot feasible?. The Register thinks not.

Interesting to work through the NYT article and try and figure out what laws were actually broken. Well, a haul of 400 computers should reveal something.
posted by grahamwell at 3:05 PM on August 29, 2006


Wow. It seems like an extremely bad idea to record a martyrdom video at any time other then as soon as before the act itself as possible, and then just leave them laying around
posted by delmoi at 3:06 PM on August 29, 2006


Mixing TATP on a plan was previously discussed here and here. It doesn't sound remotely plausible. HMTD sounds like it would have roughly the same problems.
posted by Artw at 3:07 PM on August 29, 2006


I read this article on the front page of the NYT yesterday. From the scary headline and the first 3/4 of text, you'd think it was a pro-administration paean to the smarts and dilligence of the various intelligence agencies -- and a warning of just how dangerous these liquid-bombing cats were. But then, somewhere near the bottom of page A23, it reveals that, of yeah, all the objective (i.e., not government-provided) expert opinion points to a bunch of knuckleheads who had no idea what they were doing, had no definite plans (no passports!), and at most, had visited a website where airline schedules were listed. Yes, they'll be sent away forever to a dark hole somewhere, but no, they were never gonna bomb anything, anytime, anywhere.

Shades of JonBenet's, ahem, "killer." And not as butt-clenching as say, James Woods calling the FBI because he saw the 9-11 hijackers on their practice run.

I'll say it again: WTF happened to the skeptical press? If the supposedly liberal (or at least free-thinking) NYT is still -- post-WMD -- playing along with the Bushies, what good is it?
posted by turducken at 3:07 PM on August 29, 2006


isn't MetaFilter breaking British law by providing its UK readers with the banned article? just askin'
posted by matteo at 3:23 PM on August 29, 2006


It seems like an extremely bad idea to record a martyrdom video at any time other then as soon as before the act itself as possible, and then just leave them laying around

You could upload it to YouTube, where it would sit unnoticed forever.
posted by smackfu at 3:26 PM on August 29, 2006


reklaw, thanks for posting this on several levels. And to smackfu for making me laugh.
posted by imperium at 3:42 PM on August 29, 2006


Wrong smackfu. If you put your Martyrdom video up on Youtube. some teenage boys would post calling it "gayest" and some other people would argue wether it was a real martyrdom video, or marketing for something.

It would then be posted as a one link FPP.
posted by Megafly at 4:34 PM on August 29, 2006


HMTD sounds like it would have roughly the same problems.

Not quite. mixing 6% H202 and hexamine isn't trivial, but it isn't anything difficult, and citric acid is easy and cheap to get.

The problem is the time factor. You basically mix it up, and wait. In about a day, the HMTD precipitates out, you then wash it and dry it.

That's what makes it silly -- the time factor doesn't work. If they're carrying premade HMTD, then why ban liquids?

So, what I see is Scotland Yard first bringing out the TATP boogieman, and when anyone with a clue notes that making it onboard a plane is a fast way to die alone, they went through the books to find a recipie that used mostly harmless liquids, and they found HMTD.

They never bothered to read how to make it, though.
posted by eriko at 4:38 PM on August 29, 2006


Similar but very very different: I've been troubled for a while about this story about Blair's daughter that I was told by a journalist - admittedly at second-hand on their part. There are some true ethical issues with it that I wrestle with, but I still end up concerned that this is of public interest to the extent which it's reveals the character of Blair, especially occurring as it did so close to a significant election.

Can the mighty journo skills of the Mefites shed more light on it for me?
posted by klaatu at 4:40 PM on August 29, 2006


delmoi writes "Wow. It seems like an extremely bad idea to record a martyrdom video at any time other then as soon as before the act itself as possible, and then just leave them laying around"

IANAD, but were I looking for martyrs, I don't know that I'd choose anyone who'd brag about it. Just seems like currying favor to me.
posted by Shecky at 4:53 PM on August 29, 2006


What I missed out in my post above was that my source said that the attempt was directly connected to Blair's involvement in Iraq - not the weight issue. What really concerns me is that from any angle I approach it Blair had everything to lose from this story going public.
posted by klaatu at 4:54 PM on August 29, 2006


Anyone know what kinds of publications these contempt laws cover? If I mirror the NYT article on my own UK website, is that potentially illegal (copyright issues aside)? What if I post a blog entry summarizing the facts in the article? What if I do these things outside the UK?

The judge has to issue a special order that sets out what you can't publish, so it varies by case. But I'd guess you'd be in contempt.
posted by cillit bang at 4:55 PM on August 29, 2006


posted by Flashman: It's becoming like a stuck record, these post-terrorist hysteria reality checks. Unfortunately, most people only pay attention to, and remember, the big scary headlines. How long can this kind of shit go on?

Probably about as long as it takes Bu$hCo. and Sons to gradually collect, bit by bit, the civil liberties that US citizens will give up because of the big scary headlines.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:51 PM on August 29, 2006


cor! anyone else got secret hidden stories us Brits don't know about?

thanks to reklaw for posting it.

Klaatu - interesting but ultimately I think its right to be surpressed, since she is just a kid - even if it was about Iraq, which seems unlikely (unless she recorded a martyrdom video, I suppose, which really would be a story)
posted by criticalbill at 6:12 PM on August 29, 2006


you say supressed, I say surpressed...
posted by criticalbill at 6:12 PM on August 29, 2006


Can the mighty journo skills of the Mefites shed more light on it for me?

You'll find a journalistic moritorium on that one old chap. And rightly so. No public interest here. Move along.
posted by dmt at 8:05 PM on August 29, 2006


“On advice of legal counsel, this article is unavailable to readers of nytimes.com in Britain,” is the message they would have seen. “This arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial.”

In case anybody is puzzled by this, it arises from a quaint little notion called the "Rule of Law".

American readers would be more familiar with the "Rule of Might-Makes-Right", which dictates that defendents be locked up in a law-free zone like Guantanamo Bay - or perhaps a secret Black Site - where you can do whatever the hell you like to them.

/snark
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:41 PM on August 29, 2006


If the NYT is blocking only the content that violates [Country X's] laws, that's something I can support.

Blocking IPs seems perfectly fine a method to do so: firstly, and perhaps most importantly, it is simply polite to respect others' laws. And, too, there's very little more the NYT can actually do; it's not practical, nor fair, to ask that they do more.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 PM on August 29, 2006


Oh, and the reason I'm okay with having stuff blocked is this:

I believe it helps our rule of law when the law-making process is not turned into a freakin' media circus.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:16 PM on August 29, 2006


Well I'm in Brussels and saw this in the IHT - paper copy, so I wrote it up on Monday morning where Brits were able to see it. when it did appear online, we published the fill piece thanks to the magic of c&p.

Whilst I understand the reasons for a fair trial a couple of points spring to mind:

1, Why did the police and other senior sources brief the non-UK press? They would have known that it would have been published and that it would have go onto the net at least.

2, This briefing is less likely to lead to an unfair trial than the hysterical reaction of John Reid and his quotes at the time.
posted by quarsan at 10:35 PM on August 29, 2006


Why did the police and other senior sources brief the non-UK press?

I don't know about the info in the NY Times peice, but so far it's been the yanks that have been leaking info all over the place.
posted by Artw at 10:55 PM on August 29, 2006


I read about the NY Times blocking this article in the Guardian yesterday. Of course, human nature being what it is, it immediately became my top priority to find and read that article. After I verified that the article was indeed blocked to me, I tried using Google translation as a proxy, but that didn't work. I then used Google News, and found the article on a Canadian site.

While I hadn't been aware of all the details, I think the gist of it is pretty much common knowlege. I was hoping for something a bit juicier!
posted by salmacis at 2:16 AM on August 30, 2006


From the article...

Walthamstow is best known for its faded greyhound track and the borough of Waltham Forest, where more than 17,000 Pakistani immigrants live in the largest Pakistani enclave in London.

Enclave? WTF?
posted by fullerine at 2:39 AM on August 30, 2006


The article just seems to differ from what's reported in the press in the UK in that it makes direct links between events that are reported separately here. So for example, the police press release that they found bomb making equipment in woods near where the alleged terrorists were arrested is reported in the UK, while the NYT is happy to link it more directly to the accused. As it's up to the police to prove (a) that they actually found bomb equipment and (b) that it belongs to the accused, then it seems pretty straightforward not to want to prejudice the case. To be honest this distinction does not always mean a huge amount in practice, often just putting 'alleged' in front of 'terrorists' when making a news report.
posted by biffa at 3:20 AM on August 30, 2006


The guy has been let off, in case you're all wondering and feel like you've been left on tenderhooks.
posted by muthecow at 4:43 AM on August 30, 2006


Enclave? WTF?

On "enclave", Oxford says:

A portion of territory within or surrounded by a larger territory whose inhabitants are culturally or ethnically distinct.

Sounds like acceptable usage to me. Are you questioning the connotation or the accuracy?
posted by attaboy at 4:57 AM on August 30, 2006


I live in what most would describe as a Pakistani area in Sheffield, right next door to the Polish*, Jamaican, Somalian, Chinese and Lebanese ones. I am in an enclave of about five white people in the midst of all of these other groups. The word does have negative connotations in that it makes it seem as if different groups do not co-mingle and have their own little areas but this is fundamentally true. Riding the bus out of town you actually travel through the concentric rings of ethnicity around the centre of Sheffield.

*this consists of a Polish restaurant and travel shop. The restaurant is fairly decent actually, though it looks cheap from the outside.
posted by longbaugh at 10:34 AM on August 30, 2006


Reuters: N.Y. Times move to block U.K. readers raises questions.
posted by ericb at 5:17 PM on August 30, 2006


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