Asserting that the war on al Qaeda is going to last for years to come, the British government has quietly begun to look at plans to jail friends and associates of suspected terrorists
According to recently released government documents, officials from the British Home Office have started to study seriously French anti-terrorism laws as a basis for future legislation in the United Kingdom.
In particular, they are looking at the French crime of "association de malfaiteur" or associating with a wrongdoer -- an offense carrying a prison term for someone who is simply connected with a suspected terrorist.
Speaking before the House of Commons earlier this year, Home Secretary David Blunkett said such a law could prevent people from being drawn into terrorist support networks.
He suggested that people found to be "connected" with suspected terrorists - either in person or through organizations - could be warned, and then jailed if they persist in maintaining those links.
"Let us suppose that it were possible to seek to prevent someone from being engaged in a low-level connection or association with terror by preventing them from using a particular bank balance ... or a telephone or computer," Blunkett said.
"Let us suppose that an order were placed on that person to preclude them from using those facilities for a particular length of time. That would be a civil order, but if they breached it, it would be a criminal offence."
In recent days, media here have quoted sources in the British government as saying such a law would help cripple terrorist networks and keep people from "hanging around" with undesirables.
Such a law would cover not only meeting in person, but communicating via e-mail, phone or even fundraising.