Monday, August 27, 2007

Special Pak/UK Extradition Agreement In The Works; Former Suspect's Assets Released; Lighters Now OK On Airplanes

A confused report from India that reached us over the weekend suggested that Britain and Pakistan had signed an extradition treaty. Negotiations over such a treaty have faltered in the past, reportedly because the British don't like the way the Pakistanis use capital punishment.

A subsequent report from Pakistan indicated they had merely signed an agreement to exchange a few prisoners.

A full extradition treaty would have been a breakthrough of sorts in the so-called "Liquid Bombers" case, as it could perhaps allow Britain to try the alleged ringleader, mastermind, and al-Q'aeda connection Rashid Rauf, who was arrested last August and is being held in Pakistan, where he still hasn't even had a proper court appearance.

Instead of an extradition treaty, officials are now talking about a one-time extradition agreement that would make Rashid Rauf available for trial in Britain, where he is wanted in connection with both the alleged airline bombing plot and the 2003 murder of his uncle.

In other "Liquid Bomber" news, the assets of Shazad Khuram Ali have finally been released. They were frozen on suspicion of fundraising for terrorism after he was arrested on August 10 of last year, and even though he was released without charge on September 6, his accounts remained under UK government control until they were finally released earlier this month.

They didn't have enough to charge him with any crime whatsoever, but they froze his assets for more than a year! What justifies this sort of treatment? This is as close to an explanation as we are likely to get:
A Treasury spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with ministry policy, said Ali's assets were released after consultation with police and intelligence officers.

"It is for the police and the intelligence agencies to make operational judgments about which tools to deploy in individual cases," the spokesman said. "Cases are always kept under review."
John Caruso at The Distant Ocean caught an amazing news item last month.
TSA will no longer ban common lighters in carry-on luggage starting August 4, 2007. Torch lighters remain banned in carry-ons.

Lifting the lighter ban is consistent with TSA's risk-based approach to aviation security. First and foremost, lighters no longer pose a significant threat.
So someone can now bring a device through security that lets them start a fire on the plane, but you can't bring enough water with you to put it out. Makes perfect sense to me. You might find yourself wondering why it is that "lighters no longer pose a significant threat" -- which apparently means they once did -- but good luck finding out from the TSA news release, which assiduously sidesteps the issue. Then again, maybe it's better not to probe too deeply, since it's actually quite comforting to learn that fire on an airplane is no longer dangerous!
How and why was this change made? Because that's the way Zippo wants it to be.

We've fallen so far through the looking glass that even the word "unbelievable" is too mild.

My mother-in-law called from the airport the other day; she was about to board an international flight and the security people confiscated a bottle of water she had bought to take with her. I said "That was a mistake, Mom. You should have brought a lighter!" She didn't think that was funny.

She said there was a big bin by the loading gate that was full of bottles of water. "Any lighters in there?" I asked. But she didn't think that was funny, either.

But what the heck? Since fire on an airplane is no longer dangerous, who needs water?


Eighteenth in a series.