Britain will publicly list and ban entry of more than 200 people whose extremist views and "violent messages" are a threat to national security, the home secretary said Tuesday.
The plan announced by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith would group together Muslim extremists, animal rights protesters, anti-abortion activists, neo-Nazis and others she said "encourage or spread extremism and hatred through preaching violent messages." The list would include only people from abroad.
Smith said publishing the names — roughly 230 — amounts to a toughening of existing exclusion orders that already list and ban certain groups from Britain. Authorities expect to publish the list on the Home Office Web site in the coming months.
American officials say there are fewer than 16,000 names on the Transportation Security Administration lists used to screen airline passengers in the U.S. The names come from a broader watch list that FBI counter-terrorism officials say contains about 400,000 people of interest.
People mistakenly identified as terrorists
The TSA lists, created to combat terrorism after the Sept. 11 attack, have caused problems for some travelers with similar names. As of Sept. 30, more than 43,500 requests had been filed by people who think they were mistakenly identified as a terrorist, the TSA says.
British authorities hope their new list will amount to "naming and shaming" extremists and will act as notices to keep them out of the United Kingdom. But British rights groups complained that the latest Home Office plan will do nothing to shame extremists into moderating their views.
"The threat of terrorism is real, and none of us in the Muslim community believe otherwise," said Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, a British youth organization. "But to win hearts and minds you engage people instead of naming them and demonizing them."
Under the government plan, individuals who spread messages of hate or violence could theoretically be named and banned from the UK. Unlike the United States, Britain lacks a written constitution and enshrined freedom of speech rights.
The Home Office currently refuses entry to people in cases where it can supply proof that they are likely to air extremist views that will lead to violence, glorify terrorism or incite religious or racial hatred. Named individuals can appeal exclusion orders from abroad.
Since British Muslim suicide bombers killed 52 London commuters during a rush hour attack in 2005, the British government has tried to embark on a "hearts and minds" campaign but a number of measures have backfired, including a proposal to extend the pre-charge detention time to 42 days and counterterrorism measures that criminalized speech glorifying violence or hatred.
"There's a fine line between saying you're going to do something and actually going out and doing it," Shafiq said. "It's almost like the government's attempt to ban some Web sites from abroad. You don't fight extremism by these methods."
Privacy International in London said Parliament should vote on any list — especially if it contained names of EU citizens.
Some view list as counterproductive
The EU publishes a list of individuals accused of terrorism but the last published list in July contained fewer than 50 names. Some countries, including Germany and France, keep lists of individual names private.
China keeps an unpublished blacklist of exiled dissidents and scholars, journalists and other foreigners who are deemed hostile to the communist government. Israel keeps a list of individuals considered a threat but the list is not made public.
Extremist cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed is among those who has complained that he's been refused entry to the UK. Bakri, who lived in Britain for around 20 years, was deported in 2005 and has had requests to return to the U.K. refused.
The Lebanon-based cleric was the head of the now-disbanded radical Islamist group al-Muhajiroun, which gained notoriety for praising the Sept. 11 hijackers.
"While the list may be considered shameful in certain parts of the world, in others — particularly in places where the public is hostile toward US and British coalition forces — named individuals will only be seen as more popular," said Said Serjani with the Muslim Association of Britain. "It's counterproductive."
Others have voiced concerns about mistaken identity, citing previous problems in the United States.