29 May, 2008

Academic Freedom and Internet Censorship

Keep your eyes on this story out of the UK: A 22-year-old student and 30-year-old staff member at University of Nottingham have been arrested, detained for several days without charges, and then released for posession and emailing of an al-Qaeda handbook downloaded from a US government website. The staff member now faces deportation over questions about his visa status and has been re-detained, despite no terrorism-related charges ever being filed.

As you can see from the news reports at Times Higher Ed and The Guardian, the focus of protests have been on the University's participation in the calling of the police, and on whether this material was legitimately for the purpose of study. These are issues that concern me, yes, but I can't figure out why another issue hasn't come prior to these: wasn't this al-Qaeda handbook already in the public domain? If so, why is the University or the UK government concerned about who is downloading them?

I'm a tad behind on putting this one up, thanks to Leiter Reports for getting me back on the horse.

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