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Scotland Yard charge Cardiff man with “training, researching” how to use crypto software – Ars technica


A Cardiff man who is a suspected member of ISIS has been accused of training in the use of encryption software to aid terrorism and hiding a computer program on a USB drive disguised as a cufflink.

Samata Ullah, 33, was charged with six terrorism offences after being arrested in a street in Cardiff on September 22 by officers from Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism squad.

The charge sheet includes one count of preparation of terrorism “by researching an encryption programme, developing an encrypted version of his blog site, and publishing the instructions around the use of [the] programme on his blog site.”

Ullah is also accused of knowingly providing “instruction or training in the use of encryption programmes” in relation to “the commission or preparation of acts of terrorism or for assisting the commission or preparation by others of such acts.”

He has additionally been charged with being in possession of a “Universal Serial Bus (USB) cufflink that had an operating system loaded on to it for a purpose connected with the commission, preparation, or instigation of terrorism.”


oh dear.  All of the Forensics, Information Security, Computer Security and Cyber Security students are in big trouble.  We all study encryption, and probably all have programs on our USB drives.  I once owned a Duracell Battery styled USB pen, sorry.  My bad.

Then again, Google are now terrorists under this ruling.  And about time too.


Other articles discussing Scotland Yard’s Encryption charges

In the UK, running a blog over HTTPS is an act of terrorism, says Scotland Yard

While this adds significant nuance to the Ars article above, the primary point still stands as to count three: the criminal act was researching encryption, developing an encrypted version of a blog site (which describes publishing over HTTPS and a few other things), and teaching encryption. The intent of this criminal act was to aid and assist terrorism, but the criminal act was still researching, deploying, and teaching cryptography. This is a hugely important nuance – quoting a comment from user Withabeard on Reddit:

He hasn’t been charged for helping terrorists.

He has been charged for having an encrypted blog. The reason authorities have chosen to charge him, is because that blog may contain material that helps terrorists. The distinction is small, but it has a massive impact on how we apply laws in the UK.

Helping other people conduce killing of other humans is already illegal in the UK, so that is what he should be charged with if there is evidence he did it.

But he has literally been charged with “instruction or training in the use of encryption programmes”.

It shouldn’t matter what the encryption was going to be used for, no-one should ever be charged with doing that.


From → Uncategorized

  1. Are you a student? YES
    Are you charged with six terrorism offences? NO
    This is the difference between how you study encryption and he studies encryption


  2. I’ll admit the case isn’t clear-cut, but I very much doubt anyone could be charged solely for using/teaching privacy tools.

    Let’s look at the context: Samata Ullah is accused of providing “instruction or training in the use of encryption programmes” in relation to “assisting the commission or preparation by others of such acts.” If true, he was arrested because he knowingly became involved in whatever was being planned, he conducted research and development with the intent to aid terrorists.
    Imagine Ullah was instead giving terrorists directions, on IRC, to a building (i.e. providing instruction) – he would have still been busted for essentially the same thing.

    There’s a world of difference between having research misused and knowingly being involved in terrorism.


    • I’d also have to disagree with the guy on Reddit. The Met Police’s own site specifically says he was arrested for the intent to aid terrorist group(s). He was researching the technologies to actively and intentionally assist a terrorist group.

      Yes, very strictly speaking, and depending on how you read it, Charge 3 was for the act of having an encrypted blog, but again it was about the intent. If the intent wasn’t there, there’d be no grounds to charge him with this. He wouldn’t have been charged with this if the police couldn’t demonstrate he had the intent to assist a terrorist group. Actually I wouldn’t be surprised if this one was dropped.


      • This encryption charge is causing global outcry. I don’t think that Scotland Yard realised the potential reaction. Yes, you may well be right… they’ll drop this encryption charge as a political minefield. It reads Court of Appeal. That means they’ll move the block the charge as too contentious – they can’t afford a court decision that the mere use of encryption is not a crime.


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