• British Library Won’t Hold Taliban Documents for Researchers Due to Anti-Terror Laws

    September 9, 2015

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan


    It was either Sun Tzu, or Clausewitz, or maybe General Tso who said: “Know Thy Enemy.”

    The advice is valid. Most military schools teach their students to read the enemy’s manifestos, study his propaganda, learn as much about him as possible to better know how to defeat him. During World War II, British soldiers and scholars studied Hitler’s Mein Kampf and other Nazi documents. Martial needs aside, a basic principle of scholars is open access to information, and for libraries, to collect primary source documents while they are still available.

    Yet fear now controls us, not thought.

    The British Library

    A decision by the British Library not to host a huge collection of Taliban-related documents, despite years of close involvement with the project, has added to concerns about Britain’s sweeping anti-terrorism legislation.


    Over nearly a decade, the researchers behind the Taliban Sources Project have painstakingly collected and translated into English more than a thousand newspapers, magazines, radio broadcasts, military and administrative documents, as well as handwritten poetry by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. The group’s aim is to digitize the primary material, shedding light on the Taliban’s organization and the insurgency in Afghanistan. Altogether, the project’s ten-member team translated more than two million words of material.

    The researchers took the project to the British Library (and for those not familiar with that institution, consider it in lay terms on par with the Library of Congress in the United States) in 2012. After first accepting the collection three years ago, the library has now declined to take on the project, saying it had been legally advised it contains material that could be in breach of Britain’s anti-terrorism laws.

    The library recognizes the archive’s research value. But “it was judged that it contained some material which could contravene the Terrorism Act,” it said in a <a href="http://statement“>statement, “which would present restrictions on the library’s ability to provide access to the archive for researchers.”

    The UK Terrorism Act “places specific responsibilities on anyone in Britain who might provide access to terrorist publications,” the statement added, “and the legal advice received jointly by the British Library and other similar institutions advises against making this type of material accessible.”

    Knowing the Taliban

    The Taliban Sources Project focuses on material from 1994 to 2001 that “gives a unique window into the Taliban’s world views, their negotiations with foreign governments, how they viewed history,” said Felix Kuehn, an organizer of the project, adding that the material could help provide a more complete picture about the organization in the run-up to the 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan.

    “Our knowledge of the Taliban in the 1990s is dominated by Western media coverage that was highly politicized, in part because information was not easily accessible,” Kuehn said.

    David Anderson, the independent reviewer for Britain’s anti-terrorism laws, said the Terrorism Act was a broad law that could be even more broadly interpreted “by police and lawyers who want to give cautious advice.” Such interpretations could easily impinge on academic freedom, he warned. “If this law were interpreted to prevent researchers from accessing Taliban-related material that would impact their academic work, it would be very regrettable,” he said. “That’s not how academics work.”

    Knowing the Enemy

    The Terrorism Acts of 2000 and 2006 make it an offense “to collect material which could be used by a person committing or preparing for an act of terrorism” and criminalize the circulation of terrorist propaganda. But under the laws, the police must show evidence that the owners intend to use the publication for terrorist purposes, and that they have a reasonable excuse to possess it, Anderson said.

    Know thy enemy? What happens when the enemy is us?

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  • Recent Comments

    • John Poole said...


      Studying others (the Taliban) so one might know them might lead to a very dangerous idea that one should also know thyself. Exhorting American citizens to Know Thyself would strike terror in the minds of our Taliban- the Pentagon.

      09/9/15 9:10 AM | Comment Link

    • Bloozguy said...


      Shouldn’t that be “thine enemy”

      09/9/15 9:42 AM | Comment Link

    • jim hruska said...


      An enemy can be defeated.
      A terrorist is not an enemy and is much more difficult to neutralize. Terrorists are criminal.
      Does the Taliban really fit the definition of a Terror group?
      That’s the real question.
      Every thing that we find distasteful cannot be labelled Terrorism.
      jim hruska
      aka rangeragainstwar

      09/9/15 10:31 AM | Comment Link

    • Bruce said...


      卐tyoopidity sinks to JEJUNEϟϟ.

      09/9/15 11:48 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      quote”The Terrorism Acts of 2000 and 2006 make it an offense “to collect material which could be used by a person committing or preparing for an act of terrorism”


      quote””In following the United States down a lawless road of remote-controlled summary killings from the sky, the RAF has crossed a line,” she added.”unquote

      So, the UK government, collects material on British subjects who are allegedly preparing for an act of terrorism, in order to locate and illegally terrorize them with the threat of summary execution by Drone delivered missiles. right.

      ummm… I’ll file that under..

      Great Moments in When the Shoe Fits…..

      09/10/15 8:13 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      Ya know, even Orwell couldn’t fathom this.

      09/10/15 8:16 AM | Comment Link

    • bloodypitchfork said...


      So…this is what it comes to. A government can accuse anyone, notwithstanding one of their own citizens, of an alleged crime, and summarily execute said citizen with no due process what so ever. No charges. No arrest. No prosecution. No conviction. Just assassination. On the word of someone within the government. right.

      King George lll must be green with envy.

      Meanwhile, back here in the US, King Obama continues his Kill List Tuesdays, while keeping the USG murders of American citizens hush hush. Nary a peep anymore. Meanwhile, Murka continues its fascination with Miley Cyrus’s ass, football scandals, and female County Clerks who think their religion gives them the authority to raise their middle finger to marriage applicants she despises.

      sheeezusH. No wonder this country is teh DUMBEST FUCKING COUNTRY ON THE PLANET.

      09/10/15 8:31 AM | Comment Link

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