Britain’s largest gathering of counter-terrorism experts assembled in London last month to discuss what one police chief called “legal but harmful protest” following Israel’s war on Gaza.

Inside a cavernous Docklands conference hall, companies at the Counter Terror Expo displayed gas mask-clad dummies and crowd control systems as enthusiastic AI reps promised revolutionary advances in surveillance.

Tools for hacking phones with “brute force”, monitoring someone’s emotional state based on their social media and rapidly digesting the contents of an “acquired” computer were all up for sale. 

Among the potential customers were foreign police departments, including officers fresh from Georgia’s violent crackdown on anti-Russia protests.

Several salespeople declined to explain their products to the media. “I can’t believe they let you people in here,” one rep told Declassified after seeing our press card. “I think it’s disgusting.”

Her company markets AI tools for military and law enforcement to process recordings of people’s voices. 

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We will find them’

When delegates weren’t browsing spyware or sipping craft beer with a £12 “world food” meal deal, they could listen to the security industry’s leading lights.

These included detective chief superintendent Maria Lovegrove who runs Britain’s Prevent strategy against radicalisation. She trumpeted 53 arrests for terrorism offences since October 7. 

Only one of these was for violence. The rest concerned social media posts or attending gatherings.

Asked whether this data suggests police are overreacting to peaceful pro-Palestine protests, Lovegrove valorised an “early intervention” approach. 

She told Declassified this was the “greatest tool in preventing terror attacks” and insisted officers “only arrest and prosecute when we have to.” 

Among those arrests were three women found guilty for wearing paraglider stickers at a protest.

Dom Murphy – the Met’s counter terrorism commander – told delegates he was monitoring “legal but harmful” protests and the risk of “low-sophistication” attacks by people radicalised online or at university since October 7th.

“If there are 100,000 people at a protest, and one person holding a Hamas flag, we will find them and arrest them,” Murphy reassured attendees. A majority of recent arrests targeted individuals aged under 17, he boasted, as proof that the “early intervention” approach was working. 

No-go zones

Another panellist praised Britain’s ability to pre-emptively arrest people for public order offences at demonstrations and target them for terror offences further down the line. 

Craig McCann, a former senior Prevent officer, expressed the mood in the room when he described ceasefire marches as a “permissive environment for the transfer of extremist ideology”. 

Like other speakers, he sought to delegitimise opponents of Israel’s war on Gaza by characterising pro-Palestine protests as an “Islamist camp conflating with far-Right anti-Semitism”. 

McCann explicitly linked Palestinian nationalism with Nazism, an Israeli propaganda point. Fellow panellists claimed parts of London were a “no-go zone for Jews”. 

Discussing threats from “street protest all the way through to terrorism”, the conference presented far Left, far Right, “Islamist” and “environmentalist” ideologies as equal, inter-related threats to British society. 

This worldview echoes a recent report on political violence by UK government advisor Lord Walney. The unelected peer, better known as John Woodcock, has deep links to the Israel lobby and arms industry, sparking allegations of bias.

After lunch, discussion turned to “British values” and protecting England from the menace of social media and foreign flags that vexed thousands of officers under Murphy’s command. 

Many felt the next-generation tech on display would ensure ever more effective crackdowns on street protest and dissent. If nothing else, the gadgets give a golden parachute to retired police.

It seemed mandatory for every other stall to boast a former cop, now peddling AI image-detection software on the basis of their years in the force. McCann was among many to have traded in his warrant card for a job in the security industry. 

He’s now a director of SPECTRUM – Strategic Preventative Expertise to Counter Terrorism Risks using Upstream Measures. 

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Echo chamber

Absent from the Expo was any real reflection on the terror Israel’s inflicts on Palestinians, nor how austerity or foreign policy can lead more young people down the path of violence.

Iida Käyhkö, a researcher at Royal Holloway University who attended the Expo, later told Declassified  that Palestine activists were being targeted by “draconian legislation which stands in stark contrast with the supposed British values of freedom of expression and democracy.”

She accuses the British authorities of “using counter terrorism to repress protests which are inconvenient to the government and its diplomatic relationships, in this case particularly those with the US and Israel.”

The conference venue, ExCel, is owned by the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf state is a key British ally despite its significant support for brutal militias in Yemen and Sudan that have fueled unrest in the region.

There was little acknowledgement that Israel’s invasion of Gaza has killed over 38,000 Palestinians and left the country’s leadership under investigation for war crimes and genocide at international courts. 

The Met’s war crimes team, which falls under Murphy’s counter-terror command, has itself received complaints about Israel’s conduct which he is meant to investigate.

Yet Murphy reassured attendees this was only taking place as a legal requirement since Palestine activists had filed formal police complaints, rather than at the Met’s own behest.

Flaws in the Prevent scheme were not up for discussion – despite its repeated failures to identify terrorists and tendency to alienate vulnerable communities. 

Critics say it encourages doctors, social workers and teachers to report young people to police, often sowing mistrust with authority figures. 

One panellist did warn that the UK government had “traded economic growth for social cohesion”, leaving young people angry, frustrated and shut out from mainstream politics. 

As the parole board’s own legal director suggested, Britain’s crumbling, short-staffed prisons remain hotbeds of Islamic radicalism. This could raise questions over the focus on charging and jailing young people for holding signs at protests or posting on Facebook.

But rather than advocating for more public spending to promote integration, police commanders seemed to expect social services to take on ever more responsibility for tracking vulnerable youths.

Afterall, why trust chief constables to actually address root causes, when scare-mongering around Palestine and environmental activism is good for business in their next career?

The post Enter London’s Counter Terror Expo – a hotbed of pro-Israel paranoia appeared first on Declassified Media Ltd.

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