We must stand tall for principles of inclusion and equality, and a ban on individuals linked in a simplistic manner to their religion or country of origin is not evidence based; it is surely discriminatory. I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, because prior to my time here I was accredited by the Scottish Risk Management Authority to undertake violence risk assessments where the courts were considering the order of lifelong restrictions. As part of that role, I was trained to undertake violence extremist risk assessments. This type of risk assessment involves structured clinical judgments and is grounded in research and an evidence base. Assessment is based on risk factors known to predict violence and extremist violence. It has often been utilised in the United States and in Northern Ireland, and some of our security forces have been trained in its application.
The measure of an individual’s risk to the security of a country requires assessment of intelligence information about that individual’s belief systems, their contact with terrorist organisations, their behaviours and activity, their access to arms and a number of other pertinent risk factors. The people qualified to determine who possesses and poses true risk factors are in the intelligence and security forces. They have access to this information and can analyse it formally, as they have been doing over many years in order to highlight individual risk indicators.
A blanket ban on individuals based on heuristic characteristics of race and religion is therefore misguided. In my opinion, it will unfortunately be unlikely to reduce risk, and it may aggravate extremist beliefs and attitudes, feelings of persecution and the marginalisation of individuals who may already be in the United States and able to pose security risks there. This could strengthen extremist views on the part of a few, because it is radicalised groups, not a countrywide phenomenon, that the world has to deal with. This order will only strengthen feelings against the United States and against the west. If we do not condemn it, it will breed contempt.
In conclusion, I believe this is misguided policy. It lacks a true evidence base, it is not a national response, and it may fuel risk and be counterproductive. It does not protect the United States or the west, and we must do all we can to voice our consternation about this policy and its lack of humanity and validity. Let us call instead for evidence-based security approaches as the United States goes forward—approaches that respect human dignity across the world.