J7: The July 7th Truth Campaign
Debunking 7/7 Debunking Part One
With pork flu now firmly on the back burner it appears the leading governments of the world have decided to turn back to terrorism for their fortnightly crisis to manage. In the US an apparently successful FBI sting operation against four men is reported to have prevented attacks on Jewish centres with other allegations based around trying to shoot down Air National Guard based at Stewart International Airport. However, critical to the operation was an FBI informant who'd been involved with the alleged cell for nearly a year. The informant had supplied the four with fake explosives and a dummy missile launcher and the authorities then arrested them. The four themselves were complete amateurs, if not worse. They bought cameras from Wal-Mart to take pictures of the intended targets and one was stoned on the day they were meant to be carrying out the plot. Another was described as having a low IQ and suffered from bipolar disorder and was on medication for schizophrenia.
“It’s hard to envision a more chilling plot,” Eric Snyder, an assistant United States attorney, said at the arraignment. - NY Times
Not only is this statement inaccurate, it's also incredibly foolhardy and insensitive. New York after all was the site of by far the most brutal and lethal part of the 9/11 terrorist attacks less than a decade ago, and without trivialising the notion of blowing up Jews, this alleged plot is dwarfed by the destruction of 267 stories of office building and killing of 3000 people. Furthermore, the question is already being asked as to whether the entire plot, the entire criminal aspect of this story, would have happened without the influence of the FBI informant. As the responses to this Talking Points Memo article show, at least some people see very little difference between this operation and either entrapment or provocateuring. It goes without saying that the informant will not face charges over his part in the conspiracy, in providing weapons to people he knew wanted them for the purpose of terrorism and thus making himself part of the plot. The fact the weapons were fake is clearly irrelevant because the four aren't being charged with conspiracy to acquire and use fake weapons, but real ones. What's good for the goose is unfortunately for these four not good for the gander.
This comes off the back of theoretically a very good week or so for terrorism propagandists. Earlier this month the Home Office released the latest figures from the UK regarding terrorism arrests, charges and convictions, showing a considerable rise since the last full batch they published. The Home Office did carry these earlier figures on their website but they appear to have deleted the page. Having linked to the page (then working) in my article here, the decision to delete this page must have been taken since December 2008. Between 9/11 and March 2007 only 41 out of 1228 people arrested were actually convicted of offences under the Terrorism Act from 241 charges. That's a conviction rate of 1 in 30 of those arrested and 1 in 6 of those charged.
The new figures look much better for the authorities. Even broader terrorism legislation than the 2000 Act has enabled them to charge anyone for pretty much anything. Now they've got the numbers up to 340 charges and the convictions up to 196, if you include both terrorism and terrorism-related charges, which obviously the Home Office does. From a total 1471 arrests (9/11 to April 2008) that equates to about 1 in 7.5 arrests resulting in a terrorism conviction, a fourfold increase, and more than half of all charges have resulted in convictions, again a massive increase.
However, if the security services are entrapping or provocateuring then these numbers illustrate the effectiveness of those policies rather than an increase in terrorist activity. To take an example - the liquid bomb plot investigation resulted in over 20 arrests in August 2006, with the attack itself apparently imminent. It is May 2009 and so far no one has been convicted of trying to blow up passenger planes with liquid bombs. Even at the time it was reported by both The Times (UK) and The Asia Times that the group may have fallen prey to provocateurs, with the The Times reporting that MI5 may have had a mole within the group.
The original alleged mastermind was Rashid Rauf, whose arrest in Pakistan at the orders of the CIA apparently caused the operation in the UK to change from surveillance to capture. Rauf was never charged for the liquid bomb plot, indeed, was kept in Pakistani custody until his mysterious escape in December 2007. His guards apparently let him go alone, albeit handcuffed, into a mosque while they visited McDonalds. Rauf then apparently picked his way out of the cuffs and escaped over the high wall out the back and across the fields. He was then reported in November 2008 to have been killed in a CIA ordered missile attack in Pakistan. At the time some expressed their scepticism, and they seem to have been right to do so because it now seems that UK officials believe he's still alive and once again are trying to get their hands on him. (update July 2009) A recent article in the Guardian as part of a detailed series on the torture of alleged terrorists says that Rauf was mistreated and brutally tortured during his incarceration and interrogation in Pakistan. Unnamed Pakstani sources are cited as saying that the severity of the torture was such that plans to prosecute Rauf in the UK were abandoned. Further doubt is cast on exactly what happened by the fact that upon hearing of his ludicrous and miraculous escape in December 2007, his family predicted that he would soon be reported dead.
The second mastermind was Mohammed Gulzar, the only one of the eight from the original trial who will not face a retrial. Though he was described by the prosecution as a ringleader intent on waging global jihad he is now free as a bird. As reported by courtnews Gulzar had a full set of fake ID documents when he came to the UK and was alleged to have been a go-between not only for senior members of the group in the UK but for them and those in Pakistan directing the plot. Given the extent to which they were monitoring this alleged plot the evidence against Gulzar should have been the strongest and most bountiful if he was playing the key role as described. However, if he was a provocateur, as it appear Rauf may also have been, then the evidence against him may well have been suppressed by his handlers - the same people who were monitoring the plot. This would explain how he seems to have been centrally involved but like Rauf got away free.
Those most at risk of being set up like this are obviously British Asians, with Pakistanis being top of the list. According to this analysis of the new figures by policeprofessional.com:
"People of Asian appearance arrested made up 42 per cent of the total arrests (617), but only 142, (23 per cent) of these were charged with terrorism-related offences. This is compared to 29 per cent of white people arrested for terrorism offences being charged and 37 per cent of black people." - policeprofessional.com
The article also notes:
Since September 11, 2001, most convictions were for possession of an article for terrorist purposes – 22 per cent. Most convictions under non-terrorism legislation were under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 (16 per cent). - policeprofessional.com
What this tells us is that of those convicted of something to do with terrorism more people owned some sort of banned book or document (possibly downloaded from the US Justice Department's website) than were planning to actually attack anyone, and of those convicted under other legislation more people were committing fraud than planning to murder anyone or explode any bombs. So the great terrorist threat boils down to credit card fraud and people owning 'extremist' literature. Still, at least they've got the conviction rate up to something approximating that for other serious crimes like murder and rape. It's a pathetically low level given the severity of the real crimes that go unaccounted for but a good level for those trying to sell the war on terror.
Herein lies the importance of another recent publication, the Intelligence and Security Committee's review of intelligence relating to July 7th. While the security services have apparently done a wonderful job investigating and helping to lock up 196 hardened terrorists/chapati flour merchants, the majority of whom don't seem to have actually done anything wrong, when it came to the one apparently successful terrorist attack in Britain they basically said that they hadn't got a bloody clue. Perhaps they were too busy trying to locate and provoke disillusioned, pissed off Muslims. Perhaps something much worse.
The report itself is around 120 pages of diversions and excuses. It goes into tremendous detail (albeit with the juicy stuff and the actual details redacted) about the various investigations into terrorist plots in the two years preceding July 7th 2005 to make it appear that MI5 were 'overstretched'. This is useful because not only does it absolve MI5 of any guilt or culpability or allegation of incompetence or poor methods, it also justifies the increasing resources put at their disposal. The report itself makes an almost explicit reference to this:
We have pointed out above how the nature of intelligence work means that it is not possible to provide a guarantee that attacks will be prevented. However, extra resources can increase the chances of foiling a plot – more resources enable the authorities to investigate more potential terrorists.
What has changed? MI5’s resources had already grown considerably since 9/11, and this growth was accelerated after 7/7. Their budget has more than tripled since 2001 (from £*** million in 2001 to £*** million for 2010/11) and most of this extra money has been used to improve front-line counter-terrorism capability.
What difference has this made? In 2004, MI5 were only able to provide a reasonable level of coverage of *** individuals (out of their *** targets). The extra resources provided to MI5 since 2004 have enabled them to increase their capability significantly. In 2007, they were able to provide a reasonable level of coverage of *** networks. - ISC Review of July 7th, p45
All the critical information about the number of targets and the actual amounts of money involved are redacted. The graph included also covers the actual numbers with *** marks. This is truly strange behaviour, since these numbers have been widely referred to by officials. The oft-repeated 2000 people, 200 networks and 30 plots being monitored by the security services provides essentially what's being covered in this report, and MI5's own website details their funding in a page titled 'MI5|Funding'. However, according to these numbers the graph above is misleading, because the total 2004-5 budget was £1.313 billion and the total 2007-8 budget was 1.553 billion whereas the above graph shows it almost doubling in that time. Someone's lying.
The report also goes into detail about Operation Rhyme, the investigation into Dhiren Barot and his co-conspirators who allegedly planned a series of complex terrorist attacks, including the much-fabled dirty bomb, and who are all now serving lengthy jail sentences. The report states:
In early 2003 a young British extremist known as Abu Issa AL HINDI was reported ***
***. He had been tutored by *** in *** skills and identified by *** as having ***
In mid-2004, reporting confirmed that AL HINDI was in fact Dhiren BAROT.
The investigation into AL HINDI/BAROT and his UK-based associates (which was
given the codename RHYME in mid-June 2004) intensified still further, involving
the deployment of a significant amount of covert investigative resource. Resource
allocations for RHYME were in the order of:
six weeks of 24-hour coverage;
up to 15 surveillance teams deployed at any one time;
20 CCTV cameras installed and monitored (8,000 hours of product);
25,000 man-hours devoted to monitoring and transcription;
*** covert searches;
60 property searches; and
analysis of seized hard drives amounting to 2.5 terabytes of data (roughly 12 times the height of Everest if printed out and stacked).
On 3 August 2004, 13 individuals, including BAROT, were arrested and 8 of these faced trial. BAROT pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment in November 2006. The other seven members of the group – Mohammed Naveed BHATTI, Junade FEROzE, zia UL HAQ, Abdul Aziz JALIL, Omar Abdur REHMAN, Nadeem TARMOHAMED and Qaisar SHAFFI – were convicted of terrorist offences on 15 June 2007. - ISC review of July 7th
Despite all these superficially impressive statistics, designed to show just how much MI5 was throwing at bringing down the Barot conspiracy, the Guardian quoted an anonymous counter-terrorism sources in November 2006 saying:
It is no exaggeration at all to say that, at the time of the arrest, there was little or no admissible evidence against Barot. - Guardian
Confirmation of this came when Deputy Assistant Commissioner (Met Police) Peter Clarke gave a lecture in April 2007, where he said:
It is no exaggeration to say that at the time of the arrest there was not one shred of admissible evidence against Barot. The arrest was perfectly lawful - there were more than sufficient grounds, but in terms of evidence to put before a court, there was nothing. - Clarke lecture in full, metpolice
So not only will MI5 not tell us who trained Barot to do what or how, their thousands of hours of surveillance, monitoring, transcription, analysis and investigation provided not one piece of evidence admissable in court in the Barot case. As noted, Barot pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 40 years having been arrested in August 2005 and having sat in jail for over a year awaiting trial.
All this is included to make it look like MI5 were swamped with possible targets for counter-terrorism, to provide an excuse for the one that apparently slipped through the net. However, if all this were true then why did MI5 downgrade the threat level a month before 7/7 from 'severe general' to 'substantial'? If they knew they were playing catchup with the number of people out there planning to do us in with dirty bombs and sheds full of fertiliser then what caused the decision to lower the threat level? They can't have it both ways - either they have a proper handle on what's going on, with adequate resources and good 'coverage' and are therefore in a position to state the threat level, or they aren't.
One possible connection is the warning from the Saudi intelligence services in December 2004. The warning detailed a plot to bomb the London underground, by a cell consisting of four men, in the first 6 months of 2005. When visiting the UK in 2007 Saudi King Abdullah chided the UK for its failure to act on the warning, and on other counter-terrorism issues. The ISC's report indicates this caused some diplomatic tension:
We wrote to the Saudi Ambassador on 16 January 2006 asking for further information on the intelligence passed to the UK Agencies that these allegations refer to. We did not receive a response. Following comments made by King Abdullah on the eve of his State Visit to the UK, we wrote again on 21 November 2007 and again on 9 January 2008 asking for clarification. On 21 January 2008, we received a reply from the Saudi Ambassador to the UK saying that he would look into the matter and then reply. We have not yet received any further correspondence. - ISC review of July 7th, p72
The report for some reason chose to redact all the information on what was contained in the Saudi warning of December 2004.
However, the report does quote from this Guardian story stating, as above, a warning about a plot of four men aimed at the London underground in the first 6 months of 2005 before saying:
We cannot comment on the accuracy of this report, compared with the actual intelligence relating to the Saudi warning, without disclosing the details of the intelligence.
We said in our previous Report that the intelligence “was materially different from what actually occurred on 7 July and clearly not relevant to these attacks”, and we can confirm that we have seen nothing in this investigation that alters this view, or that would substantiate the Saudi claims. - ISC review of July 7th, p73
This may be true, however, is it pertinent to the question of why the threat level was lowered around a month before July 7th? Note the dates, in December 2004 the Saudis issue a warning relating to the first 6 months of 2005, i.e. January-June? Whatever happened on 7/7 happened in the 7th month, just after the Saudi warning had 'expired' and MI5 had reduced the alert level.
The ISC's attempt to debunk the relevance of the Saudi warning, particularly given the context of their overall attempt at an excuse, fails miserably. It would be quite easy for MI5 to say they got the warning but because it lacked specifics it was nothing more than another distraction among many that led to them missing the four alleged suicide bombers, but in denying its relevance completely they actually go against their own narrative of what they were doing and how they operate. However, they've let one thing slip - by saying that they cannot comment on the accuracy of the Guardian report without revealing the details of the actual warning they received, it logically follows that the Guardian report and the actual warning were at least similar. If they were very different, it would be possible to categorically say so without revealing the details.
In a similar attempt at debunking the reported connections to Haroon Aswat they descend into flat out contradiction, first saying:
After the bombings, MI5 investigated whether or not there was a “mastermind” who left the UK before the attacks. They found no intelligence to suggest that this was the case and no indication that ASWAT had any part to play in 7/7.
Then in the very next sentence:
There were some strands of intelligence, shortly after the bombings, which led MI5 to believe that ASWAT may have been involved in the attack, but these have since been discounted. - ISC review of July 7th, p74
Either they found no intelligence suggesting he was involved, or they found strands suggesting that which were later discounted. Again, they can't have it both ways. Moving on to the allegation that Aswat was protected by MI6 the report says:
It has also been alleged that ASWAT was protected from prosecution by Western intelligence services, and that he was able to leave the UK despite being on a terror watch list. We have found no evidence to substantiate these allegations - ISC review of July 7th, p74
While it may be the case that Aswat is a nobody, at least in terms of July 7th, international terrorism and intelligence services, to say they found no evidence to substantiate these allegations is odd. The allegation originates with John Loftus, a former prosecutor for the US Justice Department, in an interview with Fox News.
Loftus presents no real evidence for either the allegation that Aswat was the 'mastermind' of 'all the bombings on 7/7 and 7/21', and of course there were no bombings on 7/21. However, for the ISC's report to not even reference the interview where the Aswat-MI6 allegation originates, and to redact the whole of paragraph 255, and then conclude they found no evidence makes that conclusion a hollow one.
Other attempts are then made to debunk the questions and conspiracy theories concerning Mohammed Siddique Khan's background, terrorism training exercises being run close to and on the day of July 7th, and the much-disputed CCTV image from Luton train station. While each of these debunking attempts warrant scrutiny and criticism, the crucial problem with the report is that it advances an entire paradigm which is either dubious or plain wrong.
Firstly, it presents a narrative of MI5 working in earnest, free from political pressures, personal or institutional corruption, with national security firmly at the heart of their decisions. In the last few years the Downing Street Memo confirmed that intelligence was fixed to the war policy in Iraq, and the White House Memo showed that the US was considering a Northwoods-style provocation to try to make Saddam appear aggressive:
President Bush said: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach." - Channel 4 News
This shows that the sorts of dirty tricks that characterised the early Cold War are still very much at the forefront of our intelligence agencies, and that our security (i.e. us citizens) is not particularly high on the list. There's no way our security was enhanced by attacking Iraq, even the CIA concluded that. The whole understanding of the war on terror as a binary opposition between us and them (us being the West, them being Al Qaeda et al) is fallacious. Not only because our military actions in Eurasia provide yet more reasons for some people to resent the West even further, but also because there's so much interpenetration between the two sides. It's like a football match where each club loans the other team 5 of their players, and both clubs are owned by the same people, or a brand war where the two products are virtually identical and both companies have the same shareholders.
Take Omar Bakri and Al-Muhajiroun, which historycommons.org covers in excellent detail. Al-Muhajiroun and its sister organisation run in the Al-Kifah refugee centre in New York are both organisations born out of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, as they originally acted as recruiting hubs for willing volunteers to go and wage holy war against the Godless Commies. Internationally this was known as the Maktab al-Kidhamat, the 'office of services' for the mujahideen. They also raised money, hundreds of millions of dollars, though this was dwarfed by the sponsorship of the US and the Saudis. In the early days of the global war on terror Al-Muhajiroun and the whole Finsbury Park mosque set up were designated the enemy, eventually forcing the group to disband in October 2004. A new Imam was installed at the mosque and it all seemed hunky dory, but the organisation split and continued under two new names. These two then became proscribed organisations (banned) in 2006, only to resurface once again with new names.
Bakri himself only further illustrates the point. Despite numerous proclamations throughout the 1990s, including the suggestion that assassinating Prime Minister John Major wouldn't have been a bad idea, he remained essentially untroubled by the security services. As the wars in the Balkans progressed he and his organisation became ever more useful. In 1998 Bakri stated that he had a deal with the authorities which he referred to as the 'covenant of peace', but which is also called the 'covenant of security'. Under this agreement groups like Bakri's are allowed to make a home in Britain in exchange for the promise that they won't attack on British soil.
There are principally two ways to look at this - either the agreement is (or at least was) real, and that this relaxed attitude towards extremists compromised our national security to the extent that we let bombers slip through our fingers, or this agreement is merely a smokescreen for a greater complicity. Broadly, the covenant of security maintains the idea of us vs. them, and so could itself be disinformation again designed to instill this idea of a clash of civilisations, a grand binary opposition of different peoples. John Loftus briefly refers to this in his interview above, talking about a 'we leave you alone, you leave us alone' deal. The problem with this is that they didn't leave each other alone.
In an interview in March 2004, Bakri said that many British based militants were being monitored and manipulated by British intelligence:
A: I believe Britain is harbouring most of the Islamic opposition leaders of the Muslim world.
A: Because the British elites are very clever, they are not stupid like the Americans. Remember these people used to rule half of the world... The British are not like the French and the Germans, they don’t slap you in the face, they stab you in the back. They want to buy some of these Islamic groups.
Q: Has there ever been, to your knowledge, a secret deal between some Islamists and British security whereby radical Muslims would be left alone as long as they did not threaten British national security?
A: I believe all the people referred to as “moderate” Muslims have at one time or another struck deals with the British government. But the British have been unable to corrupt radical groups like the HT.
Q: Who are these moderate Muslims?
A: The Muslim Brotherhood in the UK, UK Islamic Mission, Gammaa Islamiyah, Iranian opposition groups, the so-called Ahlul Bait groups...
...All the Shia groups enjoy excellent relations with the British government, and this includes the Kho’ee foundation in London.
...Q: Okay, let us discuss the security situation here in the UK; it is often said that you are under constant surveillance, are we under surveillance right now?
A: To be honest, I think everything I say and do is monitored.
Q: How many times have you been interviewed by MI5?
A: I cannot really differentiate between MI5, Special Branch or the Police; they all represent the same authority as far as I am concerned—and I have been questioned by these people on at least 16 occasions.
Q: I have noted a discrepancy in the way you assess the British; on the one hand you maintain that British security is poor, while on the other you assert that the British are comparatively clever as they used to rule half the world, so what is your real position?
A: I meant that their understanding of Islam is poor. But I believe the really clever people are the elites in this country, as they know how to divide Muslims.
Q: Who are these elites?
A: The landlords, think-tanks and the decision makers. - Interview with Omar Bakri
The significance of Bakri's suggestions of widespread involvement of the British security services, at the behest of an empirical elite, with the leaders of the Islamic opposition would become clearer in 2005, when Bakri admitted to being an informant for MI5. Clearly this was not a relationship of mutual ignorance suggested by 'we leave you alone, you leave us alone', but one that moved from Bakri's organisation recruiting militants to fight dirty wars in Afghanistan and then the Balkans, to him actively informing MI5 of the activities of others within the UK. Shortly after 7/7, in August 2005, Bakri fled the country amidst suggestions that he was going to be charged with treason.
Why treason? Why not charge him with inciting violence or inciting religious hatred or a number of other things he could reasonably be proven to have done? Bakri himself offers one suggestion:
"We were able to control the Muslim youth.… The radical preacher that allows a venting of a point of view is preventing violence." - historycommons.org
If Bakri's role as an 'extremist hate preacher' was in fact strategic, and endorsed by MI5 or some other authority then it might prove difficult and potentially embarassing to prosecute him. Shortly after leaving the country he was banned by the Home Office, conveniently preventing him from returning to face any sort of trial. At the same time Al-Muhajiroun were added to the official list of proscribed organisations, a bizarre move given they'd disbanded and reformed nearly a year earlier.
Even stranger was an episode from 2008, when The Sun newspaper, Britain's leading tabloid (Murdoch-owned), published stories alleging that Omar Bakri's daughter Yasmin was a stripper and a pole-dancer, and that Bakri himself had paid for her breast implants. Yasmin then gave a lengthy interview to the Daily Mail not only denying the allegations but also portraying her father as very different to the 'firebrand hate preacher' the press, including the Mail, typically portray him as.
Recently, having fled to Lebanon, Bakri has been accused of setting up a local Al Qaeda wing and in January a warrant was issued for his arrest by the Lebanese authorities. However, this didn't stop him phoning up Sky News a few days later to complain about being banned from an internet chat room.
In this context another recent story must be viewed with some scepticism. Abu Qatada, another member of the ill-reputed Finsbury Park mosque group and reported MI5 double agent, was in 2000 sentenced to life imprisonment by a court in Jordan. He was arrested in UK in 2002 and the order signed for his deportation, which he then successfully appealed against. He was granted bail but then re-arrested for breaking the conditions, and his appeal against deportation was then itself overruled by the Law Lords. He has appealed against that ruling by taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights, who recently awarded him £2,500 for being detained shortly after 9/11. The ECHR appeal could take as long as two years. A few days ago, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb issued a warning saying that unless Qatada was freed within 15 days that they'd kill a British hostage. Why the group, who have also recently demanded a ransom for their two remaining hostages, didn't make this statement earlier is unclear. It is, however, useful timing to reinforce the false picture of Al Qaeda as our sworn enemies being peddled by the Home Office's July 7th report.
Finally, the one thing completely disregarded in the report is the possibility that this wasn't an attack by four homegrown Muslim suicide bombers. Despite their explicit attempt to debunk conspiracy theories, or just reasonable questions, about 7/7 there's no space at all for the suggestion that something else may have happened that day. David Minahan, a former claims investigator for an insurance company and a firm of solicitors, who was also National President of major trade union, compiled a dossier of witness reports, published by the July 7th truth campaign. It concludes that in all likelihood there were a number of other explosions in London that morning that clearly could not have been caused by four suicide bombers working alone. Whether this implies a much larger terrorist attack than is admitted, or that there was as initially reported a major power surge on the underground network causing explosions on many different trains, isn't at all certain, but what is clear is that in the absence of a comprehensive and plausible version of events the questions and theories will continue.