J7: The July 7th Truth Campaign
A couple of days ago the Home Office announced that the UK terrorism threat level, ubiquitously referred to as the 'terror threat level', was being lowered from from 'severe' to 'substantial'. As explained by ITN, this means that an attack is no longer 'highly likely' but remains a 'strong possibility'. Regardless of these rather quibbling definitions Home Secretary Alan Johnson repeated the line of his predecessors saying that there is a 'real and serious threat' from terrorism. The same phrase was used by Jacqui Smith, John Reid, Charles Clarke and David Blunkett, particularly when there was any indication that the threat was manufactured and farcical. It is most definitely not a coincidence that Mr Johnson chose to say it this time. As per usual, any concession to reality comes with attendent doublespeak - as we're effectively encouraged to ignore the lowering of the threat level because the threat is still the same as before, 'real and serious'.
The public alert level was introduced in mid 2006, suspiciously only a matter of days before the revelation of the transatlantic liquid bomb plot. It was immediately raised from 'severe' to 'critical', a curious decision since they'd just arrested over 20 people and therefore apparently interdicted a major life-threatening plot. It seems the more people they arrest, the higher the threat goes. The plot itself has so far (nearly 3 years later) yielded precisely no convictions on charges of conspiring to blow up transatlantic airliners with liquid bombs.
The BBC cited a 'terror expert' claiming that our military strategy in Afghanistan was somehow reducing the threat from Al Qaeda. Given that little has been heard of Bin Laden in Afghanistan since his possible death in 2001, and very little since his possible death in 2006, and next to nothing since his possible death earlier this year, it is doubtful that this is true. Besides which, the 'terror expert' in question is little other than a mouthpiece for the government, being one of the first to use another common phrase regarding 7/7, that they 'bore the hallmarks of Al Qaeda'.
This brings us onto a recent broadcast by the BBC along similarly deceptive lines, their Conspiracy Files episode on 7/7, the events of July 7th 2005.
The BBC's prior efforts in this series were appalling, in particular the three episodes devoted to 9/11, as discussed previously on this blog. The original 9/11 show was broadcast in early 2007. As David Ray Griffin notes, this came off the back of the publication of several debunking efforts, notably Michael Bronner's Vanity Fair essay on the NORAD tapes, Without Precedent written by the co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, NIST's Answers to Frequently Asked Questions and Popular Mechanics' book Debunking 9/11 Myths. The BBC's own contribution to this debate was a documentary that devoted more time to insulting conspiracy theorists than it did to discussing pertinent questions and possible explanations. The other efforts weren't quite so bad, in particular Without Precedent in which Kean and Hamilton explicitly state that the Commission was 'set up to fail' and that the military must have lied about what actually happened in the sky that morning.
It is probably worth noting that this BBC broadcast comes off the back of two recent debunking efforts, the publication of the second ISC report into the 'intelligence failures' in the lead up to July 7th, previously discussed here, and the release of various clips of CCTV of the alleged bombers that morning by the Metropolitan Police. This footage was finally made available on a Friday before a bank holiday weekend (early May), and the link where you could download the clips now comes up not found, so it's safe to assume they don't want us to look at those images too closely. More on that at a later date.
So, given the extraordinary low quality of the Conspiracy Files series it is unsurprising that both the July 7th Truth Campaign and the makers of Ludicrous Diversion, a documentary examining some of the problems with the official account of 7/7, refused to have anything to do with the production of this new episode. In particular the BBC's approach to the July 7th campaigners was deceitful, in that they took five months after the initial contact to reveal that the show would be part of the Conspiracy Files series. The implication here is that they did this deliberately, trying to snooker the J7 group into involvement in a one dimensional propaganda effort, and therefore discrediting them.
So what the BBC ended up with was a not particularly insightful refutation of the independently produced 7/7 Ripple Effect. This film is by far the worst of all the internet documentaries on the subject, though it is quite popular among the audiences of Alex Jones and David Icke, possibly the two most famous conspiracy theorists in the world. The film is voiced by someone using the pseudonym Muad'Dib, speaking in a Yorkshire accent, and though the visual quality of the film is impressive the content is mostly conspiratorial accusations and the misconstruing of genuinely important questions. In essence, the BBC picked a very easy target.
Whereas the 9/11 shows just sought to insult conspiracy theorists, the BBC adopted a somewhat different tactic in their 7/7 effort, seeking to portray conspiracy theorists/theories as dangers to society, as destroying confidence in the government and social order. Some would say we have no reason to maintain confidence in the government and social order, and if accused of destroying said confidence would perhaps say, like Kent Brockman, it's about f**king time.
A few minutes into the show the persuasive female voice-over tells us that according to the government account 'there's no doubt' that the four were responsible and that these were suicide bombings. Either the people writing the script for this programme haven't read the reports, or they failed to notice the vagueness and ambiguity which plague even critical parts of the story. A few examples:
A light blue Nissan Micra is caught on CCTV in Hyde Park Road, Leeds, prior to joining the M1 outside Leeds. This car was hired by Shehzad Tanweer and is believed to have been carrying Tanweer, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Hasib Hussain...
Lindsay, Hussain, Tanweer and Khan enter Luton station and go through the ticket barriers together. It is not known where they bought their tickets or what sort of tickets they possessed, but they must have had some to get on to the platform...
Khan must have gone to board a westbound Circle Line train, Tanweer an eastbound Circle Line train and Lindsay a southbound Piccadilly Line train...
CCTV images show the platform at Liverpool Street with the eastbound Circle Line train alongside seconds before it is blown up. Shehzad Tanweer is not visible, but he must have been in thesecond carriage from the front.
It was almost certainly at Euston that Hussain switched to the no 30 bus travelling eastwards from Marble Arch. - Home Office Narrative
Without a clear account of their movements it is impossible to know if the four were even on the trains, let alone if they were responsible for the explosions. On that subject, neither official report is conclusive.
Expert examination continues but it appears the bombs were homemade. - Home Office Narrative
Post-incident forensic analysis has shown that the explosions were caused by home-made organic peroxide-based devices, packed into rucksacks...
...The devices were almost certainly detonated manually by the bombers themselves in intentional suicide attacks. - ISC report
The use of such language is consistent throughout both the original ISC report and the Home Office narrative, meaning that doubt about what happened is completely justified from reading the official account. If you include the published accounts of other authorities such at the Metropolitan Police and Transport For London then such doubt is vindicated further because of the numerous inconsistencies between the different versions. Put simply, there is no one confirmed authoritative account of what happened, from anyone. Least of all the government on which these conspiracy theorists are casting doubt.
The show then interviews Rachel North, an ever-present in mainstream coverage of July 7th. 'North' is not her real surname, but while the BBC documentary notes that the maker of 7/7 Ripple Effect 'hides' behind a pseudonym, it makes no mention of Rachel doing the same. This is a very straightforward example of how the show seeks to prejudice the viewer against one source of information and in favour of another. Rachel herself maintains a curious position, she is heartily in favour of a public inquiry, yet the only question she feels needs answering is whether the bombers could have been stopped, whether MI5 failed in their job to intercept these plots before anyone gets killed. Despite the abundance of problems with every aspect of the official account, not just the question of what MI5 knew and when they knew it, the utter disregard for other avenues of inquiry is strange. Particularly when she goes to such extents to publically engange in a slanging match with 'conspiracy theorists', courtesy of the BBC (and in a Channel 4 show aired in 2008).
This is all very inflammable stuff. We have a small minority of people spreading a big, powerful idea. And the big powerful idea is there is a war on Islam, there is a war on Muslims, that it is your duty to fight against those who strike at our people. The idea that the government actually faked the 7/7 bombings, in order to demonise Muslims, is just throwing petrol on to the flames of this idea. - Rachel 'North', BBC Conspiracy Files 7/7
This view is very much in keeping with the UK governments new (as of March) counterterrorism strategy, which seeks to target anyone creating any sort of hostility that the government disapproves of, but particularly Muslims. The BBC go to great lengths to show connections between 7/7 conspiracy theories and British Muslims, filming at a mosque that shows screening of 7/7 Ripple Effect. It is utterly unsurprising to find that some members of a minority community object to being associated with mass murder when there's little evidence for it. Though the film they're watching is poor and it is sad to see misinformation spreading among dissenters, this wasn't the BBC's concern. Their aim was to firmly associate even those just questioning the official account, without even advancing a conspiracy theory, with a dangerous conservative Islamic agenda that threatens social cohesion. That this completely absolves the government of any scepticism or allegation of wrongdoing is a useful by-product of approaching such questions in this way.
After glossing over the implications of the mistaken and now revised Home Office version which has the four on a non-existent 7:40 train from Luton to London, the BBC move on to the question of warnings to the Israeli embassy about the 'impending attacks'. The suggestion is that Benyamin Netanyahu, in town for an economics conference, received a warning prior to the attacks, indicating Israeli foreknowledge. In drawing parallels between this claim and the ones about Jews being told not to go to work at the WTC on 9/11 the BBC not only conflates Israelis with Jews, but tries to give the whole suggestion an anti-semitic tinge. After interviewing Netanyahu's media advisor (spin doctor) and a journalist at the conference the BBC concludes that there's 'no evidence' of any such warning. In terms of the press coverage they cite a single Associated Press story that is now said to be based on flawed information.
While many of the links to the original stories are dead, articles describing a warning to the Israelis (either to the embassy or direct to Netanyahu) were published by Arutz Sheva, Bild Am Sonntag, al Jazeera, ynetnews, and the Associated Press. An article published by Stratfor and a story in the India Daily both claim that in fact the Mossad had warned the British in the days before of an imminent attack. As such, the allegations are much broader than those dealt with by the BBC and they have therefore failed to answer the implicit questions. By simply repeating the AP's later retraction of the story and the official denials they show their willingness to simply take official sources at their word, while seeking to criticise unofficial ones in an aggressive manner. The reassuring female voice over states that just like the warnings to Jews on 9/11, the Israeli warning never took place. Carefully not mentioned is that the Israeli-owned instant messaging service Odigo openly admitted that two of their employees received messages two hours before the WTC attacks predicting what would happen, which is presumably where the 9/11 rumour started. Odigo has since been acquired by another 9/11-connected Israeli security company, the scandal ridden Comverse Technology.
The Conspiracy Files show goes on to discuss the contention that the explosions on the underground took place underneath the trains, not inside them in the backpacks of suicide bombers. The most famous account suggesting this is that of Bruce Lait, and so the BBC interviewed him. After he essentially repeated the exact same thing he'd said originally, the voice over claimed that he 'doesn't know if he actually saw evidence' that the explosion was underneath the carriage, trying to put down the first hand, consistent eye witness testimony of a survivor simply because it said something they didn't want it to. No such caveat was provided after any of Rachel North's comments.
Presumably hoping for a more pejorative, derisory reaction than they got, the BBC continued to interview Bruce Lait about having received a copy of 7/7 Ripple Effect. Bruce had clearly watched the film and in a moment that tainted the BBC's entire approach he said:
If what the Ripple Effect says is true, then we should know about it, and it should be looked into in a massive way, because like I say, it basically is saying that somebody is to blame other than those suicide bombers, who is it? - Bruce Lait, BBC Conspiracy Files 7/7
While 7/7 Ripple Effect is a poorly researched, largely misleading film the question of explosions underneath the trains is significant due to the vast number of witnesses who spoke of derailments, of the train being pushed upwards by the explosion, of massive damage to the floors of the carriages. Bruce Lait's description of metal pushed upwards into the carriage in the Liverpool Street tube train is essentially confirmed by Lizzie Kenworthy, an off-duty police officer in the next carriage. At Edgware Road, Katie Benton (who should have been travelling on a train in the opposite direction to the one officially bombed), described a 'huge crater' in the floor of the carriage, confirmed by Susanna Pell. So while the Ripple Effect film itself is a weak contribution, it is not without some merit, arguably more than the BBC's attempt (though not by much).
This is demonstrated by the following section, regarding the explosion on the diverted number 30 bus. 7/7 Ripple Effect suggests that Richard Jones may have left the bomb on the bus, on the grounds that he served an apprenticeship in an explosives factory. Keen to dispel this puny, poorly sourced allegation the BBC interviewed Richard Jones, who explained that he served an apprenticeship as an electrician and knew nothing of explosives. Completely overlooked is that Richard Jones has given a variety of different accounts, claiming he saw Hasib Hussain on the bus but describing someone dressed differently to the images of Hussain from that day. The BBC made no attempt to clear up this considerably more important matter, as there are no CCTV images of Hussain on the bus and Jones's statements are obliquely referred to in the Home Office Narrative.
The show then moves on from 'separating fact from fiction' regarding the material events of July 7th and gets on with its real task of ridiculing and insulting conspiracy theorists. Rachel North (still no mention of her using a pseudonym) is interviewed once more, describing her hostility towards those calling her a 'lying Zionist bitch' and a 'source of misinformation'. While the former comments are distasteful, aggressive and unjustified, the latter is most certainly true. Rachel's blog advances in detail a version of the 'struggle against Islamic extremism' which includes no mention of the various and longstanding ties between Islamic militants/ideologues and western intelligence/security services. As such, it presents an exceptionally partial version of events which, like the BBC, absolves the government of any responsibility. It is probably also worth noting that a recent post on her blog reveals that the most vicious comments made about her are on Stormfront, a grotesque and essentially unmoderated website devoted to macabre aggression.
This attempt to marginalise all conspiracy theorists and tar them with the same derogatory brush continued when turning to the question of the Visor Consultants terrorism training exercise being run on the morning of 7/7. Interviewing Peter Power, the managing director of the firm running the exercise, who gave two interviews on the evening of July 7th describing their similarity to real events. Peter Power is introduced as a victim of hate mail and unfounded accusations, and described as a 'crisis management consultant'. His history as a Scotland Yard counter terrorism officer is glossed over, and no mention is made of his frequent presence on the TV as a terrorism pundit.
Also ignored was Peter Power's appearance in a 2004 Panorama show called London Under Attack, which depicted a terrorist attack on London where three tube trains are bombed followed an hour later by an attack on a large road vehicle, albeit a chemical tanker and not a bus. As discovered by the J7 research team this earlier show, while acknowledging Power's history as a Metropolitan police officer, also omits details of a questionable period in the early 90s when he worked for Dorset Police. Given the BBC's and Power's willingness to present very partial, even deceitful information there is no good reason to believe the explanation given.
Power is shown reconstructing the exercise he ran that morning, which is said to be office based, and envisaged bombings of trains at Liverpool Street station, and between Kings Cross and Russell Square stations, essentially identical to two of the locations apparently bombed that day. This exercise is said to have involved no actors on the ground, and involved only six people from London based publishing firm Reed Elsevier.
However, in Peter Power's original interview on BBC Radio Five Live he said that 'I still have the hairs on the back of my neck standing upright,' which is greatly at odds with his Conspiracy Files interview in which he points out that the London tube has been a frequent target for terrorists and so it was only logical to have that be the exercise scenario. The BBC failed to present this contrast, or make any mention of Power's repeated comments on July 7th that their scenario was based on simultaneous bombings, at a time when officially the tube bombings were staggered over half an hour. They weren't said to be simultaneous until two days later. Similarly, Peter Power said in his ITV interview on 7/7 that he was 'up until 2 o clock in the morning', presumably the night before. If the exercise was a powerpoint presentation for just six people why was he up until 2 a.m.? Is Peter Power extremely disorganised? All of this makes the BBC's attempt to debunk the relevance of Peter Power's exercise untrustworthy, and should only increase suspicion.
More discussion of the dangerous social consequences of conspiracy theories follows, with more people in mosques discussing 7/7 Ripple Effect, and more Rachel North talking about how the 'people in mosques' wrongly thinking they'd been framed for a crime was damaging to trust in the authorities. Still no mention of Rachel North's use of a pseudonym but after showing a copy of the Ripple Effect film to Peter Power the narrator informs us that Power's problem is that the allegations are coming from an anonymous source. However, by the time of the show's broadcast in early July 2009 it was common knowledge (to anyone who bothered to look) that Muad'Dib is 60 year old Yorkshireman Anthony John Hill of Kells, Co Meath. This has been known since February, when he was arrested under an extradition warrant so he could face charges of attempting to pervert the course of justice by sending DVDs of his film to the judge and foreman of the jury in the original 7/7 alleged helpers trial.
Peter Power is then interviewed again where he laments the impossibility of prosecuting an anonymous filmmaker, which presumably means the BBC decided to include an out of date interview in the hope that their audience were ignorant and would go along with this portrayal of John Hill as a menacing, aggressive conspiracy theorist waging a campaign against Peter Power. Who is Muad'Dib? the narrator asks, and Will he ever emerge from the shadows? In what was presumably a more recently-produced section the show then quickly, and uncritically, repeats some of the assertions of the second ISC report, explicitly identifying the report's attempt to debunk conspiracy theories. This further establishes the BBC's underlying motive to debunk, offering an explicit source of official disinformation as authoritative.
Nick Kollerstrom, a discredited former academic and clearly one of very few willing to talk to the BBC for this farcical show, is then presented with the recently released CCTV footage from July 7th, again tying this BBC show to the prior debunking efforts. Kollerstrom then ambles and mumbles through a response, before the narrator tells us that there's something we 'don't know about Nick Kollerstrom', namely that he's a holocaust denier. This is just one more blatant attempt by the BBC to associate conspiracy theories with racism or otherwise extreme agendas and beliefs. Presumably Kollerstrom went along with this pathetic charade of investigative filmmaking because the BBC paid his expenses. Rachel North, still no mention of the pseudonym, rams the point home explicitly connecting research that leads to holocaust denial with research into 7/7 conspiracy theories.
Muad'Dib, the narrator informs us, has until now evaded scrutiny, so the BBC tracked him down. Given that months prior to the show being broadcast John Hill had been named and arrested, it's a perversion of facts to suggest he'd not been subject to scrutiny and that they'd tracked him down. Even the name of his street had appeared in mainstream Irish media several months ago. However, this presents an image of the BBC as concerned with a real investigation, and trying to uncover the truth. Again, it relies on the ignorance of the audience and explicitly seeks to deceive.
After describing John Hill as 'waging a propaganda war' to advance his 'distorted vision of reality', ironically precisely what the BBC did with this programme, a reporter confronts him in the street, accusing him of damaging trust in the British public. A comment from a non-sceptic of the official account on the BBC site was particularly apt:
The programme reached its climax with the mad old man who uses the name MuadDib being hunted down and confronted, Roger Cook style, by the unseen Conspiracy Files reporter. Why are you bringing the British government into disrepute? he huffily demanded, to a silent response.
A peculiar question, especially now in the wake of the expenses scandal, and almost daily revelations about how the government lied to us on rendition and torture during the Bush/Blair years, not to mention the false WMD claims, and the growing awareness that the evidence on which the case to go to war against Iraq was based was fixed. The government doesnt need a beardy weirdy who thinks hes Jesus to bring it into disrepute, its already doing a splendid job by itself. - brynberian, BBC comments
John Hill's rather bizarre beliefs about being the Messiah, and the location of the Ark of the Covenant are then briefly mentioned, before the BBC claims that Hill was arrested after they caught up with him, which either means that they deliberately showed out of date footage as current, or are flat out lying about when they filmed it.
The finale of the show, filmed very shortly before the broadcast, shows a meeting between independent journalist Tony Gosling and Dr Naseem, the chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque which has held screenings of 7/7 Ripple Effect. Spooky music and a well timed reveal of Dr Naseem encourages the reaction that this is a covert plot by Muslims and conspiracy theorists. The event apparently organised in this meeting between Gosling and Dr Naseem resulted in a local MP calling for Naseem's resignation. This only makes it look more like there's a concerted official debunking effort.
While the BBC programme can be criticised for many things its most heinous crime is hypocrisy. In denouncing all sceptics of the official version of 7/7 as crackpots, aggressive weirdos and religious maniacs they contribute far more to the erosion of trust in public institutions such as the government or the BBC than any mosque chairman or bearded messiah wannabe ever could. In simply repeating the official story and only seeking to criticise those asking questions they act as nothing more than a mouthpiece for official propaganda, failing in their democratic duty to present this contentious and sensitive issue in anything even approaching an even-handed way. They have also failed to live up to their own editorial guidelines, which explicitly state:
Impartiality is described in the Agreement as "due impartiality". It requires us to be fair and open minded when examining the evidence and weighing all the material facts, as well as being objective and even handed in our approach to a subject. It does not require the representation of every argument or facet of every argument on every occasion or an equal division of time for each view. - BBC
Given the naked and obvious deceptions, bias and reliance on the audience's ignorance evident throughout this BBC show there's little doubt that it never had any intention of fulfilling these obligations, and was only interested in presenting a view where conspiracy theories fuel extreme Islamism, destroy trust in the government and corrode social cohesion, and that this is because conspiracy theorists are all mentally ill in some way or another. Public service broadcasting at its finest.