Saturday, July 04, 2009

Andy Hayman's book, 7/7 conspiracy theories and the campaign for a 7/7 inquiry

On June 20th, Andy Hayman, CBE, QPM, who was in overall charge of the Counter-terrorism Command and Special Branch at the time of the London 7/7 bombings, and was the UK's National Counter-terrorism Co-ordinator, sensationally came out in favour of an independent public inquiry, in the media as he pre-promoted his new book 'The Terrorist Hunters', serialised in the Times and the subject of a Tonight With Sir Trevor McDonald ITV primetime special.

Startlingly, Mr Hayman's memoir, which is co-written by Margaret Gilmore, previously BBC Home Affairs Correspondent and now RUSI Senior Research Fellow has just been banned from UK shops, because of an injunction by the Attorney General, which nobody is allowed to talk about.

I'm very grateful to Mr Hayman for lending powerful support to the inquiry campaign, and I hope the court hearing goes well this week. The Terrrorist Hunters is an interesting book. I'm already on page 285 (cheers, Amazon). It's a disturbing and candid account of the worrying politicisation of terrorism and policing, and powerfully evokes the chaos and confusion behind the scenes as well as covering the successes and disasters facing the police and security service.

Earlier last week, on Tuesday 30th June at 9pm, the BBC broadcast a controversial one-hour investigative documentary examining the conspiracy theories that have grown up around the 7th July Bombings in the absence of an independent public inquiry into the atrocities. The programme can be seen here on i-player. I felt quite anxious about doing an interview when I was approached about this in early 2008, and talked to friends and colleagues before I agreed to get involved with the project in a personal capacity. I recorded the interview in April 2008 because I strongly believed that it would help the 7/7 public inquiry campaign. Then the programme was held back until after a terrorism trial this year.

I am relieved to say that the documentary 'The Conspiracy Files: 7/7' finally being shown has indeed helped the inquiry campaign. Martin Bright on The Spectator website was straight out of the blocks with a column on the conspiracy theories and why we need an inquiry, and the Guardian ran a similar article on its website. (The Guardian recently ran other columns on the subject of the need for a 7/7 inquiry, and was the first to cover the rise of 7/7 conspiracy theories back in June 2006.)

Then, today the Mail on Saturday, published a fairly hysterical feature on why only a major independent inquiry will stop the wild rumours, pointing out that as well as Andy Hayman, former Scotland Yard deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick, and David Davis, former Tory Shadow Home Secretary - support the call for an independent investigation into the bombings. In an earlier big breakthrough for the campaign, the Daily Mail came out editorially for an independent 7/7 public inquiry in May this year. The Mirror, meanwhile first began editorially supporting a 7/7 inquiry in July 2006.

Former army officer, Patrick Mercer OBE, who is the Chair of the Home Office Sub-Committee n Counter-terrorism, has supported a full investigation into 7/7 and counter-terrorism for ages. Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz told me last summer that he favours a full investigation into the terrorism events of the terrible summer of 2005 - a position he reiterated on Newsnight only weeks ago.

To these supporters can be added long-time 7/7 inquiry supporter Nick Clegg, and the Liberal Democrat party, who support a full public inquiry, and Chris Grayling, Shadow Home Secretary, who supports an independent Judicial inquiry. Meanwhile, Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, former Chair of the British Joint Intelligence Committee and Shadow Minister for Security has condemned the Intelligence and Security's Committee's 7/7 reports as 'not good enough'.

So I'm pretty pleased that the campaigning which is having such an effect. I'm also relieved that the BBC2 programme was as effective as I hoped it would be.

Why the focus on rebutting conspiracy theories? I, personally have been the both subject of conspiracy theories, and the target of conspiracy theorists, probably due to this blog, for over three years. Because of this strange experience I became interested in what these people believed, and I researched the conspiracy theories, their origins, dissemination and effects in some detail. As time has gone on I have become more and more concerned about the effects the 7/7 conspiracy theories are having; how they are no longer the preserve of eccentrics and cranks, but are spreading like a virus.

I first raised my concerns about 7/7 conspiracy theories to SO15 Counter-Terror command back in November 2006, following up on 4th December 2006. I contacted them via the secure website used by victims, drawing their attention to conspiracy sites which had sprung up on the internet and which made much of the lack of 7/7 CCTV images. I asked them if they could release more CCTV of the bombers, since the public had, to date, only seen 'one grainy image of the bombers entering Luton station'. I wrote,

'I have been contacted by dozens of people who read my blog over the last year and who say that they simply do not believe the official version of what happened on 7/7 because ''there is no proof that the bombers were in London ''The Government's official narrative giving a non-existent train that never ran as the one the bombers caught from Luton to Kings Cross made things worse and I have had even more people get in contact and say that there is some kind of cover up.

Checking out internet message boards, it seems these doubts are becoming widespread particularly amongst some young Muslims and these bizarre conspiracy theories are gaining in popularity. I think this increasing denial of the culpability of the bombers ( the attitude of 'there's no proof they were even there') is unhelpful for police/community relations and surely we need good intelligence and good relations to prevent future attacks?'

A senior SO15 officer responded with a detailed and entirely reasonable explanation of how 7/7 remained an active criminal investigation, and there was an investigation being conducted in support of the Coroner and that they would not want to do anything to compromise investigations. He explained that they had a large number of CCTV images, he wrote of the need to preserve evidential continuity of exhibits, 'sometimes even before they become significant as exhibits'. He explained that CCTV cannot be viewed in isolation,

'...many strands of investigation are brought together to get the greatest evidential value from the images. Images of people entering a station are worked in reverse to find the vehicles they arrived in, potential routes are traced and images viewed to see whether the vehicles can be seen in other places, and so on, to the start of a journey. Financial and general enquiries can give insight into ownership, or hiring. Forensic work is used to add or detract from other findings. Documentary, technical and witness accounts are also added to lead to a formidable account of events.
Release of CCTV imagery in isolation will show what police say it shows. It would have to be accompanied by explanation and a sequence of events, involving other strands of the enquiry to enable those viewing the images to recognise their significance. This explanation and corroboration could amount to much of the material to be used in the Coroner's court. This may lead to intense media speculation, and the Coroner's inquest being conducted in advance by our rightly vigilant, necessarily intrusive, but sometimes speculative media. It may also compromise the criminal investigation. We have to take immense care with this'

He also added, somewhat wryly.

'...with respect to 'conspiracy theories', if a person has the view that the enquiry is less than transparent, it could be difficult to change this view.
It is sobering to see the detailed analysis, conducted by persons with apparent authority, of the limited material released to the media.'

The CCTV images were later shown at the 2008 Theseus trial, R.vs. Ali, and again at the retrial in spring 2009, and subsequently released. Yet doubts, rumours and conspiracy theories remain and indeed are spreading; it seems once people start to believe there is a cover-up or deception, it is very hard to get them to change their mind or review any evidence which contradicts their belief that there powerful forces are conspiring to hide the truth.

One of the most disturbing parts of the BBC programme showed respected senior figure Dr Mohammed Naseem of Birmingham Central Mosque showing a newly-popular internet film called '7/7 Ripple Effect' to a room full of men and boys. The homemade film posits that the 7/7 bombs were not the work of Islamist extremists but instead placed under the trains by agents of the British and Israeli government, who then arranged for the execution of 4 Muslim men with rucksacks, who had been duped into believing themselves part of a terror training exercise. When Dr Naseem asked the who believed the film's message, over two thirds of the people in the room raised their hands. Dr Naseem had made 2000 copies of the film to be distributed by the mosque attendees afterwards .

How can you help to stop violent extremism and jihadi attacks, if you will not even accept it exists? A Channel 4 News survey in 2007 reported that nearly a quarter of Muslims in the UK did not believe the London bombers were responsible for the attacks and a similar number think the security services were involved. Given that many Muslims in the UK are of Pakistani heritage, and the Pakistani ISI has a long history of covertly supporting pro-Kashmiri liberation militant cells, and attributing terrorist bomb attacks to people other than those who detonated the explosives, this is perhaps not surprising. But we are not in Pakistan, and the UK security service is not the ISI.

Whilst our security service have in the past have compromised and tolerated radical Islamists and violent extremists residing in the UK , accepting the 'Covenant of Security', and despite being rightly under pressure for being tangled up in the abhorrent use of torture, they are, I believe, brave and dedicated to keeping the UK safe and the idea that they bombed UK citizens in a false flag act of terror is insupportable. I am not saying this because I am some kind of naive liberal: I am saying this because it is manifestly true.

Fortunately, denial of the reality of the London attacks being carried out by four young British men, radicalised like thousands of others by causes such as Kashmir, Iraq and Afghanistan; recruited in the UK by those on the lookout for those who simmered with a sense of resentful grievance, and takfiri religious zeal, trained in camps in the foothills of the Afghanistan-Pakistan borders, and mentored by spiritual and political emirs, frequently based outside the UK - is NOT representative of the views of most of the 2.4 million Muslims in the UK. This cannot be repeated enough. It is worth repeating stories such as how, in Luton, local Muslims recently took peaceful but determined action against a small local group of odious al Muhajiroun extremists, with three hundred marching to their preaching stall in Luton after Friday prayers and telling them to shove off.

In fact, a recent survey of UK Muslims found them to be patriotic, respectful, and extremely socially conservative. 77% said they identified 'strongly' with the UK - compared to only 50% of the general UK population.

Preying on a sense of victimhood, anger and grievance, stating that not only do all police and politicians lie but they are actively involved in nefarious plans to persecute 'people like you'. Spreading inflammatory and racist ideas in meetings, online and through passing on DVDs and tracts - that is how pretty much all extremists strive to fan hate and spread division, and some of them hope it will flare up into headline-grabbing violence.

Muslim-hating white supremacists, takfiri 'Kuf'-hating Islamists are startlingly similar in many ways. Both groups are, unsurprisingly, awash with conspiracy theorists, both contain zealots who are deeply antisemitic and racist, both contain many who take the mendacious tract 'The Protocols of the The Elders of Zion' seriously - the tract Hitler used to justify the Holocaust - and indeed, holocaust-deniers can be found in both camps. Hateful extremism can wear surprising masks, and extremists will always try to recruit the idealistic, the angry, the activists, the politically engaged and yes, the devout who are light on theological understanding of how all the world's religions deplore killing and advocate respect and love for fellow humans.

Most people do not buy into extremism, that is why it exists on the fringes. Some flirt with it, then move on. It is almost impossible to change the mind of a true bigot, zealot or hardcore conspiracy theorist. What is important is depriving them of an accepting or endorsing community who does not challenge their ideology, thus semi-legitimising it. Conspiracy theories are used to recruit, to persuade, to give cover for many different kinds of extremism. To persuade people of the righteousness of your cause you must persuade them that they are being victimised and that you are standing up for their rights. But when 'standing up for what's right' involves attacking people on the basis of their race or religion - or lack of religion - then this is dangerous and wrong.

It is far easier to gain sympathies for extremist causes when it is passed about that an all-powerful and wicked, lying government is actively oppressing white people, or Muslims, or whoever, and that innocent people are being misrepresented, abused and in the case of terrorism, set up and framed for crimes they did not commit.

I don't think many conspiracy theorists realise the damage spreading conspiracy theories does. And in many conspiracy theories, there is a small grain of truth. The government has indeed done some very bad things.

Unfair, oppressive laws, horrific and illegal practices like rendition, torture, detainment without trial, control orders, illegal wars and unpopular invasions, the cynical support of loathsome regimes with appalling human rights records, and the use of proxy groups in territorial machinations all play as mood music to extremists' propaganda, acting as a further recruiting sergeant. Wise security experts in the UK and US governments have now begun to speak out against this, but the terrible consequences of the misconceived 'war on terror' conceived by the Bush neocon idealogues continues to bear bitter fruit. And though President Obama has ordered Guantanamo and the network of 'black' prisons are to be closed, those responsible for the policies and the abuses are seeking to cover their tracks; the stink goes right to the top.

No wonder ordinary people are angry. No wonder they are suspicious. No wonder the situation is volatile. The exposure of the catastrophic greed of once-feted bankers, the public revulsion at the 'spin' and lies that led to politicised intelligence, dodgy dossiers, and flashpoints such as the hounding to death of Dr David Kelly, the horrors of war, the abuse of anti-terror laws to snoop on the innocent, the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes and its aftermath, the suspicious fervour for ID cards and other wastes of public money, the public beating of protesters leading to the death of Ian Tomlinson, and finally the corrosive damage done by the Parliamentary expenses scandal has led to a deep mistrust and resentment of those in power. In such environments, conspiracy theories find fertile ground.

There is finally to be a public inquiry into the Iraq war, despite the efforts of Tony Blair to have it in secret, and it is only right that there should be an independent inquiry into the London bombings of 7/7, as well as a Select Committee report into counter-terrorism, terrorism and radicalisation in the UK - including links with activity abroad.

If the public and government no longer trust each other, then we are in real trouble.

I hope it's even more clear that the campaign for a public inquiry is nothing to do with the 'Government did it' conspiracy theories. I hope police and politicians note that in the absence of public information, and in an atmosphere of growing mistrust, people will start to fill in the gaps. What starts as speculation can become a damaging rumour that hardens into tolerance of hateful extremism. If you truly believe that the government has such contempt for voters that it will murder its own citizens, if you tie that into a narrative of a racist war waged on people like you, then where do you go with that belief? What do you do next? What does it make you become?

There are people who say that conspiracy theories are foolish but harmless, there are people who passionately want to believe them, but protest that they are not racists, extremists antisemites or bigots, only asking reasonable questions. There are people who say that giving the conspiracy theorists attention is counter-productive. There are people who will say that there is no point having an inquiry into 7/7 or the Iraq war, it will be a whitewash, or a waste of money, or both; some will say that there is no point listening to politicians, or police, or anyone in power - no point asking questions, no point listening to answers. They say you hear only excuses and lies.

Well. In the end you can only do what you believe to be right. I think that having inquiries into Iraq and 7/7 is both necessary and overdue. I believe there needs to be greater accountability, scrutiny and transparency, combined with a cool-headed investigation into the roots of terrorism. I say that party politics and personal ambition should stay as far away from counter-terrorism policy-making and operational decision-making as possible. I know that the effects of a breakdown of trust between people and power are dangerous and divisive. I want liberty to be protected, and the rule of law respected and Parliament reformed, and real truth, not 'truther' speculation fostered, whilst lies and propaganda are challenged and debunked.

And if people care about these things, and speak about them, then I believe we are better off than if we just give up and embrace resentment and cynicism.

I hope so, anyway. I always hope.

UPDATE: T
hirty two people are being questioned after a network of suspected extremists with access to 300 weapons and 80 bombs has been uncovered by counter-terrorism police, in England's largest seizure of a suspected terrorist arsenal, reports the Sunday Times today. Rocket launchers, grenades, pipe bombs and dozens of firearms have been recovered in raids on over 20 properties. Police are investigating links to arrests in Europe, New Zealand and Australia. Recently two men were charged with offences against the Terrorism Act following the discovery of an alleged plot involving ricin. They were linked with the thuggish, barking, deeply unpopular and pitifully small extreme-right white-supremacist organisations, Aryan Strike Force (ASF) and Racial Volunteer Force ( RVF). I'm not putting up links here, but a quick browse of their internet activity will find paranoid militant extremist ideology, lashings of Islamophobia, homophobia and antisemitism - and oh yes - extreme conspiracy theorising galore. *Sigh*

The police are investigating whether this latest lot of arrested suspects were planning a bombing campaign against mosques. Would this disturbing story have had more coverage if the alleged arms-stashing haters were extremist al Muhajiroun types instead of white supremacists?

Possibly. Probably, in fact. Yet it's all equally odious. It would be good if it was generally accepted that extremists like Anjem Choudary are no more representative of all Muslims than extremist like Nick Griffin are representative of all white people. It would be good if far-right terror plots and criminal extremists were routinely given the same sort of coverage as Islamist terror plots and criminal extremists.

It would also be good if the startling similarities between the ideologies of both were pointed out, too. Oh well, I'll keep mentioning it.


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9 Comments:

Blogger KG said...

Well done my dear. Good to hear your comments again. Thinking of you especially this week.
Much love,
Kathryn & Linda

July 04, 2009 10:13 pm  
Blogger Nick Cooper said...

The banning of Andy Hayman's book does seem farcical - I picked up one of the four copies in the Sainsbury's opposite my office on Friday.

The chatter on the conspiracy sites in response to the BBC programme is depressingly predictable: abject refusal to accept that some of the central tennets of their beliefes are false, coupled with gleeful declarations that "anomalies" not covered or certain people not interviewed must therefore validate them as true....

Wasn't too impressed with the Daily Mail, piece, as it outlines some of the theories included in the programme, but fails to explain how they were then discounted/disproved.

July 05, 2009 12:38 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Hi KG, thinking of you a lot this week. Will be at usual place 8.50am Tuesday and will be sending you special love and thoughts. xx


Nick, yeah - the Mail piece is fairly hysterical and full of strange mistakes - it says the CCTV wasn't released - in fact - the Mail had numerous stills from it and an article about its release in May! Still, if it ups the ante on the the Govt, it will have been useful.

You've been doing great stuff on the moderated BBC blog.

The usual flustered, angry, reaction from Truthers is predictable and to be expected from people who already believe in the CTS; they pretty much always react like that when a debunking article or programme happens. But I am hopeful that the programme reached a far wider audience that the people who are moved to comment on the BBC blog, and showed the problems with CTs.

July 05, 2009 12:54 pm  
Blogger James said...

Listen erm?... don't shout but Its my opinion Haymen is 100% intel and that this is a punch and Judy show..

He will now act as a lightning rod and will subvert and frustrate real inquiry.. text book stuff really -the empire was built on deep cover false dissidents...

There's nothing in the book and Hayman isn't gonna talk about anything of operational value.

He is there to take the media's attention on the subject of 7/7 and make sure its in a safe pair of hands!! Yawn!!

Erm.. Sorry!

j

July 05, 2009 11:52 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

James - this is not a conspiracy theory blog, and Andy Hayman is not 'there to take the media's attention on the subject of 7/7' - he is a former senior police officer with a book out, and doing the contracted media interviews that are part of the author contract.

Have you actually read the book? Or indeed, any of the interviews?

July 06, 2009 9:53 am  
Blogger Louise Mills said...

hmm...the Messiah and the Holocaust Denier (that would be the one who says he knows absolutely nothing about Nazi Germany but can authoritatively say that the gas chambers were 'an illusion'. Maybe he thinks that the Blitz was just a bunch of pretty pyrotechnics.) I think they did a very good job of discrediting themselves in that documentary.

Well done for taking part though. It must have been distressing.

July 06, 2009 8:41 pm  
OpenID viddal said...

Rachel, thank you for a very thorrow and very well-written blog post on the 7/7 debate.

I have but one question: Knowing all that you know about Iraq, Kelly, torture, rendition etc, as well as the 7/7 related killings, shootings and cover-ups - how can you be so sure that Britain's worst ever government that covered up 7/7 wouldn't participate in killing it's own electorate, just like America's worst ever administration that covered up 9/11 played a part in killing its own electorate?

After all, the gains are very high, and only real anarchists would expect this kind of criminal behaviour from their own authorites.

PS: Congratulations for the Vaz inquiry. But like you, I'm hoping for a really independent inquiry asap.

July 08, 2009 8:15 am  
Anonymous Karl Lyle said...

One thing can be derived from this very well written piece...

Rachel is in the pay of British Intelligence!!!

Karl

July 08, 2009 9:46 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Well, I'm sure they've known for the last 3 years where to send the cheque.

Sadly, it's never arrived.

:-D

July 08, 2009 10:16 pm  

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