Saturday, July 18, 2009

Business Guys on Business Trips

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Inside British Intelligence

I'm reading a big fat hardback book at the moment, which means I am reading it slowly, since it is too heavy to carry on the bus to work without wrecking my handbag, and reading it at night makes my wrist ache.

I saw this feature in today's Guardian, and thought 'I bet Richard Norton Taylor has already finished his copy'. The book is 'Inside British Intelligence' by Gordon Thomas and covers 100 years of M15 and M16. It is quite pacily written but, four chapters in, I've already spotted some daft mistakes in which make me rather suspicious of just how accurate it is. Like thinking Finsbury Park Mosque is 'in Regent's Park, London', ( p.50) and that Anjem Choudary was one of 'several former students arrested for plotting to blow up transatlantic airliners' (p.53); no, he wasn't and isn't. Hmmmm. reports that M15 and M16 were not happy about the book being published in the UK - it was first published in the U.S) and it is very much an 'unauthorised biography' rather than an official history (a 'with the co-operation of...' tome is to be published this October, apparently, and will no doubt be dull as ditchwater.)

I'll put a full review up when I've finished. I've been meaning to do a round up of short reviews of loads of books I have been reading recently, but as J has just pointed out we are meant to be spending the weekend changing the study into a bedroom, I had better log off and start filling up boxes.

Have a good weekend.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The neo-Nazi 'asylum seekers'

Interesting BBC report on the jailing of two men who are the first men in Britain to be convicted of inciting racial hatred online. I wonder if this news will unsettle prominent '7/7 Truth' 'researcher Nick 'Swimming Pools of Auschwitz' Kollerstrom, (who was one of the founders of the 'J7 Truth' campaign) - or any of the other antisemitic creeps, liars and deniers associated with the '9/11 and 7/7 'Truth' movement, recently exposed in the BB2 Conspiracy Files documentary?

'One was an unrepentant woman hater whose racist and anti-Semitic views were too hard-line even for the British National Party.

The other, his long-haired sidekick, sought the protection of a pseudonym that he used to make extremist rants.

Their hunger to stir up controversy saw them flee from justice in the north of England and stage an unlikely claim for political asylum in Los Angeles.

But their journey has now ended with jail sentences in the UK....

...'One leaflet claimed that Auschwitz had not really been the location of industrial mass murder but had been, instead, a holiday camp provided by a benevolent Nazi regime for Europe's Jewish population.

Jonathan Sandiford, prosecuting, told the jury that it held up survivors of the Holocaust to "ridicule and contempt", accusing them of lying about the genocide of six million Jews.

Another story was illustrated with photographs of dead Jews. Sheppard also wrote that Holocaust victim Anne Frank's diary was "evil".

Reviewing lawyer Mari Reid, of the Crown Prosecution Service's counter-terrorism division, said members of the public were entitled under the law to hold racist and extreme views.

But she added: "What they are not entitled to do is to publish or distribute those opinions to the public in a threatening, abusive or insulting manner either intending to stir up racial hatred or in circumstances where it is likely racial hatred will be stirred up."

The defence argued that the online material did not fall under the jurisdiction of UK law, because Sheppard's site was hosted on servers in California.

But in a landmark ruling, the judge dismissed this - potentially paving the way for further prosecutions against the owners of other hate sites who believe they are exploiting a legal loophole.

Jurors, too, rejected the defence's claim that the pair's writings were merely satirical.'

Those who use the internet to spread lies and poison and incite hatred, often under the cloak of anonymity are not as untouchable as they may think. Inciting hatred is inciting hatred, online or offline - the internet isn't some kind of parallel world and consequence-free environment - how can it be?

It's real, living, breathing people using it and communicating on it - so how is setting up hatesites any different to organising hate rallies or standing on street corners screaming abuse, or putting up flyers round the neighbourhood alleging repulsive and untruthful things about groups or individuals? The internet makes it easy to disseminate lies in seconds to a potential audience of millions - it would take a lifetime of handing out racist or hateful tracts to have a fraction of the impact. And the anonymity the internet provides can give a gloss to the bilge and bile spouted by those who if you met them ranting on a street corner would instantly elicit the response of 'uh-oh, weirdo alert.'

update: oh, and golly gosh, and Simon Shepard it turns out, is cited as a Kollerstrom source, dearie me. Meanwhile, Stormfront, the neo-Nazi message board seems to be newly bristling with '7/7 is an inside job c/o Mossad' posters, some of whom even have it as a sign off on their posts and at least one of whom is hoping (as of yesterday) that I am soon found dead in a dirty river - what they envisage for me before my death I won't repeat. Sometimes I wish I didn't check my visitor IPs and stats.

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On torture and terror

The real question is: How much truth can I stand?
- Friedrich Nietzsche

What madness seized our leaders, after the carnage and horror of the September 11th attacks? The 'rules of the game' changed, the 'gloves came off' - but at what terrible, bloody cost?

'MI5 is not like Spooks. In Spooks everything is solved by half a dozen people who break laws to achieve results. I think that given that we actually work strictly within the law, it is potentially quite damaging for the suggestion to prevail that we are totally above the law' - Eliza Manningham Buller, 18 November 2007

I suppose it depends who is drafting the laws and who is passing them.

Do the British public even care if our intelligence services torture suspected terrorists by proxy? They damn well should care, for pragmatic and self-interested reasons, if not for moral ones. Torture does not lead to good intelligence. Torture does not save lives. Torture does not stop terrorists. In fact, it recruits them.

Those who think torture works should urgently read this: the account of Matthew Alexander, a US interrogator, published on November 30th in the Washington Post

'I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans...'

read the rest

It is worth reminding yourself of the background to what has been brought into sharp focus this week. In the week that marks the fourth anniversary of the 7th July 2005 London bombings, the Guardian has published a lengthy and damning article by investigative journalist Ian Cobain. In it he covered how the UK has outsourced torture, been complicit in torture and how the authorisation of torture seems to go right to the top, writing that

'...there is mounting evidence that torture is still regarded by some agents of the British state as a useful and legitimate investigative tool. There is evidence too that in the post-9/11 world, government officials have been prepared to look the other way while British citizens, and others, have been tortured in secret prisons around the world. It is also clear that an official policy, devised to govern British intelligence officers while interrogating people held overseas, resulted in people being tortured.

The Guardian has established that Tony Blair, when prime minister, was aware of the existence of this policy. What he knew of its terrible consequences is less clear: he has repeatedly been asked, in a series of letters from the Guardian, what he believed to have happened to those who were subjected to the policy, but he has repeatedly failed to answer the question. There is a growing suspicion that Blair could not have been alone, and that other very senior figures in government may have been aware of the existence of Britain's secret interrogation policy. What did David Blunkett and Jack Straw, the ministers responsible for MI5 and MI6 at the time, know about the policy and its consequences for people detained in the so-called war on terror? They too have declined to say, stating that it is the British government's policy not to condone torture, but that they cannot comment further because of a number of forthcoming court cases.'

Lat at night on the 7th July, David Davis used parliamentary privilege to make an electrifying speech in which he revealed how the police and M15 sub-contracted the torture of Rangzieb Ahmed to the Pakistani ISI.

It is significant British-born Rangzieb Ahmed, rejected by his family as a teenager and left with his step-mother in Pakistan had been tortured before - by the Indian authorities, when he was picked up in Kashmir - and it is believed to be this early experience that led to his radicalisation. He was convicted of terrorist offences in December 2008.

It is not only wicked, but stupid to think this can continue unchecked. It is intolerable and it cannot be tolerated. It is making things worse. It is playing into the hands of our enemies. It is endangering innocent lives. It is jeopardising national security; that 'national security' is being invoked by those who signed off on torture as policy to try to hide their culpability is repellent, amoral and frankly, deranged.

Once again, well done to David Davis.


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Home Affairs Select Committee announces 'biggest inquiry into 7/7 & terrorists incidents in Britain'

Britain's anti-terrorist police face budget cuts for the first time since the July 7 attacks, Scotland Yard's head of counter terrorism has warned.

John Yates, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, admitted that having to make savings was "inevitable" despite the risks associated with staging the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

His warning came as the most extensive inquiry yet in to the London suicide bombings was announced by MPs, to mark the fourth anniversary of the tragedy.

The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee will call on MI5 and MI6 chiefs, as well as terrorism experts and politicians, to give evidence and explain what the security services knew before the attacks and what should have been done.

Mr Yates, who became Scotland Yard's head of specialist operations three months ago, said there had been a significant growth in funding to combat the extremist threat since 2005.

However, he added that it would be "naive" to think counter terrorism policing would escape the recession.

Police forces nationwide have been asked to make efficiency savings of seven per cent over the next two years, and they are preparing for a cut in public sector funding thereafter.

At a conference of police chiefs in Manchester yesterday, Mr Yates said: "For the first time in counter terrorism we are going to have to robustly look at where we can make savings.

"Like any part of policing you are always looking at stripping out the back office before you look at the frontline. It would be naive of me to say that is not going to be the case."

In a comprehensive spending review in 2007 of national security and counter-terrorism, the Government pledged £3.5bn until 2010-11 - covering the police, security services, Home Office and other relevant government work.

Mr Yates said: "Up to 2011 we are fine but thereafter there is a challenge.

"We have got the Olympics as well, there will be a challenge. We will want to grow against a backdrop of falling budgets."

The pressures on money will leave counter terrorism police units fighting for funding with other police departments, such as serious and organised crime.

It is also set against the backdrop of Scotland Yard asking the Home Office for more cash for the unit which protects the Royal family and VIPs.

Mr Yates said that the official terrorist threat level may soon be reduced from "severe", meaning an attack was highly likely, to "substantial", meaning an attack was a strong possibility.

But he warned against the public being "complacent" about the terrorism threat, which he said continues to "move every week".

Meanwhile, MPs announced a formal inquiry into the London suicide bombings, which killed 52 innocent people, four years after the atrocity.

It will look for any common links between the bombers and those involved in other failed plots, both past and present in the UK, and will examine the Government emergency response system - the so-called COBRA meetings.

Graham Foulkes, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, whose 22-year-old son David was killed in the Edgware Road bombing, welcomed the move.

"I see that as really positive and I think it's good news," he said. "I would like an independent inquiry, but this is a very good second."

The parliamentary Intelligence and Security Service Committee (ISC) carried out its own inquiry in to the bombings but its report in May sparked outrage when it said there was nothing MI5 could have done to stop the attacks.

The Home Affairs committee could begin its hearings as early as September but a witness list is still to be drawn up. It remains to be seen how forthcoming the security services will be in giving evidence or whether it will be held in private.

Patrick Mercer, a Tory member of the committee, said: "This will be the biggest inquiry in July 7 and terrorist incidents in Britain.

"What we are going to try is to look at the links between failed attacks before 7/7 and right the way through to the latest successful and unsuccessful attacks that have been plaguing our security services."

Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the committee, added: "The Committee will be inviting MI5, MI6 and terrorism experts to give evidence with the aim of gaining a detailed picture of what the security services knew before 7/7, what, if anything, could have been done to prevent the attacks and the Government's response to the attacks."

So. The campaigning is working. Another major breakthrough.

See Telegraph, Press Association, Mirror, Evening Standard, Daily Mail

It is to be an investigation by one of the most powerful parliamentary committees, who hear evidence in public, and who publish evidence sessions (unless evidence is taken in camera) It is not, of course, an independent public inquiry, as the Mirror point out today, and as I and others have said. But I really welcome all official efforts - especially public-facing ones - to understand more, learn lessons, improve communication, save lives and spare suffering in future, and importantly, see the atrocities of 7/7 in context, see their links to other plots, look at the bigger picture.

This inquiry is therefore greatly welcomed by me, and by the colleagues I have managed to speak to so far. I think its findings will greatly aid an independent public inquiry into 7/7 when one is held.

More soon.


Monday, July 06, 2009


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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Links round up

Noticed online this week...

Sarah Palin resigns! Gosh darn it! Like millions of people all over the world I was completely agog at the bizarrely-entertaining but actually-quite-scary Sarah Palin soap opera of a campaign last summer and autumn. And now, post a triumphantly rabid Pro-Life redmeat tour in the US, covered in a hard-hitting Vanity Fair article which apparently caused senior Republican incandescence she's suddenly resigned in a blaze of publicity, rambling quotes and running shorts picture opportunties. Why do I feel that the story does not end here? The Daily Kos has suspicions too...and as usual, Alaskan blog Mudflats has all the gossip.

In the Guardian: Ben Goldacre does sterling work uncovering how an MSc dissertation was twisted to peddle rape myths. If you haven't checked out Flat Earth News by Nick Davies and Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, this summer might be a good time.

Blogging...Bird of Paradox on transphobia, Diamond Geezer goes on a visit to a Victorian townshouse with a chatty cook whose a master had a penchant for saucy photographs, PC Bloggs on when it's inappropriate to comment, and finally - hurray! Justin 'Chicken Yoghurt' has got married! Congratulations!

I'm still easing back into blogging. Work's busy, so there's not much time in the week. Spent ten days with friends in a farmhouse deep in the Dourdogne countryside in June, and being internet and mobile-free was delightful. We pottered and swam a lot and played scrabble when it rained and ate our way through several manificently smelly cheeses. J and I still pounced on the day-old UK papers when we found them, however. And I pined a little for Newsnight - the Iranian election rebellion was in full swing and I wanted to follow events, crossing my fingers and humbled by the bravery of protestors demanding that their vote count.


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.

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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