Monday, May 08, 2006

Waiting for the narrative

So, we can expect the Home Office narrative account of what happened on 7/7 2005 out this week, and The Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report to be issued on the same day. The ISC report, which ''has been studying the lessons of the 7 July bombings and will make wide-ranging recommendations on how the security services should adapt to the changing face of terrorism''.

I'm surprised that they are both coming out on the same day, since I think it is likely that they may seem to contradict each other if the Observer's previous leaks are anything to go by. According to the Observer, the ISC report...

''... has found there was a direct link between the bombers' ringleader, Sidique Khan, who killed six people when he blew himself up on a tube train at Edgware Road, and a terrorist cell that had been under surveillance by the security services.
The revelation will prove damaging. Previously it was believed Khan was linked to the cell only through a third party. That he had direct links to the group under surveillance raises questions over why he was not placed under closer supervision.''

(Yup, look into the Crevice .)

Hang on though. The security services seem to be telling us one thing and the Home Office quite another. On the one hand, we have Khan and his links to other terrorists. On the other hand, the bombers are apparently acting alone. Which is right?

The ''narrative'' seems to be going to indicate that the four men acted independently, without any Al Qaeda links or contact with other terrorists using materials available from local stores and bomb recipes ''from the internet''. (Tsk. Pesky internet. Shut it down.) Here's the Observer, April 9th.

''The official inquiry into the 7 July London bombings will say the attack was planned on a shoestring budget from information on the internet, that there was no 'fifth-bomber' and no direct support from al-Qaeda, although two of the bombers had visited Pakistan.
The first forensic account of the atrocity that claimed the lives of 52 people, which will be published in the next few weeks, will say that attacks were the product of a 'simple and inexpensive' plot hatched by four British suicide bombers bent on martyrdom.
Far from being the work of an international terror network, as originally suspected, the attack was carried out by four men who had scoured terror sites on the internet...''

I have blogged about this before. It's an open secret, if you go and look around the internet. Seems Khan was not only known to security officials, but under surveillance in early 2004, and now, we find, clearly linked to another terrorist cell who were also under surveillance. Khan and fellow-bomber Tanweer were apparently only suspected by M15 of being sympathetic to terrorist causes, and were engaged in fraud to raise money for jihad, fighting overseas, not in the U.K, but because resources were scarce, he was let slip the net and not kept under surveillance. With fatal consequences on July 7th.

Frank Gardner, BBC Security correspondent noted the cross-party Parliamentary committees expected findings...

"Could they [ the July bombings] have been prevented with better intelligence? Yes. Could they have been prevented given the resources that the agencies had? They think probably not.
"They are not pointing the finger of blame at anybody," he [Gardner] told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.''

But it seems that M15's and M16's limited resources were diverted towards other anti-terror operations which were seen as more of an immediate threat. These terror suspects were intercepted and arrested, but some think that security services were forced to spring the trap earlier than planned.

Now what I want to know is this. Here we have Khan, the ringleader, already seemingly engaged heart and mind with the jihad cause in 2004, when the other terrorists were arrested about to carry out their alleged plot. We have Khan (and his associate Tanweer, and possibly another of the London bombers) travelling to Pakistan, attending terrorist training camps, raising money for jihad causes, recruiting young men in the gyms and youth centres and book shops of Beeston, angry, depressed enough to be signed off work in Khan's case, radicalised and attending sermons by radical preachers urging bloody jihad, enraged by DVDs of atrocities committed against Muslims in Chechyna, Palestine and especially Iraq, and not just on the periphery of a group of men actively engaged with plotting a major vehicle bomb atrocity, but ''directly linked'' with them. Aware of the plans of the would-be vehicle bombers? Very probably.

So did this mean that Khan, seeing that other terrorists, some of whom he had ''links'' to, ( the A team?) had been captured in 2004, decided independently to go to Plan B, in July 2005? A team of over a dozen men, buying large amounts of fertiliser to allegedly make a large vehicle bomb had been rumbled, as we see from the current trial at the Old Bailey. So, he comes up with his own plan. Take a smaller group, of four men, use bomb materials easily available in the high street, use knowledge gleaned from the internet, and strap the bombs on your backs, in black rucksacks, mingling easily amongst the crowds of commuters, stepping onto the soft target of the London Underground on a day that shimmered with symbolic significance. 7th July, the fourth anniversary of the day when angry young Asian men rose up with home-made bombs in Bradford to ''defend themselves'' against the ''oppression'' of their fellow citizens? Was that what happened, was that the ''real'' story of July 7th?

That makes both the narrative and the ISC report work. Khan was ''linked'' with another group of would-be terrorists in 2004, he trained with these men and other other would-be terrorists who were planning attacks on Britain in a training camp in Pakistan, and after they got nicked, then he went on to act '' independently''. And there is no Al Qaeda Mastermind, no Bin Laden in a bat cave involved here, this is not 9/11. This was a homegrown operation where British men met, plotted, got the training they needed abroad, and from the internet and then went off to kill. This is the new reality, and it is far more chilling, and our leaders are misguided, for you cannot make a war on it, because this new enemy has no boundaries, no armies, no generals. This is an idea, and an idea cannot be invaded and bombed and fought. Bombing and fighting, paradoxically, makes this idea stronger.

Time for a total, radical reapproach. The old rules don't work; this is not the IRA or the Cold War. This 'War On Terror' cannot be fought and won with weapons, however hi-tech, with bombs and guns and raids. It leads to only more bombs, more deaths. Nobody can win this war of terror, not Blair, not Bush, not Al Qa'eda. Not you, not me, not any number of young men marching off with a bomb in their bag or a gun in their hand.

Nobody in the Intelligence services was to blame, says the leaked ISC report. Maybe. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But if you had the bomber in your sights, and you let him go on and he carries out the worst ever terrorist atrocity on British soil with three accomplices, then I am personally angry, because it happened and it should not have happened. It may well be a strategic issue, a resource issue. How can you possibly monitor every angry young man, every trip to Pakistan? There are 500,000 visits from UK citizens to Pakistan every year.) How can they all be tracked? And what does it do to people to survey them all as potential terrorists?

There are now wider questions about freedom and fear and risk and civil liberties. Do we want to live in a society where there is so much monitoring of its people? What will the effects of this round-the-clock '' for your own protection'' surveillance be? Distrust? Fear? Worse?

Are we all deemed potential terrorists now? Will this anger more young men and paradoxically make more terrorists? I don't know. Let's all have a sensible debate about it, hey? Instead of bashing out I.D cards and increasing stop and searches of anyone with brown skin. And let's think about causality too. What is making these young men so angry in the first place? . Our foreign policy, the U.S foreign policy, the way it rather looks as if we have a beef with Islamic mineral-rich lands, and act like 'our' oil is under their sand?

Our leaders have said that the rules have changed. Yes, they have, but they are blind to just how much they have changed. There is only one thing stronger than fear, only one thing stronger than hate...

In the meantime, here is the Observer trying to do a 'definitive' account of 7/7 that seems to pre-empt the ''narrative'' about what happened on July 7th, (which I can see is basically taken from news accounts and from survivor testimony at the GLA) and which irritatingly contains some inaccuracies. For example, Germaine Lindsay stood by the second set of doors in the middle of carriage one on the Piccadilly line train, not at the back. The bombers seem to have got the 7.24 train, not the 7.40, and it was train 331, not 311 that was bombed on the Piccadilly line. ( For the second and third inaccuracies you can thank the conspiracy theorists, so they do have their uses, despite their taking two molehill inaccuracies ( some inaccuracies in reporting, wrong train time, wrong train number...) and making it into a mountain ( it never happened! Everything is a lie and the Government did it! ) Hmmm. BBC News Director Helen Boaden at the WeMedia conference did mention the other day that news reports will usually be 80% accurate, not 100%, and that there will always be inaccuracies. That's rolling news, that' s human error, especially in the early days of a moving, multiple-sourced story. So, we await the official, forensic version of what happened on that day. Ten months on, we still wait.

I can see that certain parts of what went on leading up to July 7th, and after cannot be released because they could compromise existing trials and ongoing investigations, and I can deal with that. But much of what went on leading up to the day and after, I think should be discussed and examined in public. The motivations of the bombers, and how many more angry young British men there are, who feel that the only way they can change the world is to kill themselves and others - and what can be done to stop such deadly, nihilistic rage. The response on the day, and after, the communication, the treatment of the physically and psychologically injured, the lessons learned. Which is why I want an independent inquiry, not a narrative.

Though I wait to see what the narrative will say, I do not have high hopes. It's not about blame, though, from my point of view. It's about saving lives and sparing suffering. It's about having hope for the future.

If we learn from this, we can do more than understand. We can change.

We stand looking at two futures: one, in which we blindly carry on as we have done before, fighting back those who fight back when we fight them, fighting, fighting, an eye for an eye until the whole world is blind. Or a different future, in which we look at what we are doing and question it, and do things differently.

After the bombs exploded, there was a sense of unity that I will never forget. We did not descend into vengeance and barbarism. Muslims and Christians and Jews and Hindus and Sikhs and atheists; men and women from all over the U.K, all over the world, stood shoulder to shoulder, ordinary people grieved by an attack on many that was an attack on all. Every day, all over the world, bombs maim and bombs kill, and we meet them with more bombs, more force. Thousands of years of meeting hurt with hurt, and hate with hate. In this age where information and pictures travel at the speed of thought, around the world, is this the best we can do? Is this the future we condemn ourselves to?

People say, why do you ask for an independent public inquiry? I say, why do we not have a public enquiry? It was the public, after all, not the politicians, who were attacked. The politicians are only servants of the public. This narrative was complied from meetings held and questions asked behind closed doors. Let the public know what risks they run, why there are those who seek to kill for an idea living amongst them, let the people ask their questions and let those charged with protecting us answer us. What are they afraid of? What are we afraid of? Is facing and understanding our fears really going to finish us off?

I don't think so. I think we can cope with learning that mistakes have been made.
I'm not sure we can carry on coping if we don't learn from our mistakes.

Anyway, the petition for an enquiry is here, if you want to sign it. It says it is from the British public, but you don't have to be British to sign it. There were people from all over the world travelling on the trains and buses of London that day. It could have been anyone who was attacked indiscriminately on July 7th. It could have been you. It just happened to be me, and hundreds of other people.

Here are some of us, you can join us.

Thank you.


Blogger Numeral said...

I too was puzzled about number 311 appearing in the narrative. So I fired off an FOI to TfL.

"Freedom of Information Request

To All at Customer Services

I am sure you are as weary of this issue as I am. Unfortunately I read in Sunday's Observer a preview of the official narrative. The Piccadilly Line train was identified as number 311. The narrative is said to be based on police and intelligence data.

Fola Olafare has informed me that Tfl updated their records when it was
learned that the number 311 was incorrect.

Did Tfl inform the Metropolitan Police Service of the change?


Via my MP I have a copy of a letter from Tim O'Toole stating that the number 311 was on the Piccadilly Line Duty Operations Manager's incident report. If the MPS are basing their input to the narrative on this report, can you give them a steer in the right direction?

May 09, 2006 2:31 am  
Blogger Holly Finch said...

no high hopes here either....although i am waiting in anticipation

i am finding it quite entertaining that the government has jone a fine job of destroying itself all on its own...before any of these reports are published....who will answer to them? it seems the only consistent minister still in power is Mr Blair himself...everyone else will pass the buck....I just hope that they don't manage to use all their recent problems as a story to wash over this...this is bigger than politics & i hope the press go to town with it so that they are bloody well forced to sit up & listen. there is too much to learn & too much at steak here...

May 09, 2006 12:21 pm  
Blogger Ian said...

Holly said....this is bigger than politics I know what you mean Holly but politics was the root cause of the bombings IMHO.

I hope you are not right in the prediction that whoever is Home Sec today will pass the buck.

May 09, 2006 6:35 pm  
Blogger Numeral said...

Another thing that surprises me about the Observer's preview of the narrative is this:

8.49am Lindsay gets onto Piccadilly Line train number 311 travelling towards the West End and stands by rear doors in the front carriage. The train is described as 'extraordinarily full'. More than 900 passengers are crammed on board.
8.53am Lindsay's delayed train leaves King's Cross three minutes after the bombers' agreed deadline for simultaneous detonation.

Did the train stand on the KX platform for 4 minutes? First I've heard of it. Why has the time of the explosion shifted from 0850 to 0853 without any explanation?

May 09, 2006 7:59 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

The train was mega full, it took ages to get people on and off so yes, it probably was there for 4 minutes. I remember looking about having finsihed my mag and thinking, 'just how many can possibly get on this train?'/ Remember many peopl get off at Kings X, and then with the platform 5 or 6 deep it took ages for people to squeeze off and on. As to th ertime, everyone has said between 9.50 and 9.55am, you don't tend to look at your watch when a bomb goes off, but the power beign knocked out sent a signal to the line controllers, this gave the time of the bomb. My watch was slightly fast, and I don't look at my watch as the train sets off from every stop. I just breathed in and hoped to get off the cattle wagon asap, it was a hideous journey before the bomb went off.

PLEASE don't make this into a conspiracy! You will drive me wild again!

They don't owe you an explaination, this is not the official version, ity ios made up of multi-sourced news reports as all news so far as been. Read any report of the Labour parties latest troubles - do you think they are all saying the same thing? Journalists make errors and it is not realistic to expect every news report done to a deadlien to be to the dsame standard as a coroner's report, its news on the hoof, not a police statement or a judges's summing up.

May 09, 2006 11:11 pm  
Blogger Bridget said...

Hi Rachel

'This week, the Home Office publishes its official account of the London suicide bombings of 7 July. Using police and intelligence records,' is the headline of the Observer article.

No mention of newspaper reports.

May 10, 2006 1:26 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your summation, there is no real big deal between 09:50 and 09:53, that detail is small in the whole sphere of this situation.

May 10, 2006 2:37 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

I stick by what I said: I think the Observer has talked to someone who has seen the narrative and doesn't actually have it.

I could have written the report they ran on the DPS, so could anyone else who had read all the news reports and attended or read the GLA testimony.

I think the narrative will be more accurate. I bloody well hope so.

May 10, 2006 8:03 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel,

I understand you are bugged by "conspiracy theorists", is this true?

When you are well and up to a short conversation please email me. There are some issues I'd like to clarify on the conspiracy theorist problem, particularly if you have been receiving abusive mail from people.

my email is.

thanks and very warmest wishes for a recovery from your ghastly experience.


May 10, 2006 1:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'We have a beef with Islamic mineral-rich lands, and act like 'our' oil is under their sand?'
Exactly where are you referring to apart from the obvious Iraq, and that is a gross distortion. I am not sure how giving the oil rich producers all those petro-dollars is acting as though is under 'our' sand.
People are repressed and ill used all over the world, but that does not mean sympathisers with them go and blow themselves and others up. You have to look at the ideology behind it and how it is spread and financed.
Anyway I hope your life is uneventful and peacefull from now on, sounds like you have lived many lifetimes in your years to date.

May 11, 2006 1:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To truly understand what happened on July 7, you have to acknowledge what you are dealing with. This was not a bombing carried out by bombers. It was a terrorist attack, carried out by terrorists. When you Brits recognize this, you will understand what this is all about. This is a WAR on TERROR, not a hunt for bombers.

Richard, New Hampshire, USA

May 11, 2006 3:46 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rachel,

I saw your contribution on Channel 4 news, that must be your famous for 15 minutes spot ;-) . Seriously, I liked the way Jon Snow persisted with the Home Sec - he is an absolute star (Jon that is!). I detest the attitude of those in power who seem to be saying 'we know best'. This is root of the anger with New Labour from what I have read elsewhere. Even when asked a direct question 'was Iraq a factor in the bombers radicalisation?' he managed to avoid using the 'I' word for the whole reply!

Lets hope that this persistent perstering of authority leads to some genuine independently populted enquiry.

And thanks for your interesting writing.


May 11, 2006 9:09 pm  
Blogger @nashvag said...

“This 'War On Terror' cannot be fought and won with weapons, however hi-tech, with bombs and guns and raids”.

Well said. The way I see it we need to recruit Arab spies to infiltrate terror networks at home and abroad, and get them dismantled. This is probably going on behind the scenes, I don’t know, but there’s no way around it IMHO.

May 11, 2006 10:48 pm  
Blogger Bridget said...


The narrative says they caught the 7.40 which we know was cancelled that morning so .......

May 12, 2006 2:50 am  
Blogger Nazli Hardy said...

I so wanted to write some intellectual - but all I really feel is that I am so glad - for you and your family - that you are alive and well. I cannot even imagine what it must be like to re-live those moments.

But warmest hugs from acorss an ocean and I will keep reading your writing with interest.

Dr Nazli

May 12, 2006 3:45 am  
Blogger Numeral said...

From the official narrative it seems that the timestamp on the CCTV camera outside Luton station was about 8 minutes fast:

"07.15: 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."

Then comes the photo with the timestamp cropped away.

"07.40: The London King’s Cross train leaves Luton station."

"08.23: The train arrives at King’s Cross, slightly late due to a delay further up the line. The 4 are captured on CCTV at 08.26am on the concourse close to the Thameslink platform and heading in the direction of the London Underground system."

As we all know the 07.40 was cancelled. It was the 07.24 that arrived at 08.23.

A proofreading problem here, perhaps. In an earlier draft, as seen by the Observer, they took the 07.40. At the last minute it had to be changed for some reason but the 07.40 time was not spotted.

May 12, 2006 7:47 am  
Blogger Numeral said...

Correction. What is in the Observer is the same as the official narrative. How odd that the 07:40 cancelled train is still there. Freudian slip?

May 12, 2006 8:08 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wondering - the ISC report (Section 3 para 35) says "There is no apparent significance in the choice of 7 July as the date for the attacks" - but wasn't it 5 years since the so-called Bradford Riots?

Great to see you on C4 news last night, I agree with IanFromWales: Jon Snow's persistence with his line of questioning was great.

May 12, 2006 9:11 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

The narrative says they were on a train at 7.40 not that it was the 7.40 train. There's a lot of problems with the narative but I don't see that as one of them.

May 12, 2006 9:32 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

The Observer seemed to have talked to someone who read the narrative. I do not think they had a copy; the report could hav ebeen written by me opr anyone else following vuttings, a lot of it was taken from our GLA testimony

May 12, 2006 9:34 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

Th e 7.23 delayed train tyhat left at 7.40, surely? I can't beleive you take Thameslink timetables seriously, they are almost always a work of fiction. Everyone just gets on whatever train turns up, I have almost never seen one on time.

May 12, 2006 9:36 am  
Blogger Bridget said...


"07.40 the London King's Cross train leaves Luton."

(BTW the 7.24 left at 7.25)

10 months after these events and all the victims and survivors, the families of the dead, the Muslim community and each and everyone of us deserve to know the TRUTH.

Release the evidence!

Show us the CCTV images from London on 7th July (not the 28/6 as all the news channels are overlaying their coverage with).

May 12, 2006 10:52 am  
Blogger Bridget said...

BTW The narrative states in the Preface:

The narrative summarises what the police, intellegence and security agencies have so far discovered ....

May 12, 2006 10:55 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bridget, that is the exact reason why there is a demand for an independant inquiry and not a government 'independant' inquiry. One with an access all areas, access all people and open to the public.

May 12, 2006 1:42 pm  
Blogger Holly Finch said...

numeral...i noticed that too

May 12, 2006 2:24 pm  
Blogger Holly Finch said...

aargh ...panic....i meant ted groony not numeral!!....& that WASN'T a freudian slip!!

May 12, 2006 2:26 pm  
Blogger Cedalion said...

Quick note Rachel to say that I've just watched the Channel 4 report over the internet and that you and your fellow survivor and Joe did yourselves proud with your integrity and moderation. Keep pushing for the Public Inquiry.

May 12, 2006 11:32 pm  
Blogger Numeral said...


For a brief moment ...

May 12, 2006 11:37 pm  
Blogger Dangerouslysubversivedad said...


You have my greatest respect for what you have gone through, but do us all a favour and Get Real about why this happened. 'Atrocities in Chechnya, Palestine and Iraq?'

Radical Islam hates the West because we are not Radical Islamists and we are perceived to protect those pesky Joooz who refuse to lie down and be exterminated. Period. Everything else is just window dressing.

I know you dont want to believe it. Most people dont want to believe it - who would want to believe that they are faced with an enemy that is incapable of being reasoned with or negotiated with in a normal way? But this is the case, and pretending that bombings in Bali, Britain and Bangladesh are somehow all about events thousands of miles away is a copout of epic proportions.

It is the language of appeasement Rachel.

"If only we didnt support the Jews/fight terrorism/ignored anti-semitic hate speech as long as it was Muslims giving it/allowed Sharia Law/acted like good little Dhimmis then of COURSE they wouldnt bomb us. Why would they?"

Because we are not them. End of story.

May 16, 2006 8:07 am  

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