Monday, September 10, 2007

The 7/7 Inquiry battle continues

Well I was right about the Government response, except it was even more disappointing than I predicted.

Despite Mr Brown admitting in June this year that the ISC ( Intelligence & Security Committee) needs to be reformed, it is still apparently ''more than sufficient'' to deal with investigating the matter of the failure to stop the bombers, which it is apparently already tasked with doing.

This despite the fact that it apparently missed key pieces of evidence . See this Panorama report

''In their investigation into the background to the 7 July London bombings, Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) gave MI5 a clean bill of health.
It confirmed that Khan and Tanweer had appeared on the radar of an earlier investigation - meaning Operation Crevice. But it concluded: "the decisions not to give greater investigative priority to these two individuals were understandable".

But the ISC was either never given the full details of the 2 February surveillance operation or was informed but chose to omit key facts - details which might have fuelled demands for the public or independent inquiry the government has resisted.

The ISC doesn't even have an independent investigator any more since John Morrison was sacked by Blair for speaking out about misuse of intelligence for political purposes!

Here you can listen to Paul Lever, former Chair of the Joint Intelligence Commitee describe the ISC on Newsnight, April 3oth.

Paul Lever: 'Well I think what does seem to be the case is that the one body that does exist to provide oversight, the Intelligence and Security Committee, it has many virtues but it hasn't managed to generate the confidence and the repuation that perhaps it needs. It can't carry the weight of this huge problem. Now, how its role, its function, its composition might be changed, whether it needs more staff, I think is something that is worth thinking about...''

Paxman: More staff? It's just got rid of its investigator!

Paul Lever: Well, exactly.

Today's Times has an important interview with Des Thomas, an ex-senior police officer. He says that an independent examination of the apparent intelligence failures that allowed the 7/7 bombers to strike was essential to prevent a repetition of those mistakes.

''A senior detective who worked on the September 11 investigation has joined calls for a public inquiry into the July 2005 suicide bombings in London.
Detective Superintendent Des Thomas told The Times that an independent examination of the apparent intelligence failures that allowed the 7/7 bombers to strike was essential to prevent a repetition of those mistakes.
Mr Thomas, whose 35-year police career also included IRA and Animal Liberation Front cases, is prepared to appear as a witness on behalf of a 7/7 survivors’ group that is taking the Government to court in an attempt to force an inquiry.
Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, rejected the group’s calls for an inquiry last week and Government lawyers told the group that its court challenge was “premature and misconceived”. Ministers, police and MI5 officials oppose an inquiry, claiming that it would divert resources. ( Times)

[However, the Conservatives say there should be an independent inquiry, and the Liberal Democrats back a full public inquiry. Also backing an independent inquiry is the London Assembly, whose 7 July Review Committee chaired by Richard Barnes, was the first public investigation of some of the facts relating to London's response to the bombings, generating a heap of useful recommendations many of which have already been acted upon]

''But Mr Thomas, now retired from the police, said that the authorities were creating a smokescreen” and an inquiry could be conducted quickly and efficiently.
The core issue for any inquiry into the 7/7 attacks, in which 52 people died and more than 700 were injured, is why surveillance on the bombers’ leader Mohammad Sidique Khan was apparently dropped in 2004.

Khan, 30, from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, came to police and MI5 attention 16 months before the bombings, when he was photographed and bugged in the company of a group of men planning to carry out a bomb attack.
When the plotters were arrested in March 2004, Khan was classified as a “peripheral target” and inquiries into his activities were, apparently, discontinued. It is not known what discussions took place between MI5, Scot-land Yard and West Yorkshire police about further investigation of his extremist activity.

Mr Thomas, who is regarded as an expert on the conduct of criminal investigations, said: If Khan did drop off the radar then there was a huge flaw in the way these matters were being investigated. If the proper procedures were being followed, all the decisions relating to Khan should have been properly documented. There should be minutes of meetings between MI5 officials and police of chief officer rank. There should be ‘policy books’ recording every decision and the justification for that decision.
“If these matters were documented then the initial work of an inquiry would not take very long at all. It would take me, or someone of my training, just two days to read all the relevant documents and identify the problems.

“If the documents are not available it would take longer, but in such a scenario the argument for public accountability would be even more powerful than it is now. If the documents do not exist, then either those in charge of the investigation did not know what they were doing or they don’t want people to know what they were doing

Mr Thomas, former deputy head of Hampshire CID, said he believed that 7/7 could have been prevented if action had been taken when Khan first came to attention.

He said:
The question which has to be answered is, ‘Was this avoidable?’. Had better management of resources and techniques been in place could it have been stopped? My suspicion is that it was avoidable.” Claims that holding an inquiry could hamper the work of national security were “obfuscation”, Mr Thomas said.
He added:It is wrong to say you cannot examine terrorist issues because of secrecy - it’s all to do with glamorising the work and people being self-important. Really, terrorism is nothing more than organised crime. Investigations must be managed properly and that all comes down to mind-grinding attention to detail.”

In 2001 Mr Thomas was a senior investigating officer on the 9/11 investigation dealing with the repatriation of the remains of British victims of the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York.
He has lectured at the Police Staff College and at the Institute of Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Portsmouth and Cardiff Law School.

This BBC report written after the Crevice trial asks similar questions

''It is of course possible though that investigating him further - or asking the police in West Yorkshire to do so - might have led to warnings signs of the 7/7 plot.
But one of the critical issues at the time was MI5's workload, say officials.'' ( BBC)

Media coverage from last week
Guardian, BBC, Daily Mail, Islamic Republic News Agency, Mirror, AFP,, again, Press Association, World Socialist WebSite News, Telegraph, The Sun,

More soon.



Blogger Unknown said...

I think we should have that inquiry. There are far too many unanswered questions.

September 10, 2007 1:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have the patience of a saint.

Everyone knows the intelligence services are hiding their incompetence under lock and key, and you are one of the few people with the tenacity to keep them on their toes.

September 10, 2007 3:44 pm  
Blogger Henry North London 2.0 said...

I often think Rachel is a saint

Saints have tests thrown at them in life.

Lead us not in to temptation and all that

You keep going You hear me


September 10, 2007 9:30 pm  
Blogger Philip. said...

An excellent, well written blog!

September 14, 2007 4:25 pm  

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