Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No justice, no truth...yet

The jury at Kingston Crown Court has today returned a verdict of not guilty in the retrial of three men accused of conspiring with the London bombers to cause explosions. Two of the men were found guilty of attempting to go to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

I respect the jury's decision, and having watched much of this trial the first time around, it was clear that this was always a circumstantial case and a hard one to build. The police have done an enormous amount of work in investigating this matter, for which they are to be congratulated and it was only during this trial that some of their work could be shown in public for the first time. I am sure many police have felt just as frustrated as I have, knowing that much of their discoveries could not be shown until this trial was over.

Chilling personal videos made by Mohammed Siddique Khan as he said goodbye to his baby daughter, in front of Tanweer and Hussein, his fellow bombers, before he set off to Pakistan. Film footage of the bombers driving in their car, then the men caught on CCTV at Luton station, teenage suicide bomber Hasib Hussein at King's Cross, entering shops, and then walking through the streets of London, on his way to catch a bus, then another bus, which he bombed, less than an hour after his three friends had set off their bombs on three tube trains. Details of the mixes used for the explosions. There is so much we now know about that day, yet so many questions remain.

52 families still wait for inquests, four years on. All of us wait for M15's watchdog, the Intelligence and Security Committee to publish their second report into 7/7 - their first one, published in May 2006 had the bombers as 'not named or listed' as terrorists likely to attack the UK, and only 'on the periphery' of another investigation, petty fraudsters, not threats to the UK. It seems that the security service thought of Mohammed Siddique and his friends as men planning to kill themselves (and presumably British troops in Afghanistan) - but not on their patch, not in the UK. If that was what they thought then, how wrong they were.

And yet from this trial, and the Operation Crevice fertiliser bomb trial in May 2007, we now know that the 7/7 bombers were very far indeed from being the 'clean skins' who 'came out of the blue' which is how they were described by the then-Home Secretary Charles Clarke (who was presumably briefed thus by the security service and police he presided over at the time).

We now know that the lead bomber, Mohammed Siddique Khan, was followed home by M15 in a car registered to his wife, to his home, where he lived, at least twice. He was filmed and photographed on several other occasions, taped talking about jihad, his plans for 'ripping the country apart economically as well', before going on a 'one-way' mission. He was bugged having meetings with terrorists weeks away from planning to detonate a huge fertiliser bomb. He was known to have committed a GBP 20,ooo fraud against Jewsons, a British company. He was no unknown: he should have been flagging code red, with his history of attending terrorist training camps, his terrorist friends, his plans for economic criminality and one-way tickets to jihadi missions. Especially as by then, it was known that UK men were training abroad and then going on suicide missions, and that some UK men, trained abroad, were returning to their homeland and planning to bomb the UK. They knew all that, the security service. The police had even undergone Operation Kratos training to kill suicide bombers on the UK's streets. So yes, whether MSK could have been arrested prior to 7/7 is painful to contemplate.

They knew who he was, I am sure of it - if I had your car registration number and followed you to your home, I could find out your name, and I am not a security service officer - they knew what he was, who his friends were - yet he was seen as a 'desirable' but not essential target and he was not arrested, though time and time again there were chances to do just that. How is it possible for M15 to say to the ISC in 2005 that he was 'not named or listed' as a threat? How it is possible for the Intelligence and Security Committee not to have known that there were tapes and footage of this man, with these Operation Crevice terrorists, known to be planning these attacks at that stage, when he had been photographed and filmed and bugged - I am looking at the film of him now, walking about in London with his terrorist friends who were later jailed for 40 years? How is it right that nine months after the second ISC report examining what should have been picked up the first time, it is still sitting in Number 10, with no word as to the date it will be released? How is it fair that four years on, the families and survivors are still waiting for answers to these terrible questions: could the bombers have been stopped? Did communication and intelligence fail? And have the lessons been learned that will stop the wrong men being arrested and the right men slipping through the cracks? The recent arrests and release of Pakistani students in Manchester and Liverpool raise worrying questions in this regard - four years after the bombings.

No, there will never be justice in the matter of the London bombings of 2005, because the four men who bombed London chose to never face a judge or jury, but to deliberately kill themselves by their own hand, on a day of their own choosing: I saw film of them going to their deaths; they looked determined, even happy as they walked, shouldering their heavy rucksacks of home-made explosive mixtures. It was devastating.

So there will never be justice, but there can be the other thing so badly wanted and needed by the victims; the truth to be told, and the best way for that to happen - for the complex picture of what was known, by whom and when, what decisions were made, such as deciding not to prioritise the men who became the 7/7 bombers as investigative targets and so on - is to have an independent inquiry.

An inquiry independent of the government and the security services and the police, with the power to compel and cross examine witnesses, go through evidence in detail, and write a report and recommendations which will be acted upon and so, we hope, save lives and spare suffering in future. This is what we have asked for, for over three years now. We have been prevented from having one because of the legal processes - the trials that have followed 7/7, as a result of which some men have been jailed for planning terror offences and others have been acquitted. Now those trials are completed, we are still waiting.

The families still wait for inquests - unsure still when they will happen and whether they will be held in secret or not - under the terms of the Coroners and Justice Bill legislation.

The survivors and families wait - along with the British public - for the ISC report, to see if this time it answers our questions about what was known about the bombers before they struck. And all of us wait, not for justice, nor for 'closure' - this is not therapy, this is thankless hard and sad work, especially today, when it is my wedding anniversary and I have cancelled the celebrations to go and talk about this yet again on the news and Newsnight - but I wait, we wait for the truth to finally be told, in the hope that, one day soon, it will.

And in being told, we hope the truth will help to prevent another summer morning of screaming and smoke and sirens, and the terrible loss of innocent travellers who never come home.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Times, the crimes....

The Times has started a new crimeblog.
Sean O'Neill really knows his stuff and has a wealth of smart and cynical experience to share.
Well worth keeping an eye on and comments are most welcome, so get in there, and get argumentative.


Friday, April 17, 2009


Anyone who is wondering about Obama's decision to be open about torture and to stop using it, who disagrees and thinks torture is useful should read this

New post-mortem on Ian Tomlinson says haemmorrhage not heart attack.

'Natural causes'? 'No contact with police?' That was how the police deliberately briefed the media in the aftermath.

UPDATE: Officer who struck Tomlinson interviewed under caution on suspicion of manslaughter

Thursday, April 16, 2009

'Considerable damage to national security'

It is getting kind of tiresome now, how frequently it seems to happen. Something embarrassing happens to a senior person in government and all of a sudden it's OMG! QUICK! LOOK OVER THERE! A THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY! 1111!!!

The latest headlines concern the scathing parliamentary report in which it is stated that the threat to national security had been grossly exaggerated just before the Crown Prosecution service was due to announce whether MP Damien Green would be charged or not. The report states that claims in a letter to the Met from Chris Wright, (Cabinet Office director of security and intelligence), that the leaks had caused 'considerable damage to national security' were 'hyperbolic'. And 'unhelpful'. And gave 'an exaggerated impression of the damage done' by the leaks. 'Frustration' in the Home Office and the Cabinet was, the report suggested, the probable cause of the exaggerated claims.

Yeah, I bet they were frustrated.

Could any examples of actual damage to national security be found? Nope. But the leaks were damaging to the Home Secretary and that must have been very upsetting indeed. What can be done? Arrest someone! That's the spirit!

Now it's all collapsed into a great flapping heap of humiliation, desperate fingers are pointing blame at Bob Quick, who resigned last week. No word from the Home Office, who are possibly looking for a passing bus to throw certain people under. But 'Scotland Yard sources' are today quoted in the Standard saying 'the only senior officer keen on an arrest was Mr Quick, who quit last week when he compromised top-secret terror raids'.

That'll be the The Top Secret Terror Raids conducted in the full glare of publicity that managed to conveniently push the embarrassing stories of the Home Secretary's expenses claims - for bathplugs and adult movie rentals and a kitchen sink - off the front pages for a day, remember.

Terrorists! Easter spectaculars! Pictures of places in Manchester! Pakistanis!

Except, unfortunately, no actual evidence of bomb-making equipment has yet been found, and now a diplomatic row has broken out with Pakistan. Pakistan has been lectured on 'doing more' to fight terrorism by the British - but Pakistan has not been given 'basic information' about the Pakistani citizens who have been nicked. Way to go, international co-operation between staunch allies in the War on Terror! Communication and intelligence-sharing is key, right?


The threat from a plot may yet turn out to be real. Worse, the investigation may turn out to have been fatally damaged by too-early arrests. Or they may be no plot at all. Who knows how parlous the state of national security is today, compared to a week ago?

Here's the thing. National security is a grave and serious concern, and those tasked with protecting it bear heavy responsibilities and should receive our dutiful support whenever it is asked for. To see the sacred and honourable business of protecting and preserving the life and liberty of the realm bastardised and cheapened so, made into a tawdry stunt, a distracting sleight of hand, to see the horrors of terrorism invoked and waved about as a tattered figleaf to cover up someone's embarrassment, for God's sake - is sick-making.

And they've done it too often now. They're always bloody doing it, this lot in power, and then the headlines fade and the news machine trundles on, and then sometimes, three months later, if you're lucky, a paragraph on page 27 states that so-and-so was released without charge, or bundled off to be deported, or whatever, and the headline-grabbing plot, the threat, the suspect and the suspicions that were made so much of at the time came to nothing after all. More than half of those arrested under suspicion of terrorism offences are released without charge.

And yet there is a threat; a threat made worse half the time by the frequently heavy-handed and misguided policies of this government at home and abroad. There are people who want to hurt us - there always have been and there always will be - and those brave and dedicated men and women in the police and security service who are sworn to the task of thwarting their plans are best served by being allowed to get on with their jobs and not being dragged into political gambits to prop up other people's sodding careers.

Communication between agencies. Intelligence-sharing. The grindingly boring business of slow, careful detective work. This is what keeps us safe, not media showboating, not civil-liberty-shredding, not ratcheting up the all-channel terror until millions of people become ill with worry and sick with anxiety. When we allow our logical thinking to be bitch-slapped by paralysing fear, and we indulge the attention-seeking posturings of the powerful who should know better, who should respect us more than to try to play us like cheap fiddles, then we do ourselves no favours, and we make things much, much worse than they need be. It blows back and bites us in the face, this bad business. Terrorism terrorises. So does reading about it all the time.

'Considerable damage to our national security?'
Yes, I should say there has been over the last few years.
And the stink, as they say, comes from the head.

Sheesh. It's always worth remembering, however grand you are, the following piece of wisdom:

And so, take it away, the original and best poster of all time, that has suddenly become wildly popular a half century on, expressing as it does the epitome of Britishness in its dignified humanity. Reminding us of a time when nobody sat about worrying about such things, because there were more important things to concern people, like whether the house would be flattened by a bomb overnight and whether loved ones would come home alive, as a result of a raging world wide war.

With thanks to some now-rather-old -hat popular internet memes
for providing the illustrations to today's irritated rant.

Good night and good luck.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Photographing protests in the UK: a guide

Remembering Hillsborough

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Shame on you

'Just let me leave', the black man says to the police. 'It's only me', he adds, making it clear that he wants to leave the protest and go on his way. It's not clear if he is even a protester.

'And I'm telling you, you're not [leaving]' says a white female police officer.
Two other police officers shove him, then a third. They're all white as well, not that this makes a difference.

'What are you doing?...easy!' the man who wants to leave remonstrates, as he tumbles backwards. The crowd see the shoves, three shoves, from three police officers and anger rises. This is a vigil, it has been peaceful, with chanting and flag waving. But now it is kicking off.

One very small woman is particularly upset. 'What are you fucking doing? You're SCUM!' she shouts, angrily, advancing on a copper who is easily a foot and a half taller than her, who has hidden his badge number.

She either pokes him, or gesticulates towards him, he shoves her, then he casually raises his black-gauntleted hand and backhanded-slaps her in the face; she staggers back and comes back at him, pointing to her own face, challenging him about what he has just done. His response is to draw his baton, and lash out viciously at the back of her legs. She falls to the floor.

'Shame! Shame! Shame on you!' roar the crowd.

'There's nothing to see', says an officer, asking those who are frantically filming the assault to turn away.

Turn away? How can you turn away?

I have only seen the footage of woman advancing on the copper and being struck shown on the news, but it needs to be seen as part of the whole series. She's defending the right of a man to leave the demo, a man who has been pushed and shoved quite deliberately, and provocatively, and contemptuously, by three officers.

This is not even on the big day of protests: it's the following day, when a small group - angry, but peaceful, as I said, fewer than 200 men and women - gather to commemorate the death of Ian Tomlinson, who fell and died when he was walking home and was caught up in the protests and behind the police lines the previous day. You can see more footage here: it is not violent.

I have a great respect for the police; they have helped me and people I love and respect on several occasions and I even dedicated my book to four named police officers. It is completely sickening to see the police losing it like this. It's frightening, and horrible, and how we are going to pick up the pieces and go forward I do not know, because once trust is gone - and at the moment, trust in those who are public servants charged to protect and serve the people of this country - especially police and politicians - is seriously damaged - that is something that is dangerous for us all. When police are seen as the enemy, when all politicians are seen as liars on the make, we all lose. We all lose.

You have to be able to walk about in the world feeling that you are basically free to go about your business, to speak out, to live and love and work as you want to without causing harm; that you are not under suspicion, not at risk of violence or censorship or bullying just for being who you are, believing what you believe , and that if you or your property are harmed, there will be justice and redress.

Once that goes, everything goes. And that's why speaking out about abuses and injustice is important, tiresome and unpopular though it is. Before it gets too late.

I'm so bloody glad that everyone carries cameras. Sometimes being the media is the only way.

UPDATE: And the Guardian has collated more video evidence of G20 weekend brutality, which has been doing the rounds on the net for a while and has now gone mainstream. I doubt anyone who reads this blog is remotely surprised, but it gives me no damn pleasure to publish it, none at all.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


A police officer tries to restrain the police medic who is brandishing his baton with what looks like the intention to bring it down hard. We don't know if he managed to restrain him, only that he knocked the medic's hat off. Photos copyright of LittleRichardJohn and used under creative commons non-commercial licence, as yet without explicit originator permission. via Justin

FITwatch blogs are already publishing numerous photos of the officers involved in the kettling of the climate camp and the showdown in Threadneedle St and surrounding area. I've seen two names given as the identity of two officers, but it's not a good idea to publish them without any proof of correct identification.

This is what happens when groups of hyped up human beings are pitted against each other in a small space. It's human psychology, and police officers are no less susceptible to behaving like a furious pack than any other member of the human race, although they should be trained in managing themselves in crowds as well as crowd-management techniques.

And kettling - corralling people for hours as a technique is sorely in need of urgent review: it's dangerously counter-productive - if you're there trying to keep the peace. Which we must all assume was the idea, not provocation.

At least this storm of outrage must have done for the stupid new addition to our terrorism laws, that you can't photograph the police; who could argue against the right of the public to film and photograph the police now?

Hopefully the police will have plenty of chances to practise better demonstration policing techniques over what is shaping up to look like a year of people taking to the streets, and if the idiots who think smashing things up is the way to go could get a grip and stop playing right into the hands of those who want to make peaceful protest more difficult, that'd be nice too.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Amanda Platell's Mail Column: truly repulsive

Amanda Platell, writing in the Mail on Saturday accuses the bereaved family of Ian Tomlinson of a 'tawdry lust for fame'.

Yes, really.

She concedes that the video of the police officer striking him on the thigh, then throwing him to the ground as he walks past with his hands in his pockets is 'disturbing' - but then writes

'...another unpleasant insight into modern Britain and it concerns the way Ian Tomlinson's grieving family relished the media spotlight.

It was reported that his former wife, Julia, had been 'torn apart' by his death, though the couple had been estranged for some time.

As the mother of their nine children (five by her previous relationships), she added: 'When I close my eyes, I can't stop the video playing in my head. How Ian slams to the floor. How the officers don't go to his help. It is disgusting.'

This script was so word-perfect that I almost expected to see PR svengali Max Clifford (who offered his services to Jade Goody's family for an estimated £200,000 fee) to be hovering in the background. What Mrs Tomlinson forgot to add, however, was that her husband was a homeless, chronic alcoholic who had not lived in the 'family home' for 13 years.

And what about the fact that this man, apparently so cherished by this family, had for some time been forced to sleep in a series of hostels for the homeless or even on the streets?

Of course, I am not suggesting that the family are not grieving, but the facts of Ian Tomlinson's recent life must lead one to question the depth of their grief.

There is also something rather queasy about the instant appearance of campaign ribbons appealing for 'Justice for Dad' and the sight of lawyers rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of a large compensation claim against the Metropolitan Police.

What an indictment of our tawdry world that 15 minutes of fame - and, if you're lucky, a small fortune in compensation - can be achieved through the public airing of grief. But then I suspect that Jade Goody's legacy will be with us for a long time.'

Try reading it aloud, and when you come to an italicised bit, screw up your nose, purse your mouth up like a cat's bum and spit the words out of your mouth.

Or you could complain

Beef stew with leeks and mushrooms and things

I am taking a short break from worrying about everything going to hell in a handcart to make beef stew for tomorrow, when cultured gourmands Hendo and Ms T, (fresh back from Greece), my friend the dissolute reprobate and soppy cat-sitter Russell, and possibly my glamorous yet bonkers sister are expected.

The stew is supposed to be a credit-crunch supper, but a kilo of good braising steak still cost eleven quid and the veg cost about the same. Still, feeding six people for twenty quid isn't bad going and it's far less hassle than a roast, when you're chained to the cooker juggling trays of boiling fat for the spuds and faffing about with gravy, and steaming peas, and trying to find someone to carve who isn't drunk and won't hack great lumps out of the joint, and finding that you can't talk to your guests in a genial hostess manner because you're all sweating up like a racehorse and pink in the face.

To posh up the stew I slow-roasted the red peppers so they went sweet and smoky, then skinned and hand-shredded them - a squidgy crimson mess - into a big pot containing sweet potato, onions, leeks, mushrooms and garlic, pre-sweated in a little butter and their own juices. I added a litre of golden wobbly home made beef stock, some thyme I grew myself and some bayleaves and rosemary from the garden, de-glazed the beef frying pan with a slug of red wine and wondered about pouring the rest of the bottle in.

Nah. Cheers.

Glug glug.


The dark side of Dubai

J and I have friends in Dubai. J has been to stay with them, twice. I didn't go, partly because I had to work, partly because Dubai spooks me. It is the last place I would want to go and live.

Anyway, this is Johann Hari's excellent piece on it. I hope our friends come home soon.

'This is not a riot!'

I'm assuming everyone's seen this already, but if you haven't...

And now read this report.
The history of the 'this is not a riot' tactic can be found here - a great round up of links.

UPDATE: via Avaaz: 4000 signatures already

Bystander Ian Tomlinson was hit by a policeman and died during G20 protests last week. The right to peaceful protest is a vital part of our democracy -- tell the Home Secretary and the Metropolitan Police to fix the flaws in British protest policing now and prevent any more deaths like this:

Sign the petition!

This is starting to feel like a watershed.

This week, rather helpfully for police press officers battling negative headlines, news broke of a big anti -terror raid. It is a mark of how cynical people have become that there has been some speculation that it was rushed forward not by accident but by design. And so cock-ups become viewed as conspiracies.

Look. If the men picked up in the operation are guilty of planning to attack people, then I am thankful to the police and security services for swooping in and arresting the suspects before they could do harm. It is a hard job they do. But they have not yet been charged.

Having a police and security service that we trust to protect us and keep the peace will never stop being essential. But today, this Easter weekend, a few weeks away from what's being billed - by police, for heaven's sake - as 'the summer of rage', it feels like trust in politicians and police is crumbling. It's the pictures that tell the story. Twenty-first century technology means that those that survey us and govern us can sometimes be caught in the blinking light of still-new media, supported by good old-fashioned journalism, and held squirming to account: exposed to a million pairs of eyes; trapped in unedited pictures on a million screens, images captured, flickring and flashing round the world - unstoppable, uncensorable, unspinnable.

If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear.

I bet they're sorry they came up with that line now.
Now that we all carry cameras.

UPDATE: reports from the front line

Sir Robert Peel's Nine Points of Policing

Credit to Flickr user AmJamJazz ( thanks GirlOneTrack)

* The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.
* The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.
* Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.
* The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.
* Police seek and preserve public favour not by catering to public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.
* Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.
* Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
* Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.
* The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.


Recommended reading: Tom Whipple in the Times, Marina Hyde in the Guardian,
Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail
hat tip Justin,

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Quick And The Dead

Three appalling police news stories in a week. It's been a terrible week for the police. And it's been a worse week for the family of a schoolgirl crossing the road, when she was hit by a police car which was travelling at over 70mph without lights or siren on,

for the UK's most senior counter-terrorism officer, who accidentally flashed a secret file about an imminent operation whilst walking to 10 Downing Street.

and for the family of the man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

How the police must be hoping for stories of Quick and the Dead to be forgotten , and for a big punchy terrorist story to break, to remind us all of the threat we face...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

'If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear'

The Guardian obtained this footage of Ian Tomlinson at a G20 protest in London shortly before he died. It shows Tomlinson, who was not part of the demonstration, being assaulted from behind and pushed to the ground by baton-wielding police

Read the full story of Ian Tomlinson's death at the G20 protests

update: from Girl

Rachel, I hope you don't mind my adding to this thread, that people are calling for an independent inquiry - NOT run by the police/IPCC - into these events, and I want to suggest to your readers that they can write to their MP demanding that they raise this as a matter of urgency in the House.

You can contact your MP using Write To Them - it only takes five minutes, and I urge all those who are disgusted by the images and actions on that video to please write to their MP requesting an inquiry as soon as possible.

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