Monday, May 18, 2009

The 2nd ISC report is out - and here's the questions they're unlikely to answer

Back in 2007, you may remember, there was a major terrorist trial into several men who had been under surveillance as they planned to make a huge fertiliser bomb and kill civilians in the UK - probably 'slags dancing around' in the Ministry of Sound and shoppers in Bluewater. 'Operation Crevice', it was called. It was a major police and security service success and well done to them for it.

The plotters were a bunch of UK Al Qaeda-inspired operatives, born and bred in the UK. They were not 'clean skins', they were known to the security service. They were filmed, photographed, bugged and followed in 2003 and 2004 as they talked about jihad, their fraudulent schemes to fund the mujahadeen and jihadis on the 'front line' fighting allied troops in Afhganistan, Kashmir and Pakistan. They shared a takfiri hatred of the 'filthy kaffr' - they believed, (just like the U.S President at the time), that 'either you were with us or against us' - either you were right, on God's side - or you were wrong. Those who were wrong, they agreed, deserved to die.

Some of them had already travelled to Pakistan in the years before their planned attack, to deliver money and equipment donated by other true believers, and some of them desired nothing more than to offer themselves up in the fight to free the world's suffering Muslims by putting their own bodies in the firing line

Some of them had trained together in a camp in the mountains of Malakand, on the Pakistan/ Afghanistan border, where they had trained with weapons and mixed explosives to recipes they had been taught in specialist camps. Later, some of them had stayed together in a house in Lahore, 13 Ilyas Street, where the neighbours had complained to the police of young English men, playing with explosives in the garden, careless, heedless, dangerous.

Some of them had been sent to Pakistan by a man known as ''Q''.
Q was known to the security services as early as 2003. Q was a member of al-Muhajiroun, a radical organisation dedicated to creating an Islamic Sharia State all over the world, by fighting if necessary, to free Muslims and make right the world under God.MSK met Q, the original target, with the main target, Omar Khyam. M15 watched this.

Most of these men were caught, and charged in April 2004; many of their friends were also caught later and charged with offences covering planned murder, mayhem, bombing, inciting hatred and other terrorist acts .

But Mohammed Siddique Khan, who moved amongst them, who knew them and loved them, and had been part of the network since 2003 or earlier, was never caught - and on 7/7/2005,with three accomplices, he went on to murder 52 people, and maim and injure 800 more. Even though he was filmed and photographed by UK security services, taped and followed with his terrorist friends in 2004, even though he had attended the same specialist terror ops camps with them in 2003, knew the same people, went to the same meetings, went in for the same criminal fraudulent behaviour, met the specialist detonator maker Momin Khwaljah who only came to the UK for a few short days, even though he should have been flagging code red , because he was behaving just like his friend, the UK security services main target -

- he was not stopped.

Ordinary, boring police work could probably have stopped him. M15 watch and wait, and evaluate; they cannot stop everyone they are interested in. But the would-be murderer Khan - if an ordinary copper had been tipped off by the security services about his GBP20k fraud, back in spring 2005, that might well have been enough to get in his face and disrupt him, stop him mixing the chemicals in his bathtub that tore apart so many lives in the summer of 2005. We'll never know.

In November 2004 he went back to Pakistan, after saying goodbye to his baby daughter. A few days after arrival in Pakistan he had been given new orders; along with his friend Mutkar Said Ibrahim, who attacked on 21/7/2005 using the same M.O and same recipe, a fortnight after Khan detonated a hydrogen peroxide organic compound based IED on the tube. Again, he too was not stopped.

Ibrahim's bomb failed to detonate: perhaps he had not been paying as much attention as his friends to the lessons that were given the UK jihadi class of 2003-2004 that last winter before they set off back to the UK to die.

There is much more I could tell you. There is not space nor time today.

At 8.30am today I will be locked in, with some of the other survivors and families impacted by 7/7, looking at the second Intelligence and Security Committee Report, which was commissioned in May 2007 after public outcry after a trial revealed what had been hidden; the links between the 7/7 bombers and a wider terror network. The families and survivors 7/7 Inquiry Campaign group that I am part of did not ask for this second report: we asked for an inquiry independent of Government and security services and police with the power to compel witnesses and cross examine them and make recommendations; we have asked for this for almost 4 years. This we were not given. We told the Home Secretary we did not think the ISC were equivalent to an inquiry. The ISC meet in secret. They do not have an independent investigator any more. They did not find out much about the 7/7 bombers in their first report, published in May 2006. Why, how could we trust them to go over it again, now that public outcry after public trials had found their first findings false?

In October 2007 we had a meeting with them. We asked if we could ask them questions.

When they said yes, we said we'd submit them in writing.

On the eve of the report's publication, for the first time - here they are.

I really hope they try to answer them this time, I can't understand why they didn't do it first time around.Briefing, briefing...they spin, we fight back.
The ISC's is having a press conference at 11.30am.Our press conference is at 3pm, 54 Doughty St Chambers. I've taken the day off work; this is going to be a long day.

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Blogger Ricbake said...

This is excellent Rachel - You came over brilliantly on the Today Program - Keep up the good work

May 19, 2009 12:06 pm  
Blogger InsideKnowledge said...

I’m sure you and the rest of the people who call for an inquiry do so with the best of intentions but there should never be one. I hope this campaign loses momentum here and finally retires.

I’m unsurprised that you’re not satisfied with the ISC report. I don’t think any inquiry that properly respects the operational equities at stake (i.e. where the minutia of MI5 and SB resources, business processes, techniques etc remain secret) would satisfy you because every inquiry will produce the same result and you’ll always wonder at what was held back in the secret part. To demand the inquiry to be fully open would much to weaken UK national security and in no way at all would it strengthen it. Picking over the bones of Crevice will simply cost millions, divert resources and help nobody except those who want to understand our systems so as to circumvent it.

There was no intelligence failing. There was no blunder. The 7/7 bombers were on the radar but remained unidentified and low down the priority order for the limited resources. The decision to pursue other leads was entirely justified with what was known at the time. Obviously with what we known now this ranking was a mistake but with the information known at the time and the resources available it was the only rational prioritisation. Your Op Crevice based witchhunt for the missing link is viewed entirely through the prism of hindsight.

May 19, 2009 7:22 pm  
Blogger Nick Cooper said...


It seems rather facile to suggest that any sort of scrutiny of, "business process, techniques etc" would undermine intelligence operations, given that most genuine targets are almost certainly more than aware of such matters already. One could just as easily suggest that the academic literature dealing with the medical responses to recent terrorist attacks is counter-productive, as it might give would-be bombers hints at how to cause more injuries or to overwhelm the local medical infrastructure, and thus maximise casualties. The counter-argument, of course, is that there is a greater good in informing health professionals as well and as widely as possible how to deal with such an incident in the future.

I would actually suggest that greater disclosure in intelligence matters would have more of a deterent effect, in that some individuals might think twice about going down that path if they more easily recognise the liklihood of them being detected and - we would hope - stopped. Who's the greater risk, someone who thinks about commiting a terrorist act, but doesn't do anything substantial about it because they think they're more likely to get caught as not, or someone who does go ahead because they don't recognise the odds are against them?

May 21, 2009 11:41 am  
Blogger InsideKnowledge said...


It is not scrutiny I’m concerned about. Such scrutiny has and continues to happen. Lessons are continually sought and learned. The MI5 and SB’s of Crevice are not the same as exist now because of this (the ISC gives a couple of pointers on this). It is publishing this scrutiny in an open forum for all to see that is insane. The call for an open inquiry appears to be because there is no faith that a closed one will be rigorous enough. I dispute this completely and can only see downsides in opening this up.

Your medical comparison is a poor analogy because the medical community is not a small secret one but a large and open one. Communicating information to this community cannot be done by secure channels and even if it was the outcome would be quickly in the open anyway. Furthermore the information being distributed is of minor influence to the success of an operation from the terrorist perspective. Killing 72 or 52 is of much less importance to them than successfully detonating. There is no trade off here between open and closed. Open is the only option. The intelligence community though it is very different. The type of information open scrutiny would provide would be very damaging as it could easily be used to work out weak spots and avoid detection. There is no reason to make it open because everyone who needs to know can be informed securely. The only reason for opening it up is to reassure the public, which I’m afraid I don’t think is worth the downside.

Expecting a deterrent effect is based on the optimistic assumption that the odds are indeed stacked against them. If you read the ISC report you’ll quickly realise that this may not necessarily be the case. Resources are always tight (quite right too, nobody wants a Stasi) and decisions to employ invasive techniques must always be justified as proportionate (see RIPA). Exposing to the public details such as the amount of resource available to MI5 and SBs, the way they prioritise targets, the techniques they employ and the proportionality required for each would have a negative impact on national security. An open independent inquiry would expose all of these things and more.

Also I disagree that the average terrorist wannabe understands the information you think they do. Understanding what is technically or legally possible is one thing. Understanding what is being used and how it is applied is another. Remember that the ISC themselves expressed astonishment at some of the details of application. The IRA learned a lot over the years from information revealed at trial and got more and more sophisticated in their approach. They learned the behaviours that gave them away and avoided them. In terrorist (and organised crime) cases the police take great pains to keep hidden as much of their MO as they can without undermining the case. At the moment terrorists have little to go on but their imagination and TV fiction. Indeed as a result they frequently over estimate and there are cases where thanks to paranoia and too much faith in programmes like 24 or Spooks terrorist targets have had a ridiculously high belief in law enforcement capability yet planned attacks none the less.

I think I’ve answered your rhetorical question so I’ll pose one of my own. Who benefits most from scrutiny being in an open forum; the public (so they can feel reassured) or the terrorist attack planner? It certainly isn’t the CT agencies, they derive no benefit at all.

May 21, 2009 12:56 pm  

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