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Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed/The Cutting Edge | September 1, 2006

This is a special post for my fellow Brits.

On 28th August 2006, the New York Times printed an investigative story on that month’s 10/8 “terror plot”, undermining the claims of US and British government officials, and suggesting that details had been exaggerated beyond all proportion for political reasons. The article was also published online.

But interested British readers quickly discovered that they had been denied access to the article. Instead they discovered the following web message:

“This Article Is Unavailable

On advice of legal counsel, this article is unavailable to readers of nytimes.com in Britain. This arises from the requirement in British law that prohibits publication of prejudicial information about the defendants prior to trial.”

Even printed copies of the newspaper destined for the UK were scrubbed. Apparently for strictly legal reasons.

In fact, the New York Times’ decision to self-censor its own expose from the British readership is, like the “terror plot” itself, more likely to have been based on reasons of political expedience.

Consider, for instance, the confident declaration of Paul Stephenson, deputy chief of the Metropolitan Police in London, that the goal of the apprehended suspects in plotting the attack was “mass murder on an unimaginable scale.” Prejudicial to the case Mr. Stephenson? In similar vein, on the very day of the arrests, other officials estimated that as many as 10 planes were to be blown up, possibly over American cities. In Britain, the threat level was raised to its highest, “critical”, signalling an imminent terrorist attack, while Home Secretary Dr. John Reid talked repeatedly of the likelihood of an immediate strike. Such pronouncements were repeated in the US. Michael Chertoff, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said that the plot was “getting really quite close to the execution stage.”

Let’s be clear on this. These were not qualified, tentative descriptions of suspicions about a possible plot. These were definitive, unqualified proclamations about having detected and successfully foiled an imminent al-Qaeda strike to blow up about 10 civilian planes using liquid explosives to be manufactured on board. So much so that Dr. Reid was rebuked by the Attorney-General for possibly prejudicing the trial of the arrested individuals.

Possibly?

My own research of public record sources published Monday 21st August, “The Truth about the ‘Terror Plot’… and the new pseudo-terrorism”, fundamentally undermines the official narrative. My findings, like that of the NY Times article, do not prejudice any trial -- but they do prejudice the standards of political convenience adopted by British and American officials, whereby their repeated distortions, exaggerations and outright fabrications about the "terror plot" have been used to justify government attempts to push for suspension of sections of the Human Rights Act 1998, and to drastically increase draconian anti-terror powers.

For this reason, publication of the latest evidence undermining the government’s prejudicial claims serves not to create further prejudice, but to correct the lies and distortions that have already been widely disseminated and swallowed whole by an increasingly pathetic and subservient media, that remains unable to learn from the pattern of deceit long established in examples like the non-existent “Ricin Plot” (as former British Ambassador Craig Murray says, “there was no ricin; and there was no plot”). What the new evidence, indeed, demonstrates quite clearly, is that the British government, deliberately, consciously, pretended that there was an imminent threat from a plot which, it knew all too well, barely existed.

Therefore, for reasons of urgent public interest and in order to help correct the prejudicial distortions printed and aired repeatedly by the media on the basis of the false statements of our purported political representatives, I am posting the New York Times article in full, online, for the first time (see Annex below). And I would urge you all to re-post everywhere you can.

A number of points within the article, however, are worth highlighting. The New York Times points out, for instance, that according to “five senior British officials… the suspects were not prepared to strike immediately. Instead, the reactions of Britain and the United States in the wake of the arrests of 21 people on Aug. 10 were driven less by information about a specific, imminent attack than fear that other, unknown terrorists might strike.”

Unfortunately, this “fear” also had little basis in actual evidence. Consider the fact that “British officials said the suspects still had a lot of work to do. Two of the suspects did not have passports, but had applied for expedited approval.” One of the men had apparently looked up airline schedules for flights from London to the US (a crime for any British Muslim?), but investigators confirmed that “the suspects had neither made reservations nor purchased plane tickets.” Supposed “bomb-making equipment” described blandly as “chemicals” and “electrical components” (meaning household products and MP3 players) was found “five days after the
arrests,” not before.

“In fact,” continues the NY Times, “two and a half weeks since the inquiry became public, British investigators have still not determined whether there was a target date for the attacks or how many planes were to be involved. They say the estimate of 10 planes was speculative and exaggerated.”

Speculative and exaggerated is a rather polite term, some might say. “In his first public statement after the arrests, Peter Clarke, chief of counterterrorism for the Metropolitan Police, acknowledged that the police were still investigating the basics: ‘the number, destination and timing of the flights that might be attacked.’” So what did they know about this alleged plot?

Not very much really. Here we get to the really “prejudicial” part. “Despite the charges, officials said they were still unsure of one critical question: whether any of the suspects was technically capable of assembling and detonating liquid explosives while airborne.”

In my 21st August analysis, I had already raised fatal questions about the technical viability of the “terror plot” scenario. So did, apparently, “a chemist involved in that part of the inquiry, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was sworn to confidentiality.” Thus while officials and experts are cited as generally agreeing that “the investigation points to a serious and determined group of plotters”, they also add that “questions about the immediacy and difficulty of the suspected bombing plot cast doubt on the accuracy of some of the public statements made at the time.” So perhaps some of these people were extremists, possibly involved in criminal activity, possibly up to no good -- but the “terror plot” scenario remains fundamentally questionable.

As Michael A. Sheehan, the former deputy commissioner of counterterrorism in the New York Police Department told America's newspaper of record: “In retrospect, there may have been too much hyperventilating going on.”

Hyperventilating is not quite the word I would use. “Bullshitting”, appears to be a more fitting, if less polite, description.

Also consistent with what I wrote more than a week ago, the NY Times quoted British officials saying “many of the questions about the suspected plot remained unanswered because they were forced to make the arrests before Scotland Yard was ready.” I had already noted that the Brits didn’t want to move on the suspects due to the paucity of evidence. “The trigger was the arrest in Pakistan of Rashid Rauf, a 25-year-old British citizen with dual Pakistani citizenship, whom Pakistani investigators have described as a ‘key figure’ in the plot.”

But Rauf had been tortured by Pakistani interrogators, according to the Pakistani Human Rights Commission. Which means the central source for the details about the plot are inadmissible by law. “Several senior British officials said the Pakistanis arrested Rashid Rauf without informing them first”. What the Times doesn’t mention is that the impetus for the Pakistanis to move came from the Americans. “The arrest surprised and frustrated investigators here who had wanted to monitor the suspects longer, primarily to gather more evidence and to determine whether they had identified all the people involved in the suspected plot.”

Our boys in the police and intelligence services, in other words, saw no reason to do anything. But the Americans did. And in doing so, they compromised an ongoing intelligence operation, just so they could manufacture a false “intelligence success”. It seems, moreover, that our government didn’t only lie to its people. It also lied to its friends. “The plotters received a very short message to ‘Go now,’ ” Franco Frattini, the European Union’s security commissioner, told the NY Times. He had been briefed by Dr. Reid. “I was convinced by British authorities that this message exists”, he said.

The message, folks, didn’t exist. “A senior British official said the message from Pakistan was not that explicit”, reported the NY Times. In other words, it didn't say 'Go now'. It said something else, far more ambiguous. But that didn't stop Dr. Reid from telling everybody the opposite. Meanwhile, “Mr. Reid and Mr. Clarke declined repeated requests for interviews.” What a surprise. Two weeks after they had chorused a story of an imminent strike creating death on an unprecedented scale even worse than 9/11, “senior officials here [in the US] characterized the remarks as unfortunate.”

Most people, I fear, would characterise those remarks in more damning terms.

Has anyone, by the way, noted the frequency with which anonymous British officials have been sourced for this story? Are they all in contempt of court for showing that the government’s claims were untrue, for attempting to correct the public record? I don’t think so.

And that’s why I post the entire story for you. Read at your peril….

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