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Thursday, February 01, 2007 

Scum and Mail-watch: Beheadings, experts and 90 days.

Well, it's good to see that the Daily Mail took full account of the advice from police and politicians not to jump to conclusions over the terror arrests in Birmingham. They repeat the claims of the Scum yesterday that this was obviously an al-Qaida plot (all Islamic terrorists and extremists are al-Qaida, don't you know?) in about the biggest font they could possibly use. That al-Qaida plots genuinely go in for mass casualties rather than the death of just one person doesn't seem to matter; the executions carried out by al-Zarqawi et al in Iraq were the work of his Tawhid and Jihad (aka Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad) group, which was later renamed al-Qaida in Iraq, with few established links, if any, with actual al-Qaida operatives. The letters exchanged between al-Zarqawi and Ayman al-Zawahiri were far from pally, as Zawahiri objected strongly to Zarqawi's attacks on Shias.

The Sun's coverage today is slightly less hysterical than it was yesterday, but only slightly:
The Sun can also reveal that the swoops came after a suspect was spotted buying a video camera from a local electronics store at the weekend.

Well, that clinches it.

The kidnapped soldier was to have been taken to a secret address nine miles from Birmingham — in the town infamous as the home of the Tipton Taliban.

Uh, I think the Sun means the Tipton Three.

Tipton hit headlines around the world in 2001 when three young Asians from the district were discovered fighting with Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Dubbed the Tipton Taliban they were held at Guantanamo Bay before being released — but are still under 24-hour surveillance.

This is all heavily disputed, and the Sun doesn't feel the need to mention the way the three were treated at Guantanamo, or how they were interrogated by MI5 officers who clearly couldn't care less about their health, or the fact they were British other than to make allegations which were later proved to be untrue.

THE Maktabah bookshop was at the centre of yesterday’s raids.

Among its stock were books by dirty bomb mastermind Dhiren Barot and Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, who was widely regarded as Osama Bin Laden’s “spiritual adviser” in the late 1990s.

Dirty bomb mastermind? If coming up with idiotic plans for setting fire to smoke alarms is enough for you to be called a mastermind, then we've certainly reached a new low in dumbing down. And if Abdullah Azzam is the same as this one with a Wikipedia entry here, then whoops, because he was err, assassinated in 1989.

Then we're treated to the insights of "leading terror expert" Chris Dobson:

“It is another example of the way that the terror war started by Osama Bin Laden is spreading out from his al-Qaeda network like a franchise of fast food shops.

“Bin Laden no longer has to plan any operations, he simply gives general instructions in a recorded speech which is flashed around the world by television and on the internet.”

Right. Hence bin Laden, who is clearly just a figurehead at the top of an organisation which has been given far too much credit for its role in spreading the Salafist/Wahhabist/jihadist ideology (delete according to your preference as to the most legitimate description) is still the big bogeyman. It's all down to him, see? If only we'd caught the bastard and not gone off in a bloody tangent in Iraq.

The Sun's leader decides not to underline the sheer horror of it all, instead deciding to resort to some desperate BBC bashing:

POLICE may have foiled a plot to kidnap, torture and behead a British Muslim squaddie.

This is the latest blood-curdling development in the battle between extremists and the liberal West.

Nothing is too horrific for those fanatics intent on punishing the “infidel”.

And how does the BBC choose to report this raid by West Midlands police?

Their lunchtime TV bulletin warned: “We must remember this raid was intelligence-led . . . and, as we know, the intelligence services often get it wrong.”

Just whose side are these guys on?

On the side of recognising that those arrested and eventually charged are innocent until proved guilty, as opposed to being innocent to being smeared guilty. And what's more, it's true: they got it wrong on Iraq, they got it wrong over Forest Gate, but then seeing as the Sun supported the government and the police to the hilt over both, it's only fitting that they seem to have forgotten so soon.

Even more fitting (and predictable) was the announcement this morning that the government, despite denying it for weeks and months that they actually are going to seek to extend the 28-day detention period for "terrorist suspects", even though it's less than two years since they were first humiliated over the measure. The only surprise was that the information hadn't been leaked to the Downing Street Echo:

The home secretary, John Reid, is to make a fresh attempt to extend the maximum period that terror suspects can be detained without charge beyond 28 days, it was announced today.

Mr Reid told ministers at this morning's cabinet meeting he would attempt to find cross-party consensus on a longer detention period for questioning, the prime minister's official spokesman said.

Which if he gets will show up the spinelessness of both the Tories and the Lib Dems.

Mr Reid told the cabinet that since changes extending the maximum detention period from 14 to 28 days were introduced there had not yet been a case in which a longer period of questioning was needed.

And there were plenty of suspicions that the police used the full four weeks over the alleged liquid bombs plot purely to make their point that they believe they need longer.

Mr Blair's spokesman told a regular daily press briefing following cabinet: "The police service has now concluded that it is right and proper for government to address this issue and wanted the home secretary to discuss it with colleagues in government and more widely, with a view to seeing whether a consensus can be achieved.

Excellent. It's not the government now that decides what's necessary, it's the police. Says something about both democracy and the role of parliament after 9 years of New Labour.

Reid and the cabinet don't seem to realise that 90 days has become the very symbol of this government's attitude towards civil liberties: remove them and only think about the consequences later. If there genuinely is a case for extending the current period of detention without charge, then that case has yet to be made. Up until recently Reid himself had made clear that he didn't think that there was yet any evidence for such a period, except in the masturbatory speeches from "Sir" Ian Blair and reactionary leader columns of the Sun. As so often seems to have happened, they appear to have been enough to win the day. If this all they have, and a similar period of detention is put to the vote in the Commons again, they must be slaughtered for it. Only an overwhelming and humbling defeat might finally get the message through their skulls.

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