Wednesday, September 10, 2008 

Crying over spilt liquid part 3.

The Crown Prosecution Service is rather unsurprisingly seeking the retrial of all 7 men in the "liquid bombs" case, on all the charges which the jury couldn't reach a verdict on. While this was always likely, the question has to be asked: what makes the CPS so certain that a second jury won't come to the same verdict if there is no new evidence presented to prove that the plot was to explode liquid bombs on aircraft? As noted ad nauseam already, the actual amount of evidence pointing towards the targeting of transatlantic flights is relatively slight. Originally this was brushed off as being down to how the police and security services had to act quickly due to the arrest of Rashid Rauf, but today a "security source" said this to the Grauniad:

"Even if [the surveillance operation] had gone on for a few more days we would not have found anything better as evidence than what was found in the first 24 hours," the source said.

This is surely either bluster or an attempt to heal the wounds with the Americans, notoriously prickly about their own counter-terror and intelligence efforts. If this plot genuinely was going to target aircraft, surely if the plotters had purchased tickets or had all received their passports that would have made a huge difference to the prosecution case. As it is, one jury has already failed to be convinced by the evidence which this source thinks couldn't have been surpassed.

To go onto more speculative territory, you have to wonder whether this case might help persuade the security services that it's time that intercept evidence was made admissible in court. Considering the breadth of the operation which was undertaken to monitor the suspects, and as yesterday's Panorama showed, this more or less entailed following the main players wherever they went, it would be difficult to believe if they hadn't been bugging their phones or otherwise. While it might not provide the ocular proof if they were as guarded as they may have been, the continuing refusal to admit such evidence becomes more and more untenable as time goes by.

Then, finally, there is Rashid Rauf himself. Does anyone honestly believe the story that he happened to escape whilst being allowed to pray in a roadside mosque, or even that the policemen were bribed into letting him go? His lawyer has suggested that he believes he might have been taken into the black hole which is the ISI's detention, but is it so outlandish to imagine that he might have instead been transferred into US custody and is now languishing in one of their remaining black sites? A few years back that could of easily been dismissed as a fanciful conspiracy theory, but can we completely rule it out now? The lack of condemnation from our side, despite our apparent willingness to arrest two separtists which the Pakistan government requested in return for Rauf might speak volumes. Then again, perhaps Occam's Razor should be applied until there is any compelling evidence to prove otherwise.

We should of course wait and see what this second jury decides. If they do reach the same lack of a verdict which the first did, it will then be highly significant what decision is then taken as to what should be done with them. More compelling evidence could potentially still be revealed. It's hard not to imagine however that if a second jury "fails" in the same way which the first did, that it may well mean the introduction of the very measures which Peter Clarke so boastfully but also sinisterly mentioned we had not yet resorted to yesterday.

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Friday, December 15, 2006 

Craig Murray on the falling apart of the "liquid bombs" plot.

A second and simultaneous development is even more compelling evidence that this massive scare was, as I said at the time, "More propaganda than plot". Thames Valley police have given up after five months scouring the woods near High Wycombe where the bomb materials were allegedly hidden. They told the Home Office on 12 December that they would only continue if the government were prepared to meet the costs; they wished to get back to devoting their resources to real crimes, like armed robbery and burglary.

Remember this was a plot described by the authorities as "Mass murder on an unimaginable scale" and "Bigger than 9/11". There have been instances in the UK of hundreds of police officers deployed for years to find an individual murderer. If the police really believed they were dealing with an effort at "Mass murder on an unimaginable scale", would they be calling off the search after five months? No.

Which brings us to the lies that have been told - one of which concerns this search. An anonymous police source tipped off the media early on that they had discovered a "Suitcase" containing "bomb-making materials". This has recently been described to me by a security service source as "A lot of rubbish from someone's garage dumped in the woods". You could indeed cannibalise bits of old wire, clocks and car parts to form part of a bomb - perhaps you could enclose it in the old suitcase. But have they found stuff that is exclusively concerned with causing explosions, like detonators, explosives or those famous liquid chemicals? No, they haven't found any.

Wycombe Woods, like the sands of Iraq, have failed to yield up the advertised WMD.


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Wednesday, December 13, 2006 

All that's fizzy is not explosive...

The news that "terrorism" charges have been dropped against Rashid Rauf, the alleged ringleader of the August "liquid bombs" plot is curious to say the least. This was the man which Pakistan's interior minister said had given "many, many clues which link this plan with Afghanistan, especially the al-Qaida of Osama bin Laden", so for the charges against him to be decided so flimsy (or badly collected, or presented) that they wouldn't even stand up in a Pakistani court must be a concern for the evidence collected against those accused over here.

Conspiracy theories will obviously abound. Newspapers in Pakistan were less than subtle about the circumstances surrounding Rauf's interrogation by the Pakistani authorities, describing him as being "broken". Whether the use of torture would have had any bearing on the judge's decision is unclear; Human Rights Watch recently described the use of coercive methods in Pakistan as "rampant" in a press release.

Also reported at the time of the arrest was the allegation that money had been funneled to Pakistan to terrorist groups operating in Kashmir, under the guise of aid for those caught up in the earthquake of October 2005. The possibility may be that in investigating Rauf, that Pakistani governmental officials or others had been implicated in the flow of funding to groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, which would have came out as a result of trying Rauf under intense media interest, when trials of terrorist suspects are usually brushed under the carpet or simply not carried out at all.

The reality may be much more mundane, however. The Daily Mail (Yes, I know) reported on the 19th of August that despite Pakistan's lack of reticence, little hard evidence had been found, other than the apparent "breaking" of the suspect.

Whether any of this will stop Rauf being deported from Pakistan is unclear. The British government is still apparently seeking his return, rumoured to be to do with the unsolved death of Rauf's uncle, although the police are helpfully refusing to comment on what murder case they actually what to question him about.

In other "terror" news, despite John Reid's scaremongering on Sunday over a potential attack before Christmas, the review headed by the home secretary now seems unlikely to demand 90 days straight away, although as Not Saussure wonders, this may be down to the opposition the measure would undoubtedly face. Another foiled plot however, and the mood might change. The report, according to the Guardian, is also unlikely to put forward the need for wire-tap/intercept evidence to be made admissible as evidence. It can thus be assumed that either the security services' bugging methods are incredibly insecure, which seems doubtful, or that they're so paranoid that the mere presenting of their snooping will put them at risk that they'll potentially limbo terrorist suspects on control orders for ever (Reid has give the go-ahead for 1 further man to be held under virtual house arrest, with 3 others still to be served theirs) which is depressingly the more likely reason.

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