Friday, November 09, 2007 

How I stopped worrying about the Muslims...

The "lyrical terrorist" and her rhymes of doom.

Those Muslims. They're a worry, aren't they? We worry about them integrating. We worry about the books they read. We worry about the religious premises they attend. We worry about the library stock dedicated to their religion. We worry about offending them. We worry about how some of them talk in funny languages called "Arabic" and "Urdu", whatever they are. We worry about what they're thinking. We worry about whether some of them are AS WE SPEAK plotting our demise, brainwashing children, and writing poems about the joys of beheading infidels. We worry about whether the anti-terrorist legislation which is clearly targeted at "them" is tough enough; the home secretary doesn't know how much longer the pre-charge detention limit should be, but she does know that it isn't long enough.

To add to all of these existential problems and threats, the Sun today cheerfully informs us of another problem with Muslims. Apparently, the numbers of Muslims behind bars has risen by 120%. This undoubtedly means that BRITAIN'S jails risk becoming breeding grounds for Islamic extremists:

Figures obtained by The Sun show there are 8,000 Muslims in our jails – up from just 3,700 in 1997.

And the number of Muslim inmates – from both Britain and abroad – is growing FOUR TIMES faster than the prison population as a whole.

The Sun appears to be adding two and two together and getting five. The simple fact that there are more Muslim prisoners doesn't mean that we're suddenly going to have jails full of radicalised young men. The conditions might be right in prison for radicalisation - but those who tend to find themselves serving time usually don't fall into the same demographic categories as those who have previously taken part in terrorist plots: overwhelmingly decently educated, reasonably prosperous and who have either done their own research or met like-minded individuals online.

The paper relies on the general secretary of the Prison Officers' Union for the actual evidence:

Brian Caton, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, said his members were struggling to cope.

He said: “We have already seen how shoe-bomber Richard Reid was converted and radicalised in prison. We don’t want that being repeated. We have a massive lack of language skills. Very few officers can speak Urdu or Arabic, which means prisoners could be doing or saying anything.”

If we're going to be pedantic about it, Reid converted to Islam while he was in a young offenders' institution. Whether he was radicalised there is something in dispute - Feltham has had a number of imams suspended over fears they were anti-American or radical - but Reid also undoubtedly spent time at Finsbury Park mosque during Abu Hamza's tenure.

This itself poses a problem with the Sun's alertness. Reid was a petty criminal before he entered Feltham, and although his father encouraged him to learn about Islam, he most certainly wasn't religious prior to entering the YOI. Is it those who don't already have their own interpretation of Islam when they're imprisoned we should worry about, or those with little information on it?

As with everything else, it's worth getting this into perspective. According to the prison service, there are currently 130 prisoners being held under terrorist legislation - even if all of them are Muslims, that's an incredibly low percentage of the total currently imprisoned, and they're also spread out throughout the prison system, for the exact reason that keeping them altogether, ala the Maze in Northern Ireland is only storing up even further problems for the future.

It is however indicative of how we're either increasingly afraid of or meant to see the very fact that someone is a Muslim as a potential problem. The Tories added their concern to the Sun's article:

Shadow justice secretary Nick Herbert said: “Officers are right to warn about the challenge posed by a large number of Muslim inmates.”

Shouldn't we be similarly concerned about the challenge posed by a large number of inmates full stop? The prison system, as the Sun falls over itself to tell us, is at breaking point. Overcrowded prisons makes it near to impossible for any real rehabilitation to take place; prisoners are increasingly banged up in cells for longer periods of time, making those vulnerable to the advances of their cell-mates, whatever their religion or otherwise. The projections that up to 1,600 terrorists could be behind bars in ten years' time shouldn't be surprising when we're imprisoning those such as Atif Siddique for 8 years
(Abu Hamza got 7 years). Who knows how long the "lyrical terrorist" will receive?

The Scum's leader inevitably takes it all up a notch (the actual page seems to have since disappeared into the ether, replaced by tomorrow's leader, so you'll have to trust me on what it says):

Jihad jails

BRITAIN’S bulging prisons are being turned into hothouse training and recruiting posts for Islamic terror.

For which there is no evidence whatsoever.

Overworked warders live in fear of bullying minorities who form gangs and run their own jail culture.

And why are they overworked? Because the Sun and others keep demanding that sentences become ever tougher while demanding more prisons that unsurprisingly no one wants in their backyard. Prisons are full of gangs and their own cliques, it's not as if that's anything new.

The officers dare not enter prayer meetings held in a foreign language.

Nobody knows for sure whether imams are preaching from the Koran or an al-Qaeda manual. But we can be certain their message is not peace and goodwill to all men.

Again, does the Sun have any evidence whatsoever to back this up? Of course it doesn't. In fact, prison imams have been receiving special training to help identify those who might be falling victim to radicalisation. Imams have often got the blame in its pages when few other than Hamza have had a direct hand in radicalising those who have gone on to take part in attacks. If they made such a blanket statement about prison chaplains they'd rightly get smacked down for such a generalisation with no evidence.

As we reveal today, one inmate allegedly launched his terrorist career after studying jihad in Wandsworth prison library.

The article says nothing of the sort (click "more" to see it.). It says that he had a single document on jihad which he obtained while in prison. Al Figari is one of those currently on trial for taking part in the "paintball jihad".

MI5 chief Jonathan Evans this week warned the number of radicalised Muslims has more than doubled in a year, with thousands more yet to be identified.

No he didn't. He said that the numbers of those who pose a "direct threat to national security and public safety, because of their support for terrorism" had increased by 400 from 1,600. How much stall you want to put by such figures is up to you.

Now we know where they are coming from.

The question is — why aren’t we sending them home?

Probably because most of them are already British citizens. And so the "fear" dial is turned up yet another point.

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Saturday, June 30, 2007 

Abu Beavis and Abu Butthead do jihad.

Wow, these fuckers really are deadly, aren't they? First they leave two bombs apparently containing no explosives in central London, almost hoping that they'd go off of their own accord; next they succeed in setting fire to the vehicle they're in before they'd even managed to get anywhere near Glasgow airport, with some reports suggesting that after they'd escaped from the jeep, at least one of them already on fire, another pouring petrol around himself and the car, leaving those witnessing this idiocy with the conundrum of whether they should piss on them or not.

Despite it being apparent that those behind these attacks appear to be a bomb short of a timer, the brown trousers-o-meter has now been raised to its highest level, up from shit-speckled to bathing in excrement. This seems just ever so slightly belated, but it never hurts to make the public panic just that little bit more.

The reporting on the car bombs discovered in the early hours of yesterday morning is still confused over exactly what they were made up of, but the consensus appears to be that there was at least 60 litres of petrol, along with gas cylinders most likely containing propane, with a substantial amount of nails included. Whether there were any actual explosives or not is the real question: on Newsnight last night Mark Urban appeared to suggest that there weren't, and others have seized upon this. If there were none present, those responsible may well have been counting on opening one or more of the cylinders, letting the gas build up, then detonating it by ringing the mobile phone, creating the spark needed to ignite it. If this was the case, then either it was discovered too soon and the simple removing of the mobile phone made the whole thing relatively safe, or it failed to work altogether. The failure of the second bomb to explode might mean that the first was also doomed to fail, intervention by the quick thinking of an ambulance crew and the bomb squad or not.

The police themselves seemed to be moving towards the idea that the bombs were not as deadly as some initially made out last night, by changing their description of the devices subtly from "viable" to "potentially viable", as in they could have exploded, but probably without the "carnage" which we were initially informed they would have caused. The Register, which previously cast doubt on the viability of the alleged liquid bomb plot of last year is also already on the case, suggesting that those responsible had forgotten to include an oxidiser which would have turned the result from a fireball into an actually damaging and lethal explosion. This is why it seems so daft to instantly point the finger directly at al-Qaida: yes, those behind these attacks might be highly influenced by the Salafi, takfirist ideology, but if this is al-Qaida then they've got really, really sloppy and inept, compared to the ruthless amounts of planning which went into 9/11 and even 7/7 by comparison.

If the "attack" on Glasgow airport hadn't been carried out with such apparent incompetence, it would have been deeply worrying. One of the things we have yet to see in the west is the tactic perfected, especially in Iraq, of ramming vehicles laden with explosives into buildings with the driver then rapidly fleeing or "martyring" himself by setting off the bomb. At the moment we don't even know if the jeep contained anything other than the petrol which one may have still been trying to spread as he attempted to escape. Of course, it may be possible yet that this was an intended suicide bombing where like with the previous bombs, the materials failed to explode. No doubt we shall find out more shortly.

As could be expected, the Scum is already talking about "brainwashing imams" when there's little to no evidence to suggest that any imams are involved in indoctrinating, most of those who become radicalised either having started off in groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir, or through doing their own research online and meeting like-minded people off of it. 90 days is also inevitably mentioned. One of the bright spots so far has been that both Jacqui Smith and Gordon Brown have been calm, measured and eloquent in their statements, with no signs of there being a return to the bad old days of the Reid/Blair scaremongering partnership. Rachel perhaps says it best in remarking on the deaths so far from the flooding and continuing rain: that seems more of a threat right now than the blundering jihadist wannabes and their plague of burning cars.

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Friday, June 29, 2007 

Terror! returns.

Now get this, this is insider information, so don't go spreading it to widely, but you know that car bomb that was dealt with by a controlled explosion? Definitely the work of those Islamics. You know the sort? Beards, veils, beheadings, allah akbar, all that. Who else could it possibly be than al-Qaida? Alright guv, you got it all down?

That was presumably what "Whitehall" and "police sources" have been briefing to the thirsty hacks demanding information about the attempted attack outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub in Haymarket. This is despite us being similarly reliably informed that like 7/7, this was another attack that has come completely out of the blue, with no intelligence suggesting that any attempt at mass murder was forthcoming.

The only instant link to similar plots by Islamic extremists was that our old friend Dhiren Barot examined the possibility of using gas cylinders in packed limos in attempts to bring down buildings, and that those arrested under Operation Crevice had discussed the possibility of attacking the Ministry of Sound, although they hadn't seemed to have settled on any particular target. It doesn't fit with any of the other foiled alleged plots, including last summer's "liquid bombs" or the Birmingham beheading conspiracy. We're already being told that it's similar to car bombs used in Iraq, but up until recently most of the explosives used in suicide bombings were taken from left over Ba'athist stockpiles, or those created by the insurgent groups' own well-trained explosives makers. Neither does it appear to have been a suicide attack, unless the "martyr" chickened out at the last minute, the most favoured method of demolishing markets, checkpoints and police quarters in that poor, benighted country, with cars being dumped while full of explosives being preferred for attacking US troops or where security is of a higher level.

All of the above was written before it was confirmed that that a second device had been found, in the other Mercedes in Park Lane, where it had apparently been impounded following being given a ticket in the early hours of the morning in Cockspur Street. The existence of a second device instantly evokes the tactics previously used by jihadists in striking multiple targets at the same time, but it should also be remembered that the IRA used to plant multiple devices.

The point I was going to go on to make was that we shouldn't immediately rule out the possibility that this could be the work of a republican splinter group, either the Continuity IRA or the Real IRA, who planted bombs in London as recently as 2001, although they seem deadlier devices than are usually their handiwork, or the work of a lone, disgruntled individual such as Timothy McVeigh or David Copeland, but as this shows, speculating and guessing at such an early stage of an investigation when we don't know by any means the full facts is fraught with the danger of getting it horribly wrong.

The existence of a second device almost certainly rules out the possibility of these being suicide attacks where the bombers had second thoughts about going through with their mission, instead seemingly planted to either detonate at kicking out time or shortly after it was dumped, with the second then either exploded at the same time or to target the emergency services which would have arrived to treat the victims of the first bombing.

To speculate once again, the second bomb appears to have failed to explode, if the first itself was noticed and defused in time as it might well have been. The very nature of dumping cars in such a way leaves those doing so highly exposed, and you'd expect that we'll shortly have CCTV pictures of those doing so, although if they've got half a brain in their head you'd expect them to be suitably hooded or covered. Creating such improvised explosive devices which then fail to explode is also going to leave a large amount of fingerprints or DNA behind, which should be helpful to the police.

Again, as just mentioned on Newsnight, we should perhaps take comfort from the fact that there seems to have been no actual explosives found, at least in the first car; this seems to have been the work of amateurs, without the training of the 7/7 and 21/7 bombers for instance, hoping that the combination of gas and petrol would almost explode of its own accord. Whomever's responsible, we shouldn't be scared of these people, if anything we ought to be mocking them for their abject failure. What we can expect is that the usual suspects will be ramping up the fear, and pointing towards the need for further new anti-terror laws. They need to be resisted with the same vigour as if this hadn't taken place.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006 

Blair's miserable, fearful legacy.

The annual spectacle of the Queen's Speech, coupled with the state opening of parliament, is pretty much a summation of every single thing that is wrong with 21st century British politics. All pomp, all circumstance, all bloat, all inane, all backward rather than forward looking, all style, no substance. Led by a woman born into her role, surrounded by men appointed to theirs, some no doubt in exchange for a large donation, it's a handy way to judge just how little Blair has managed to achieve in comparison to his huge majorities. The Lords remains unreformed, with even (half) the hereditary peers and bishops still sitting; the ridiculous pageantry, kept for sentimental reasons rather than for any major historical purposes, continues to appeal only to the brainlessness of American tourists; the speech itself continues to be inscribed onto goatskin, even though Liz doesn't actually read from that version; and finally, it appears poor old Brenda gets more bored and annoyed by the event as each year goes by. Who could blame her? She must be getting deja-vu. As Nick Clegg on CiF comments, the speech today puts forward this government's sixth immigration bill, an eighth terrorism bill, and a 23rd(!) justice bill. Were it to be put to her that the ludicrous ceremony be abandoned, it's hard to imagine that she would disagree.

Rather than what the speech promises, it's more notable for what's not in it or what it introduces yet again. Foreign policy only gets a cursory mention towards the end, with what could be generously described as a continuation of the status quo. The supposed dedication to finding a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians is rather undermined by the last years' actions, in which the government involved itself in the boycott of the democratically elected Hamas government, as well as ignoring and defying calls for it to support an immediate ceasefire during the Israeli war with Lebanon. Energy, despite the white paper on it, is lumped in with the climate change bill. For a government that supposedly feels that nuclear power is the answer and urgently required, there's a surprising lack of movement there. As for the replacement of Trident, expected to either be announced or debated this coming year, there's nothing at all.

To be defeated yet again are the plans for judge-only trials in serious fraud cases, dispensing with juries that the patronising ministers think can't understand what's going on. The evidence from America, especially from the Enron trials, suggests that the onus should be on the prosecution to make a compelling, short and coherent case, rather than one which gets bogged down in the minutiae of business and legal jargon, which has led to cases in the past failing. Judges can also be the problem rather than the solution, not stopping the prosecution and defence from wasting time or drawing out the process. An amendment from the abandoned Mental Health Act is also set to be debated again, with the prospect of those diagnosed with psychopathic disorders being locked up even if they have never shown any sign of actually being dangerous. The law was created partially in response to the Michael Stone case, the man convicted of murdering Lyn and Megan Russell. That he continues to protest his innocence, in addition to the evidence given by a witnesses being discredited as he has been exposed as committing perjury, coupled with the lack of forensic evidence, doesn't seem to matter.

Apart from the climate change and pensions bill, which are tepid and unambitious and long expected and relatively uncontroversial respectively, the main focus is, as expected, on law 'n' order and terrorism. The Scum website's front page image (above) says it all: TOUGH ON CRIME: SEVEN crime fighting bills. That these are likely to be a hodge-podge of amendments to previous justice bills, in some cases which have only recently came into law, says it all about this government. It fails to think through thoroughly what it's setting out, rushing legislation only to make a political point, either against the opposition or to appease the petulant squeals of the tabloids. Apart from that, the government is setting out its plans to "rebalance" the criminal justice system in favour of the victim. Their answer appears to be not actually involve the system at all; instead giving police the power to abuse their position in as many ways as they see fit, such as being able to not just close "crack dens" but also houses where noisy parties are taking place, to ban individuals from city centres without having to go to court and fine the parents of children who break their "acceptable behaviour" contracts. It's a recipe for disaster. Every single extra power the police are given they abuse, and there appears to be little recourse available to those who these new powers are used against. Reid's talk of "swift, effective" justice is designed purely to annoy the legal establishment and appeal to those who loathe the idea of having to be as responsible for their actions as much as those suspected of breaking the law are.

On terrorism, there are no actual proposals put forward, only that the government will "address the threat" and that it will attempt to build "strong, secure and stable communities." The suspicion has to be that they'll attempt to bring in 90 days without the build up of last year that led to its downfall. Whether it will decide to be so deeply illiberal as to take Ian Blair's advice and ban the burning of flags and the wearing of masks at demonstrations is another matter. There also might be a renewed effort to ban Hizb-ut-Tahrir after last night's Newsnight investigation into radicalisation.

There was no mention of the banning of "violent" pornography, which is to be welcomed if isn't still to be introduced. Less celebratory is the welfare reform bill, which will bring forward the abolition of incapacity benefit to be replaced with the Employment and Support Allowance, bound to result in those who can't work being forced into further misery and deprivation. The government's plans seem to involve a lot more sticks than carrots, rather than taking the Pathways to Work scheme nationwide, which has helped, according to Polly Toynbee's notoriously unreliable statistics, 210,000 claimants back into work.

This then is Blair's legacy. At war abroad, helplessly adrift in Iraq, relying completely on the United States for what to do next there, which appears to be to do nothing and hope everything gets better on its own. Unilateral withdrawal, or God forbid, even setting a timetable for leaving are too much to even expect. At war at home, more concerned with keeping in with Murdoch, Wade and Dacre, as well as attacking the Tories for their alleged "softness" regardless of how his own supporters and party feels about it. Removing civil liberties without a second thought, as demonstration without permission becomes a thing of the past around Westminster, setting up hugely wasteful schemes on ID Cards, the NHS database and the DNA databank where everyone's a suspect. His hypocrisy continues unabated, as he has apparently sent lawyers to head off any potential prosecution over cash for honours, as the running commentary in the press has made it "impossible" for there to be a fair trial, forgetting about the conveniently leaked information which smeared Dr David Kelly and Jean Charles de Menezes. Hopelessly ineffective at constitutional reform, and at governing in general, Blair's legacy won't be his crime legislation. It'll be how a man in which there was once such hope has instead brought only rivers of blood and the politics of fear.

P.S. You can sign the petition on the 10 Downing Street website for Blair to resign immediately. 53 already have. Do it before it mysteriously vanishes.

Correction: The ban on "violent" pornography was mentioned, as part of the criminal justice bill. It seems highly likely to pass, which could potentially be a disaster for some with "deviant" sexual interests.

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Friday, November 10, 2006 

Are you scared yet?

It's in the eyes.

I'll admit it. I'm an unreconstructed class warrior. It makes me want to spit to even have to type the name Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the current head of the Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI5. Not only is she a "Dame", but the double-barrelled name just puts the saliva on a cake which has, shall we say, a surprise filling.

I'll also not bother to hide my contempt for another reason. Manningham-Buller was earlier this year asked to give evidence to the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. She refused, without explaining why. Perhaps her excuse is, as she says at the start of her speech, "that she prefers to avoid the limelight and get on with my job." And who could possibly disagree with that? Manningham-Buller has the starring role in protecting this country from exploding jihadists, keeping us safe from the mad mullahs which the Sun and others cannot stop talking about.

Then again, maybe we should examine what this woman who wishes to avoid the limelight really thinks. Back in 2003 she made a speech to the Royal United Services Institute, where she said she fully supported the war on an abstract noun (terror),
and told the salivating audience that "renegade scientists" had given terrorists the information needed to create what are usually described as weapons of mass destruction. Three years later, and those terrorist groups which don't usually hold back from showing us just how spectacular their attacks can be, haven't managed to move on from their usual tactic of suicide bombings. Last year, this shy, retiring, limelight avoiding woman made another public utterance, informing us that we may need to give up some civil liberties in order for others not to become smears on tube-train windows. Then there was the leaked evidence from her submission to the law lords, where she made clear that she couldn't give a fig if "evidence" is obtained from detainees who have been tortured.

Have you spotted a pattern? Yes, Ms Double-Barrelled Name is a spook almost made in Tony Blair's image. War on terror supporting; scaremongering about terrorists getting hold of WMD, which was one of the justifications made for the Iraq war; thinks that civil liberties need to be curtailed in order for the threat to be reduced; and yes, rendition, torture, and probably even Guantanamo Bay are all A-OK in her book. Why else would she refuse to give evidence to a parliamentary committee investigating human rights abuses?

Just to be fair to Ms Manningham-Buller, I wondered if her speech yesterday night at the Queen Mary University of London had been perhaps influenced by her finances, despite also her being invited by Peter Hennessey. The Queen Mary University website talks of a
communication office, which seems to go out of its way to be hospitable towards journalistic requests of seemingly any nature. Unless it seems, if you're either: A. a blogger or B: asking about whether the head of MI5 was paid for her appearance, even if just for expenses. As of writing this post at 23:43, having sent the email in the early hours of this morning, I haven't so much as got a reply telling me to piss off.

There were seemingly also no questions asked of Ms Manningham-Buller afterwards, or at least if they were, there are none recorded on either the MI5 website or on the Queen Mary's. This might, just might, be down to the fact that yes, any potentially unruly students or off-message journalists weren't in the audience, as it was invitation only.
The Guardian, which splashed the lecture on its front page, seems only to have been given a copy of actual speech. Later editions of the Sun, which as we have already seen this week are determined to keep their readers as scared of terrorism as humanly possible, also jumped on the talk.

As the news bulletins and reports have repeated throughout the day,
the numbers crunched out by Buller are, on the face of it, rather frightening. According to MI5's head, there are around 200 various terrorist groups or networks which are currently operating in the United Kingdom. Of these, there about 1600 individuals who are actively engaged in either plotting or facilitating attacks, either here or abroad. She says there are nearer 30 than 5 or 10 plots of which they know about, either designed to kill members of the public or "damage" the economy, which seems rather euphemistic.

And err, that's it. Almost everything else that Buller says is pretty much what has been said by politicians of various ilks before, as well as by supposed "security specialists" who usually have their own businesses to promote when they do so and by "well-informed" journalists. She claims that five "conspiracies" since 7/7 have been stopped, as John Reid has previously stated. Again, we don't know yet know anything about those plots, whether those involved have been arrested or just disrupted, as she provides no further background about them. We also don't know whether she's including the alleged liquid explosives plot in those 5, as she doesn't say, but she would doubtless claim, as she does, that she would prejudice cases to do so. The BBC also reported that the speech was specially scheduled so that it fell between two terrorist trials.

Of the 200 groupings she mentions, it's unclear whether all are extremist Islamist groupings, as again, she doesn't infer. She just simply goes on to explain what she feels the average radicalised Muslim is influenced by/and or angry about. All these numbers though seem utterly meaningless. Britain as a country has a population of around 60 million. Of that 60 million, about 1600 are engaged, according to Buller, in frontline terrorist activity. They don't seem to be just the type that posts on jihadist message boards, or goes on the al-Ghuraba affiliates protests. They're either actively planning attacks, or involved in crimes associated with funding terrorism, such as fraud or charities which are actually fronts for terrorist groups. The thing is, Buller doesn't make clear whether these 1600 are working for terrorist cells here, or even for groups such as Hizbullah, Hamas, etc. There have been allegations made repeatedly that charities here are funding Hamas's social work, for example. We don't know whether they would be included in that 1600.

Then there's whether these 1600, are, like Dhiren Barot, fantasists with no funding and no weapons/explosives or otherwise. As Buller says later on in her speech, once she's got the juicy stuff out of the way, the soundbites for the media to devour:
Who are merely talking big, and who have real ambitions? Who have genuine aspirations to commit terrorism, but lack the know-how or materials? Who are the skilled and trained ones, who the amateurs? Where should we and the police focus our finite resources?
All of which are good questions. Yet while Barot definitely had ambitions and aspirations to commit terrorism, he lacked the know-how. He's now destined to become known as the "smoke alarm bomber". He lacked the funding, despite the police desperately telling us that they're certain it was either coming or that he had gone to Pakistan to meet "al-Qaida" leaders to deliver his botched, laughable plans. Barot was however, skilled and trained, unlike Kamel Bourgass, who had just ambitions and aspirations. Not only did Bourgass not have the materials for the "ricin" plot, he also lacked the know-how, wanting to smear a substance he didn't have onto doorknobs, when it has to pierce the skin to be effective. Let's not even mention the Forest Gate raid. Naturally, none of the above is spoken of by Buller.

As part of her conclusion, she also wants to make clear just how unbiased or otherwise her speech has been, and says:
I do not speak in this way to alarm (nor as the cynics might claim to enhance the reputation of my organisation) but to give the most frank account I can of the Al-Qaida threat to the UK. That threat is serious, is growing and will, I believe, be with us for a generation. It is a sustained campaign, not a series of isolated incidents. It aims to wear down our will to resist.
Whether the latter point is true or not is debatable, but I think she is at least being honest in saying that the threat will be with us for a generation. The main problem though is that she, like so many journalists, falls into the simplistic trap of referring to all extremist Muslim terrorism as being the "al-Qaida" threat. This not only gives too much credit to Osama bin Laden, although it's obvious that he has been exceptionally successful in spreading the Salafist millenarian ideology quickly, but it also makes people think of al-Qaida as some monolithic organisation either headed by bin Laden or al-Zahawiri, running things from Pakistan. This is complete and utter rot, and she must know it is. Even though there is some truth to the fact that al-Qaida, removed mostly from Afghanistan, is now regrouping in Pakistan, the group is still mostly in flux, and will continue to be as Musharraf looks likely to crackdown even further shortly. There is no great head group in Pakistan which orders or gives the go-ahead for attacks; what there is, at the most, is sympathetic groups over there that are helping train potential jihadists. Most however, are from Pakistan or the Middle East itself, and are going at the moment, to Iraq. Dhiren Barot had some contact with such a group, having previously fought in Kashmir. Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer went to Pakistan, possibly to visit a madrasa, but also to find someone who could teach them how to prepare their explosives. They also recorded their martyrdom videos there, with them afterwards being shipped off to where al-Qaida got hold of them.

The true nature of the current mainstream extremist Islamist ideology, as Buller must know, is that it is autonomous. Various groupings across the globe are using it mainly in struggles which are nationalist in nature, seeking to liberate territory, or to establish an Islamic state. al-Qaida's variety is a mixture of doing this while also targeting the West for its support either for the governments which are oppressing, in their belief, Muslims, and just also generally for existing and being "
kafir". This is what is now generating the cells which are appearing across the Western world. Inspired by al-Qaida and other notorious firebrand preachers or scholars, such as Sayyid Qutb, yes, but actually al-Qaida, members of al-Qaida or being directed by al-Qaida? No. Buller's speech in sections comes close to admitting this, when she refers to the "powerful narrative" of this ideology, but instead carries on blaming al-Qaida as if it's the only game in town, so to speak.

Buller does at least in sections make some decent points. She admits that foreign policy has led to the radicalising of more Muslim youth than otherwise would have been. She recognises that intelligence needs to be assessed objectively, with integrity, and sceptically, although considering the fact that she doesn't seem bothered whether intelligence comes from tortured prisoners, this might be posturing for the press. Mentioning Iraq will also probably be moot.
Her best, and naturally, the least reported part of the speech, is left for towards the end:
We also need to understand some of the differences between non-Western and Western life-styles; and not treat people with suspicion because of their religion, or indeed to confuse fundamentalism with terrorism. We must realise that there are significant differences between faiths and communities within our society, and most people, from whatever origin, condemn all acts of terror in the UK. And we must focus on those values that we all share in this country regardless of our background: Equality, Freedom, Justice and Tolerance. Many people are working for and with us to address the threat precisely for those reasons. Because all of us, whatever our ethnicity and faith, are the targets of the terrorists.
Again, Buller can be regarded as something of a hypocrite, having been involved in the "ricin" case where those accused and found not guilty have since been re-arrested, which seems to be spite rather than justice, and she seems to regard freedom as expendable when it comes to fighting terror. This shouldn't take away though from what is a decent message, often drowned out in the hysteria and sensationalism which seems to grow like a cancer out of the threat.

The main basis for the speech however, despite Buller's protestations, does seem to be to add to the scare mongering and the politicisation of the threat which has been developed by Labour as an electoral asset. Margaret Beckett
also made a speech yesterday which had a decent amount in it about terrorism, ably mocked over on BlairWatch. The Sun won't let us forget for a second that we're all the targets for extremists. The Queen's speech seems likely to introduce yet more terrorism laws, and Gordon Brown appears sold on the idea of reintroducing 90 days once he becomes PM. This is the politics of fear, and if you're not scared yet, then in their eyes there must be something wrong with you.

Update: Only 5 days late, the communications office at Queen Mary responds:

No, she was not paid.
I'm not familiar with your website and have been unable to access it. Do you have another link you could send me please?

Worth every penny, I'm sure.

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