Thursday, August 17, 2006

How close were they to blowing up planes?

Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, has an interesting analysis of the recently uncovered plot to blow up planes using liquid explosives:

None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.

Read the entire article

Thanks to alert reader Saul (who reads this blog from Beijing China where he doing research for his PhD in Anthropology/History) for the link to this interesting analysis.


Saul said...
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Saul said...

Craig Murray already has a new article on the same topic, available here.

Here's part of what he says:

This brings us to one particuarly sinister aspect of the allegations - that the bombs were to be made on the plane.

The idea that high explosive can be made quickly in a plane toilet by mixing at room temperature some nail polish remover, bleach, and Red Bull and giving it a quick stir, is nonsense. Yes, liquid explosives exist and are highly dangerous and yes, airports are ill equipped to detect them at present. Yes, it is true they have been used on planes before by terrorists. But can they be quickly manufactured on the plane? No.

The sinister aspect is not that this is a real new threat. It is that the allegation may have been concocted in order to prepare us for arresting people without any actual bombs.

Let me fess up here. I have just checked, and our flat contains nail polish remover, sports drinks, and a variety of household cleaning products. Also MP3 players and mobile phones. So the authorities could announce - as they have whispered to the media in this case - that potential ingredients of a liquid bomb, and potential timing devices, have been discovered. It rather lowers the bar, doesn't it?

This reminds me of the movie In the Name of the Father, which told the story of some average Irish Catholics who were arrested and imprisoned for years as IRA terrorists on the strength of coerced confessions and their possession of some household cleaning goods that were supposed to be "bomb-making materials."

The latest news is that the British police have said they've found a suitcase containing materials that "could make a bomb", but they're not giving any more details as of yet. Let's hope it has something more than nail polish remover and household cleaners.