Daily archives: August 14, 2006

The UK Terror plot: what’s really going on?

I have been reading very carefully through all the Sunday newspapers to try and analyse the truth from all the scores of pages claiming to detail the so-called bomb plot. Unlike the great herd of so-called security experts doing the media analysis, I have the advantage of having had the very highest security clearances myself, having done a huge amount of professional intelligence analysis, and having been inside the spin machine.

So this, I believe, is the true story.

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.

The gentleman being “interrogated” had fled the UK after being wanted for questioning over the murder of his uncle some years ago. That might be felt to cast some doubt on his reliability. It might also be felt that factors other than political ones might be at play within these relationships. Much is also being made of large transfers of money outside the formal economy. Not in fact too unusual in the British Muslim community, but if this activity is criminal, there are many possibilities that have nothing to do with terrorism.

We then have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing the possible arrests over the weekend. Why? I think the answer to that is plain. Both in desperate domestic political trouble, they longed for “Another 9/11”. The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave them a new 9/11 they could sell to the media. The media has bought, wholesale, all the rubbish they have been shovelled.

We then have the appalling political propaganda of John Reid, Home Secretary, making a speech warning us all of the dreadful evil threatening us and complaining that “Some people don’t get” the need to abandon all our traditional liberties. He then went on, according to his own propaganda machine, to stay up all night and minutely direct the arrests. There could be no clearer evidence that our Police are now just a political tool. Like all the best nasty regimes, the knock on the door came in the middle of the night, at 2.30am. Those arrested included a mother with a six week old baby.

For those who don’t know, it is worth introducing Reid. A hardened Stalinist with a long term reputation for personal violence, at Stirling Univeristy he was the Communist Party’s “Enforcer”, (in days when the Communist Party ran Stirling University Students’ Union, which it should not be forgotten was a business with a very substantial cash turnover). Reid was sent to beat up those who deviated from the Party line.

We will now never know if any of those arrested would have gone on to make a bomb or buy a plane ticket. Most of them do not fit the “Loner” profile you would expect – a tiny percentage of suicide bombers have happy marriages and young children. As they were all under surveillance, and certainly would have been on airport watch lists, there could have been little danger in letting them proceed closer to maturity – that is certainly what we would have done with the IRA.

In all of this, the one thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot. Of the over one thousand British Muslims arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, only twelve per cent are ever charged with anything. That is simply harrassment of Muslims on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% are acquitted. Most of the very few – just over two per cent of arrests – who are convicted, are not convicted of anything to do terrorism, but of some minor offence the Police happened upon while trawling through the wreck of the lives they had shattered.

Be sceptical. Be very, very sceptical.

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David Leigh on Craig Murray’s extraordinary account of his period as envoy to Uzbekistan, Murder in Samarkand

From The Guardian

There is plenty of black comedy in this frank story of the disillusionment and downfall of one of Britain’s brightest young ambassadors. It is presumably that element which has already attracted director Michael Winterbottom to his project of making it into a feature film with Steve Coogan in the title role.

Craig Murray clearly had little idea of what he was letting himself in for four years ago, when he set off with a pile of baggage on a first-class flight, as envoy to the faraway country of Uzbekistan. A bit of a bon vivant and a womaniser, he was also clever and industrious, and he knew it. One of a new unstuffy breed in the Foreign Office, from Dundee University rather than Oxford, he says he protested at being told to wear a grey tailcoat and topper for a duty call on the royals before departure. He was informed the dress code was sternly insisted on by the Palace, since an ambassador had recently committed the solecism of arriving in a linen suit. “Good God! A linen suit?” writes Murray cockily. “No wonder we lost the Empire!”

But when he got to Tashkent, Murray’s cockiness started to evaporate. As he describes it, he found himself in a milieu worthy of Graham Greene. The Americans were busy building an enormous airbase, and praising the sinister President Karimov to the skies as a reformist ally in the great war on terror. Karimov himself was exploiting US naivety while running an Asiatic tyranny on a North Korean model, with internal passports, virtual slave labour, and brutal torture of Muslim dissidents. The Americans were kept happy by a supply of colourful “intelligence” about al-Qaida activities, most of which, says Murray, was nonsense.

The new ambassador decided to attend a show trial. It was an eye-opener. He was at first intrigued by an encounter with an Uzbek lovely, and then became very ashamed of himself. “I realised this was the sister of the victim. Her eyes were filling with tears. Her brother was going to be executed and I was trying to make out her legs through her dress. I was filled with self-loathing.” He felt even more ashamed when he found his local girlfriends were resigned to being regularly raped by the thuggish Tashkent police.

Murray set about doing what he thought was the right thing. He decribes how he sent telegrams to London demanding diplomatic action. He confronted corrupt Uzbek officials. He made a dramatic public speech in front of a stony-faced US ambassador, contradicting bland American praise of the regime and becoming a local hero.

But, as he tells the story, there was just too much that Murray did not realise at the time. He did not know that Tony Blair and the then foreign secretary, Jack Straw, had hitched Britain irrevocably to the White House wagon. He did not know that with the coming invasion of Iraq, any dissent from the architecture of lies used to justify it would be depicted as “unpatriotic”. He did not know that the CIA had a secret policy of “rendition” which was not merely condoning torture, but was deliberately exploiting it. And it is clear from his account that he did not realise his unhappy marriage and penchant for long-legged pole-dancers were capable of blowing up in his face.

Murray says he was briefed against by the Americans, who had the ear of No 10, and undermined by his own superiors in London. An initial attempt was made to force him to resign with false charges of alcoholism and corruption. The internal memos about this which Murray eventually obtained are quite disgusting to read, even in the heavily censored form allowed by HMG’s lawyers.

Murray temporarily collapsed under the strain, and it is not inconceivable from the evidence here that his Uzbek enemies made an attempt to poison him. He seems to have fought bravely, rescued his reputation and eventually forced the FO to pay him off, which financed his divorce. Murray does demonstrate that the men of straw have failed to silence him, for which he deserves much praise. But he has none the less been successfully defenestrated. He is now living with the young Uzbek beauty whom he fell for, and is reduced to a flat in west London. Those he took on – Karimov, Bush and Blair – remain in power.

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