Daily archives: August 21, 2006

White House uses London ‘terror plot’ to drive legislation

From the Star Tribune

The White House pushes for a tough anti-terror law and orders an appeal of the decision on NSA surveillance.

WASHINGTON – A federal court’s rejection of President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, on the heels of the alleged London bomb plot, is adding momentum to the administration’s push for congressional approval of tough counterterrorism proposals, including authorizing warrantless wiretapping of suspected terrorists and restricting detainee rights.

Speaking with reporters Friday at the Camp David retreat in Maryland, Bush said, “Those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live.”I strongly disagree with that decision, strongly disagree,” he said. “That’s why I instructed the Justice Department to appeal immediately, and I believe our appeals will be upheld.”

Bush’s advisers and allies argue that passage of a measure that explicitly authorizes the National Security Agency program would answer key elements of Thursday’s ruling. At the same time, the disrupted London plot is fueling another message: that tough policies in dealing with terror suspects are necessary to combat the continuing threat of terrorism.

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Police, politics and public safety: Letters in the Guardian

Saturday August 19, 2006

By Chief Constable Ken Jones

President, Association of Chief Police Officers

Craig Murray has a lot to say about something of which he knows very little (The timing is political, August 18). The police service in this country is wholly independent of politics and the government. His suggestion that the arrests we saw last week were politically motivated is wholly false. As a one-time senior diplomat, he ought to have a better understanding of the constitutional framework within which policing operates in the UK.

The police service acts solely in the public interest against individuals or groups about whom there is reasonable suspicion or intelligence that they may be engaged in criminal acts. Those criminal acts sometimes include terrorism. The police service does not target or “criminalise” any part of any community. The suggestion that this operation was timed to generate some sort of political benefit is nonsense. The independent decision to act was made in order to ensure the public were protected. Murray must know that high-level liaison between nations facing these challenges is desirable. We are facing an ideologically motivated global threat which demands a united global response.

The police service does not “harass” any religious group. Senior police officers have questioned calls to crudely profile travellers and are leading much of the work to ensure that no one community is victimised. But there is a tiny number of people who, by distorting the core messages of Islam, pose a large-scale threat to us all. We brief our staff very carefully around issues of race, ethnicity, cultures and religions to ensure that dangerous stereotyping does not influence our actions.

We carefully assess the nature of the threat and put into place measures that will contest it. Letting terrorist operations “proceed closer to maturity” could mean that hundreds, or even thousands, might die. It seems we are damned if we act and will most certainly be damned for all time if we do not. Let us remember that those detained last week are innocent until proven guilty. We now need to give the investigators, who are police officers and staff from across the UK, the time and space to establish the truth.

Finally, global terrorism investigations are extremely complex. They involve enquiries across a number of nations. To see no charges after only seven days is hardly surprising; only last year we realised that the existing boundaries of investigation were not up to the challenges posed by global terrorism and asked parliament for a radical extension of pre-charge detention. Our core criminal justice processes were designed for a different purpose and time. They must continue to evolve to adapt to the very real threat we face.

Monday August 21, 2006

By Craig Murray, London

Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, appears appalled (Letters, August 19) that I had the temerity to suggest that the police and security services are becoming politicised. Yet in this same letter, he specifically states that the police last year requested longer periods of detention without charge, and he argues that “our core criminal-justice processes … must continue to evolve to adapt to the very real threat we now face”. Mr Jones is a policeman with a deeply political agenda. His “evolution” is a continual increase of police powers and diminution of the rights of the individual. There could be no clearer example than his letter of what it is that makes me uneasy about the politicisation of the police. It used to be their job to enforce the laws, not tell us what they “must” be.

Mr Jones complains that I don’t know the facts of the current case. Every “fact” I quoted was sourced by a reputable journalist to the police, security services or Home Office. I just reversed the original spin. I see there is no letter from the Association of Chief Police Officers attacking the hundreds of articles which have hyped the threat and effectively prejudged the accused. If police sources were not so keen to tip the wink to the press on suitcases of bomb-making material, suicide videos and improbable chemistry in plane toilets, then there would have been no need to introduce a note of scepticism.

Sorry, but I can’t forget the lies fed to the media about De Menezes, chemical-weapon vests and ricin. Lies fed by the police, up to the highest levels. I am extremely grateful for the work of the police in combating the threat of terrorism regularly since their foundation. I remember with pride those policemen and women who died doing it. Mr Jones’s association has much better staff than he deserves. But he must realise that many of us do not agree that Islamic terrorism is historically greater than other threats faced by this country. I do agree there is evil ideology out there, but it comes from Bush and Bin Laden equally.

By Ruth Knox, Liverpool

Ken Jones is quite right to state that those detained last week are innocent until proved guilty and that the investigators need time to establish the truth. Yet, almost every day reputable news organisations have led with revelations of discoveries made by these same investigators. Are we to assume that all these leaks are against official policy?

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Conspiracy plots make the world go round

By Nick Cohen, doing a nice line in ‘patriotic’ patronising and writing in The Observer

“I broke the story about the government’s apparent hounding of Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. But ever since reading Thursday’s Guardian, I’ve been wondering if the FO wasn’t provoked.

Instead of looking Islamism in the eye, Murray declares that Bush and Blair longed to distract attention from their troubles and ‘dodgy’ intelligence about the alleged airport bombers ‘gave them a chance’.

Even as a conspiracy theorist, my former protege isn’t up to much. Compare him to the bloggers who say it is an MI5 plot to make John Reid PM or the eminent commentator who assured me that the airlines were behind it. They want to ban hand luggage so they can speed up the delivery of passengers to planes, he said. Now they have the excuse to increase their profits.

Hey, what’s the matter with you? Join the dots.”

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Radio Waves: Mick Heaney: Voice of restraint

From The Sunday Times

We may live in a cacophonous world of increasingly accessible media, with blogs, podcasts and cable channels pumping out their two cents’ worth, but it is still possible to cause a stir simply by making one’s voice heard. Whether it is entirely wise to do so is another matter.

Listening to Craig Murray in the first episode of Whistleblowers (RTE R1, Thu), the most striking thing was not so much the human- rights abuses he became aware of while serving as British ambassador to Uzbekistan, but the unadorned manner in which he recounted them. If it made for compelling listening, however, Murray’s forthright testimony would cost him dearly.

As he told his tale, it became clear that the former diplomat was not a natural rebel. A Foreign Office high-flyer, he started to turn against the regime of the Uzbek president, Islam Karimov, only after attending the trial of an Islamic activist, where a witness said he had been tortured into giving evidence.

As Murray became more concerned about such abuses, he not only amassed evidence of torture and persecution, but also realised British intelligence used information gained under duress in its war on Al-Qaeda. He made clear his distaste for the Uzbek regime.

Murray’s graphic account of dissidents being boiled alive by the security forces of a strategically important ally caused unwelcome ripples in London, but it was not the most shocking part of the programme, if only because such violence forms a large chunk of our daily media diet.

More chilling was the manner of Murray’s undoing: asked to resign by his superiors, he refused, only to be confronted with 14 accusations of misconduct, from alcoholism to seeking sex for visas.

Murray’s starkly factual and unemotive recollection of the incident only served to highlight the nightmarish quality of his situation. For once, the epithet Kafkaesque was warranted.

Using his largely unmediated testimony to drive the programme was not without its perils: unable to be pressed on contentious incidents, his evidence had to be taken at face value. But if he quietly painted himself as a fearless martyr for the truth, giving Murray’s voice such free reign allowed the listener to glimpse a fuller picture of the man, both in his vanities ‘ he described his early career as ‘frankly brilliant’ ‘ and in his despair.

Such unfettered voices are the lifeblood of Flux (Mon, RTE R1), the offbeat weekly slice of radio v’rit’ that supposedly takes its cue from whatever grabs the ear of Paddy O’Gorman and Ronan Kelly, the alternating hosts.

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Paul Routledge Gets Political on Biographies

From AbeBooks

When it comes to the slings and arrows of politics, Paul Routledge has seen it all – from Arthur Scargill’s battles with Thatcherism to the rise of Tony Blair’s New Labour. Aside from being a hard-hitting columnist, the chief political commentator for the Daily Mirror newspaper is also an accomplished author. He has penned biographies of Gordon Brown, Betty Boothroyd, Airey Neave, John Hume and Scargill as well as the Bumper Book of British Lefties. An avid reader and customer of Abebooks, Paul has recommended 10 political biographies that illustrate life in the corridors of power and far beyond.

Click here to see his recommendations

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