Daily Archives: December 15, 2006


The War on Shampoo

Google “Rashid Rauf – mastermind”. On the first page of results you will find CBS, the BBC, the Times, Guardian and Mail all describing Rauf last summer, on security service or police briefing, as the “Mastermind” behind the “Liquid terror bomb plot”. So the fact that a Pakistani court has found there is no evidence of terrorism against him cannot be lightly dismissed by the cheerleaders of the plot story.

Rashid Rauf still faces other charges, including forgery, and what is touted as possession of explosives, although what he actually possessed was hydrogen peroxide, which is not explosive. As hydrogen peroxide is readily obtainable without limitation from any chemist or hardware store in the UK, why you would source it in Pakistan to blow up jets in Britain was never very convincing. The Pakistani court perhaps felt so too.

Rashid Rauf has much to answer. He is still wanted in the UK over the murder of his uncle some years ago – a crime which, like the alleged forgery, had no apparent terrorist link. None of which adds to the credibility of the evidence he allegedly gave the Pakistani intelligence services about the liquid bomb plot in the UK.

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.

The other “evidence” that the police announced they had found consisted of wills (with the implication they were made by suicide bombers) and a map of Afghanistan. It turns out that the wills were made in the early 90s by volunteers going off to fight the Serbs in Bosnia – they had been left with the now deceased uncle of one of those arrested. The map of Afghanistan had been copied out by an eleven year old boy. All of which is well known to the UK media, but none of which has been reported for fear of prejudicing the trial. I am at a complete loss to understand why it does not prejudice the trial for police to announce in a blaze of worldwide front page publicity that they have found bomb-making materials, wills and maps. Only if you contradict the police is that prejudicial. Can anyone explain why?

While the arrest of 26 people in connection with the plot was also massively publicised, the gradual release of many of them has again gone virtually unreported. For example on 31 October a judge released two brothers from Chingford commenting that the police had produced no credible evidence against them. Charges against others have been downgraded, so that those now accused of plotting to commit explosions are less than the ten planes the police claimed they planned to blow up in suicide attacks.

Five British newspapers had to pay damages to a Birmingham man they accused, on security service briefing, of being part of the plot. Only the Guardian had the grace to publish the fact and print a retraction.

A final fact to ponder. Despite naming him as the “mastermind” behind somethng “bigger than 9/11”, the British government made no attempt to extradite Rashid Rauf on charges of terrorism. That is not difficult to do – the Pakistani authorities have handed over scores of terrorist suspects to the US, many into the extraordinary rendition process, and on average the procedure is astonishingly quick – less than a week and they are out of the country. But the British security services, who placed so much weight on intelligence from Rashid Rauf, were extraordinarily coy about getting him here where his evidence could be properly scrutinised by a British court. However MI5 were greatly embarassed by Birmingham police, who insisted on pointing out that Rauf was wanted in the UK over the alleged murder of his uncle in Birmingham. Now he was in custody in Pakistan, shouldn’t we extradite him? So eventually an extradition request over that murder was formally submitted – but not pursued with real energy or effort. There remains no sign that we will see Rauf in the UK.

I still do not rule out that there was a germ of a terror plot at the heart of this investigation. We can speculate about agents provocateurs and security service penetration, both British and Pakistani, but still there might have been genuine terrorists involved. But the incredible disruption to the travelling public, the War on Shampoo, and the “Bigger than 9/11” hype is unravelling.

You won’t read that in the newspapers.

Craig Murray

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Diplomat’s suppressed document lays bare the lies behind Iraq war

By Colin Brown and Andy McSmith in The Independent

The Government’s case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony Blair lied over Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

A devastating attack on Mr Blair’s justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain’s key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.

In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, “at no time did HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] assess that Iraq’s WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests.”

Mr Ross revealed it was a commonly held view among British officials dealing with Iraq that any threat by Saddam Hussein had been “effectively contained”. He also reveals that British officials warned US diplomats that bringing down the Iraqi dictator would lead to the chaos the world has since witnessed. “I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed),” he said.

“At the same time, we would frequently argue when the US raised the subject, that ‘regime change’ was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos.”

He claims “inertia” in the Foreign Office and the “inattention of key ministers” combined to stop the UK carrying out any co-ordinated and sustained attempt to address sanction-busting by Iraq, an approach which could have provided an alternative to war. Mr Ross delivered the evidence to the Butler inquiry which investigated intelligence blunders in the run-up to the conflict.

The Foreign Office had attempted to prevent the evidence being made public, but it has now been published by the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs after MPs sought assurances from the Foreign Office that it would not breach the Official Secrets Act. It shows Mr Ross told the inquiry, chaired by Lord Butler, “there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW [chemical warfare], BW [biological warfare] or nuclear material” held by the Iraqi dictator before the invasion. “There was, moreover, no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or the US,” he added.

The full transcript of evidence given to the Butler inquiry is available here

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