The timing is political
We should be sceptical about this alleged plot, and wary of politicians who seek to benefit
Craig Murray | Friday August 18, 2006 | The Guardian
Nine days on, nobody has been charged with any crime. For there to be no clear evidence yet on something that was "imminent" and would bring "mass murder on an unbelievable scale" is, to say the least, peculiar. A 24th person, arrested amid much fanfare on Tuesday, was quietly released without charge the following day.
Media analysis has been full of information from police and security sources. By and large journalists are honourable in this kind of reporting. Their sources, unfortunately, are not - viz the non-existent ricin, the Forest Gate "chemical weapons vest", or Jean Charles de Menezes leaping the barriers. Unlike the herd of security experts, I have had the highest security clearance; I have done a huge amount of professional intelligence analysis; and I have been inside the spin machine. And I am very sceptical about the story that has been spun.
None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not have passports. It could be pretty difficult to convince a jury that these individuals were about to go through with suicide bombings, whatever they bragged about on the net.
What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for more than 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 this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information from people desperate to stop or avert torture. What you don't get is the truth.
We also have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing arrests the weekend before they were made. Why? Both in domestic trouble, they longed for a chance to change the story. The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave them a chance. Comparisons with 9/11 were all over front pages.
And we have the appalling political propaganda of John Reid, the home secretary, warning us all in advance of the evil that threatens us and complaining that some people "don't get" why we have to abandon traditional liberties.
We will now never know if any of those arrested would have gone on to make a bomb or buy a plane ticket. Most do not fit the "loner" profile you would expect. As they were all under surveillance, and on airport watch lists, there could have been little danger in letting them proceed closer to maturity: that is 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. More than 1,000 British Muslims have been arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, but only 12% have been charged. That is harassment on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% were acquitted. Most of the few convictions - just over 2% of arrests - are nothing to do with terrorism, but some minor offence the police happened upon while trawling through the lives they have wrecked.
Plainly, Islamist terrorism does exist. But its growth is encouraged by our adherence to neocon foreign policy, by our support for appalling regimes abroad, and by our trampling on the rights of Muslims in the UK. Now David Cameron has joined Blair and Reid in the rush to benefit politically from the fear thus engendered. Be very wary of politicians who seek to benefit from terror.
Be sceptical. Be very, very sceptical.
Craig Murray, who was posted to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004, is the author of Murder in Samarkand - A British Ambassador's Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror.