The news is brimming with tidbits of information that fundamentally undermine the government's account of the intelligence background to the London bombings. The bombers, we've been told, were 'clean skins'. They hadn't even been identified prior to 7th July 2005, and had surfaced only on the periphery of other investigations.
Last week, we found out from the investigations of Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, that the CIA was so worried about Mohamed Sidique Khan, he had been banned from flying to the USA in 2003. Suskind's source is Dan Coleman, who headed the FBI's al-Qaeda investigations. Now the FBI, still reeling, is denying the revelations.
But Suskind insists: "There is no doubt, from the many sources that I interviewed in the US for my book ... this incident involved Mohammad Sidique Khan."
Now we learn that Special Branch had been monitoring Khan so closely, they had a tracking device on his car.
The chorus of denial is almost deafening. “We don’t discuss matters of surveillance or intelligence,” said a Metropolitican police spokesman. Yes, well, that's why we need an independent public inquiry, because authorities like to keep things secret, especially when they screw-up, or perhaps worse, systematically fail and then lie about it.
We also learn that an IT expert who worked with some of the bombers in Leeds alerted police to Sidique Khan and Shahzad Tanweer, who were, he says, involved in disturbing extremist activities conducive to terrorism.
But the West Yorkshire police, it seems, did nothing. And are still doing so. “We do not discuss intelligence matters and therefore we can’t comment on specific actions.” Hmmm. I don't think most of the British public will be very excited by this sort of blase dismissal of the issue.
As 7/7 survivor Rachel North told the Times, “The bombers were allegedly working alone and not part of any radicalised group. Yet it now appears they were part of a wider network of terrorism and had been known to Special Branch and the security services prior to July 7, for some years in fact."
That's precisely the conclusion I draw in The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry based on a review of the evidence available in the public record. In fact, we already knew even before the recent revelations that Khan and Tanweer were being bugged by MI5, which had listened into their conversations about "jihad", along with their plans to construct a device and flee the country.
We also know that Khan and co. were part of a wider network of terrorists under surveillance in Operation Crevice. I talk at length in the book about these interconnections, as well as the dozen or so other advanced warnings of a terrorist attack on the Tube planned for July 2005 by al-Qaeda received by British intelligence services.
In the ensuing weeks and months, more information is going to come out confirming my thesis that the government had every opportunity to shut down the terrorist network that incubated the London bombers, but failed to do so.
The question is: why did they fail?
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