I began the day in a solemn mood. Had a number of media engagements during the day. As I did the rounds, starting with a television interview on the Islam Channel's "The Agenda" hosted by former Sunday Express journalist Yvonne Ridley, I began to feel a little more upbeat and hopeful about promoting the urgent necessity of an independent public inquiry.
But as the day went on, my mood became increasingly agitated and even angry. I was fortunate enough to be interviewed on BBC Radio 4's World at One programme to talk about some of the "unanswered questions of 7/7 ", and I was able to quite robustly emphasise the fact that the government's account of the terrorist attacks last year is hopelessly inconsistent, and that the intelligence available to the security services about an impending attack on the London Underground had been far more precise and abundant than admitted by the House of Commons Intelligence & Security Committee. Due to the time constraints of the interview, Radio 4 wasn't able to include all my comments on this subject. I was slightly disappointed about this, as I had highlighted two crucial themes that the government wants very much to keep concealed from public understanding: the 'covenant of security' at home, and active collusion abroad. The covenant of security, whose existence has been conceded by former British intelligence officials like Crispin Black, consisted of a tacit understanding with radical Islamist networks (some directly and openly associated with al-Qaeda) allowing them to have free reign inside the UK on condition that they refrain from attacking British targets and focus any terrorist activity outside the UK. But the covenant alone was and is not the whole story. The rest of it concerns Britain's (and the West's) active cooperation with radical Islamist networks to pursue key strategic and economic interests in regions of central geopolitical significance, particularly the Balkans, Central Asia and Northwest Africa (although there are more, these are the most relevant to 77). This international policy has obvious domestic ramifications, in that domestic networks tied to groups considered nominally useful to certain foreign policy objectives have therefore been protected from normal law-enforcement procedures.
This is a scandalous but central part of the untold story behind the 7th July 2005 terrorist attacks. BBC World at One had no time to air it, but at least they covered the need for a public inquiry. They need to be commended, as after me our Culture Minister came on, Tessa Jowell, to give what I feel is a shameless and despicable explanation of the inexcusable refusal of the government to have an independent public inquiry into 77. When she said that an inquiry wasn't necessary because with many of the questions survivors are asking it is not clear whether they could be answered, her interviewer noted that surely the point of an inquiry is to at least find out what questions can be answered, and in any case try to answer them as best as possible. To which Tessa stuttered a little and switched to the "diversion of resources" line, actually suggesting that an inquiry would mean less money for surveillance. Commendably, the host grilled her again, pointing out that during the Met's Steven Lawrence inquiry, no one ever suggested that the millions of pounds of funds would be diverted away from normal police work endangering the country...
Listening to Tessa was bad enough. Later on in the day I went head-to-head with a Cabinet Minister, Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State for International Development and also a Leeds MP. When I was asked by the host about the grounds for an independent public inquiry, I basically outlined the fact that the government's account consists essentially of two sets of anomalies: 1. anomalies concerning the technical and logistical dimensions of the attacks and 2. anomalies concerning the intelligence, political and sociological background to the attacks, including issues such as the connections of the alleged bombers to wider terrorist networks. The public has an elementary right to get these things resolved so that a lucid and indisputable account of what happened, how and why, is available. Benn's response was to say that we don't need an inquiry because we've already got the two documents put out by the government, the parliamentary intelligence report and the whitehall 'narrative' which, he said, were quite clear, full and convincing accounts. I found this, frankly, to be preposterous. I noted the reality of bizarre and inexplicable shifts in the statements made by police and other officials involved in the investigation as weeks and months passed after 77, concerning a myriad of issues, some minor, some central, such as the inconsistencies about the types of explosives used, absurd and unexplained errors in the chronology of the movements of the four identified individuals, etc.; as well as extensive evidence in the public record that all four of them had actually been monitored by the security services for at least a year prior to 7th July, and did reportedly associate with radical Islamist networks that the government has not only tolerated, but in some cases actively protected in the UK.
Benn's ensuing retort was bizarre. Rather than addressing the very real issues raised in a meaningful way, he dismissed everything by simply saying that, well, we all now know that the bombers did carry out these attacks, and cited the newly released Shahzad Tanweer video as an example.
Now I found this response very wanting, particularly as I had never articulated any particular "theory", and certainly hadn't told him that the four identified individuals were not involved in the attacks. He had simply sidestepped the obvious issue: that the government's account is so riddled with anomalies and inconsistencies, that ultimately there is very little that we can confidently say we genuinely know about the attacks. In my book, I've tried to be as balanced as possible in looking at these anomalies, and have deliberately avoided jumping to speculative conclusions. But the reality of the situation as it stands is this: what little evidence and information has been made available to the public about the bombers will simply not stand up in a court of law. In that context, whether or not the government's account remains plausible or implausible on certain issues as compared to others is besides the point. If the account cannot stand the test of law, then we do have slight problem here (understatement), and the government's obsessive desire to pretend that there is no problem at all is rather like insisting that the elephant in the living room is in fact a giraffe.
Benn quickly moved on to repeat the "diversion of resources" line, but I wasn't given the opportunity to respond immediately to him. If I had, I would've pointed out, as Rachel North has done so forcefully, that if they were really worried about resources, why are they willing to invest millions of taxpayer's money into ID cards to stop terror, when by the government's own account ID cards were found all over the scenes of the terrorist atrocities (many of them, in fact Khan's was reportedly found at several different blast sites.)
By the end of the day, then, I felt kind of pleased that I'd been able to challenge a government minister on the refusal to have an inquiry, but far more disappointed and angry at the government's total loss of moral compass. In the final analysis, the refusal to have an inquiry can only be understood in the context of the government's desire to conceal from public consumption the systematic policy failures that occurred, and are still occurring, that made the 77 attacks possible. What do I mean by "failures"? Very simply, failures in relation to the government's statutory duties to ensure the security, safety and well-being of the public. More than that, the government doesn't want us to understand the complex of corporate corruption, vested interests, and worse, selective collusion with radical Islamist terrorists, behind these failures. There is more, much more, to say, and that needs to be said, but I'm constrained by time.
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