18 July 2007

Lenin and 7/7: a Review of the Review PART 1

This is a detailed response to Lenin’s review of my book, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry. I apologise in advance for the length of this response, which was written after an exchange with Lenin on his website where he described his review as presenting "an unanswerable case". Hence, although his review was published last year, I decided that a full "review of the review" is in order. Due to length, this response is being posted in two parts.

The thrust of Lenin’s criticisms of my book is essentially that I am rather indiscriminate with sources, frequently misrepresent them, and in many cases use sources which are simply unreliable.

Brief Preamble on Methodological Issues

It’s worth noting that Lenin’s review does not address the bulk of the book. Chapter 1, he generally summarises with a few minor points of contention. Chapter 2, he looks in detail at about two-thirds of the chapter, veering off toward the end of sub-section 2.2. He then cherry-picks a few bits and pieces from chapter 4, noting references to hoax bomb plots in the run up to 7/7, Haroon Rashid Aswat, and that’s essentially about it. He doesn’t directly refer to the rest of the book at all, which he more or less dismisses as replicating the same sort of lazy, piecemeal, unreliable sourcing which he documents above. As such, his argument is that the book’s overall thesis is untenable. But this is odd, as Lenin’s review doesn’t really come across as a review. He doesn’t explain the book’s overall thesis and logic, but jumps straight into the deconstructive action, after which he seems to conclude that there’s no thesis or logic to bother with.

In doing so, I will argue that in fact Lenin’s methodological approach to the material presented in the book is unscientific, inconsistent, and systematically engages in misrepresentation, which could be down either to sloppiness or intellectual dishonesty, I don't know which. My basis for arguing this is that Lenin frequently confuses reasonable scepticism about official sources with grounds to dismiss any official source willy-nilly if it doesn’t fit one’s preconceptions. In the end, Lenin ends up doing what he accuses me of. I suspect that this is because he seems to be unaware of the importance of narrative analysis.

As the book was meant to be read by a general audience, I deliberately avoided talking about methodological issues involved in the research behind it in the text. However, I can explain those briefly here. Throughout my political writings, loosely speaking, I use a combination of narrative analysis with traditional empirical and historical criticism to understand events.

In interrogating the events of, and up to, 7/7, the source material available to the public is limited. We have:

1) The Whitehall official narrative published in May 2006.
2) The House of Commons Intelligence & Security Committee report, May 2006.
3) The London Assembly report into the emergency response, June 2006 (which is not used in the book)
4) Facts and allegations reported by the mainstream media from multiple primary sources, namely eyewitnesses, observers, and officials working for government, police and security agencies.

As most reasonable people don’t dispute, what emerges from these sources is ultimately riddled with anomalies and inconsistencies, some of which are currently impossible to resolve. I attempt to use these sources to do the following:

1) Chart the key anomalies and inconsistencies in the official narrative as publicly endorsed by the government and its agencies.
2) Discern chronological and material trends in the way these anomalies tend to appear, to see whether patterns can be adduced therefrom
3) On this basis, build up a more credible and plausible understanding of events.

Part of the problem here is that one simply cannot avoid official sources. One of Lenin’s repeated gripes is my use of official sources, particularly ones tracing back to unnamed officials. The problem is that everything we know about the attacks, except perhaps eyewitness accounts filtered through journalistic narratives, ultimately comes from official sources. And many key issues in the 7/7 narrative that are widely accepted come from anonymous security sources. So how to navigate the reliability of these sources and their claims? Internal consistency is one factor, of course; and the other is external coherency, how much the reports cohere with other reports from separate sources, and whether there is any solid body of alternative evidence that contradicts it. In some cases, one may be left with nothing but a pile of inconsistencies with little reason to go either way; in other cases, the overview of the available data will suggest more plausible interpretations than others. There is one further factor involved, and this has been outlined by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in their seminal book, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, which not only explains how the mainstream media is structured according to a “guided free market model” to generate propaganda in the service of state and corporate interests, but how a discerning member of the public can still derive valuable information from the same media system:

“That the media provide some information about an issue... proves absolutely nothing about the adequacy or accuracy of media coverage. The media do in fact suppress a great deal of information, but even more important is the way they present a particular fact - its placement, tone, and frequency of repetition - and the framework of analysis in which it is placed… That a careful reader, looking for a fact can sometimes find it, with diligence and a skeptical eye, tells us nothing about whether that fact received the attention and context it deserved, whether it was intelligible to most readers, or whether it was effectively distorted or suppressed.” [Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, ‘Propaganda Mill: The Media Churn Out the “Official Line” ’, Progressive (June 1988) p. 15; summary of Manufacturing Consent.]

Given “the enormous amount of material that is produced in the media and books”, it is therefore “possible for a really assiduous and committed researcher to gain a fair picture of the real world by cutting through the mass of misrepresentation and fraud to the nuggets hidden within.” [Chomsky, Towards a New Cold War, p. 14]

One of the most important criteria for navigating the mass of potential misinformation churned out by the media is, therefore, how a piece of information relates to an official or conventional narrative. Given the extensive armour of structural, financial, institutional and editorial filters that work to prevent dissenting information from surfacing, such information that surfaces in the mainstream yet contradicts officialdom bears some credibility. It will bear additional credibility, if different sources can be found to corroborate it. In this context, one cannot simply dismiss something simply on the sole ground that it comes from officialdom. This is a mistake made by many conspiracy theorists (and also by Lenin, very selectively). One needs to conduct a sometimes fairly complicated analysis of a large body of official data to discern outstanding “nuggets” of information contradicting the conventional wisdom, and general patterns of inconsistencies, by which to generate a more objective understanding of events.

Disputing the Covenant

I will start by dealing with the specific claims Lenin makes a couple of paragraphs into his review, where the substantial portion of his critique begins.

“And here, the book becomes rather lazy. Several sources are adduced to illustrate the claim that large, radical Islamist organisations operated from and through Britain - albeit from the same sources (police and media) which have proven so unreliable elsewhere.”

Here the fundamental flaw in Lenin’s methodological approach is clearly stated. In the previous paragraphs, Lenin summarises my critique of some of the more technical and logistical aspects of the official 7/7 narrative without much comment. He notes that much of this information came from police and media sources (to be more accurate, from either official police statements and/or police sources quoted in journalistic accounts). Here he seems to imply that as these “same sources… have proven so unreliable elsewhere”, I shouldn’t use them to illustrate that “large, radical Islamist organisations operated from and through Britain.”

As I’ve tried to make clear in my very brief discussion of methodological issues above, this is hardly a scientific approach. Lenin takes a very specific example of inconsistent official statements from police and media sources, and then concludes therefore that all such police and media sources have now been “proven so unreliable” and hence are unusable. The problem here is that, if Lenin really believed this, he wouldn’t be in a position to believe anything about anything, as much of what we understand about current affairs ultimately comes from such sources. The finding of “unreliability” cannot be extrapolated in blanket fashion to any information from “police” or “media”, simply because of some anomalies relating to a specific set of empirical/historical questions.

It is also, therefore, pretty obvious that in fact the sources I quote regarding the operation of radical Islamist organisations in the UK are in fact largely different to the sources discussed in relation to the technical and logistical inconsistencies in reports about the 7/7 bombings. Different media/news sources; different articles; different experts and different police/security officials. A quick perusal of my footnotes will show this.

If by “same sources”, Lenin means “same newspaper”, then obviously this is an absurd confusion of cause and consequence. The inconsistencies in these specific police accounts do not by themselves mean that everything the newspapers that reported such accounts say is unreliable. It means at least that the police made errors, for specific reasons that we’re not yet sure about, and these were reproduced by certain mainstream media outlets. We know that these specific accounts are unreliable not because they come from the police, or come from the media, as Lenin’s logic wrongly suggests, but because they are inconsistent.

“Glen Jenvey, a 'private intelligence professional' who alleges he had some role in getting information that led to the sentencing of Abu Hamza al-Masri, is cited as saying that Bakri is a 'prime suspect'.”

Lenin omits to point out that I begin this section by quoting directly from Omar Bakri Mohammed, the Syrian cleric in exile who heads the network formerly known as al-Muhajiroun. In the year before the 7/7 attacks, Omar Bakri warned about an impending attack being prepared by al-Qaeda affiliated/inspired groups in London and the UK; and less than six months before the attacks issued a fatwa declaring that Britain, and British civilians, were now a legitimate target of al-Qaeda jihad.

As for Glen Jenvey, Lenin describes him thus:

“Well, Jenvey is a reactionary Islamophobic bigot who thinks everything that moves and has brown skin is Al Qaeda, so I don't trust him and don't see any reason you should either. I have found no corroboration of Jenvey's alleged role in Hamza's arrest and sentencing, and at any rate, Hamza has not been found to have been involved in terrorist activity as Jenvey claims - the only conviction under the Terrorism Act is his possession of an Encyclopaedia said to have been written by bin Laden's network.”

Well I’ve interviewed Jenvey a number of times and simply disagree. Yes, much of his work is reproduced on Islamophobic websites espousing very hateful views. Yet in our discussions, Jenvey has been quite explicit in his statements about Islamist terror networks in the UK, that they are a marginal group of extremists that have no relationship either to Islam, or to the wider Muslim community. His work has focused specifically on people connected to Abu Hamza, Omar Bakri, etc. He has stated specifically that extremist preachers like Omar Bakri should not even be seen as Muslims, but are “Islamists” only in that they justify their activities using Islamic language, theological arguments, etc. As for corroboration of Jenvey’s claims about his role in Hamza’s arrest, I took the trouble to find out that a number of British and American police officials, as well as journalists, have confirmed his story. Jenvey is viewed as an expert on Abu Hamza by several security agencies. (And some of these confirmations are available in media reports for anyone who cares to look.) That doesn’t mean that we should take Jenvey at his word for everything, but that he does have some credible insight into the way these groups work.

Omar Bakri, Leader of al-Muhajiroun, and "Clown"

Lenin goes on with his deconstructive effort:

“Ahmed further cites the claims of an alleged al-Muhajiroun member and confessed 'Al Qaeda sleeper' named Muhammad Junaid Babar, who says that intelligence were watching Khan. He has, since being caught, become an 'informant' for intelligence.

Ahmed cites an unnamed 'investigator' who alleges that Hamza was closely connected to Al-Muhajiroun, which in turn was suspected of links to 'Al Qaeda' through Bakri. The source this time is a URL which turns out to be a
story in the Queen's Chronicle. (Quite a few of the footnotes, unfortunately, are URLs, without article titles or authors.) The attempts to trace a connection between the 7/7 bombers and 'Al Qaeda' at this point are extremely sloppy and unconvincing.”

I’m not clear whether Lenin thinks the two sources above are also sloppy and unconvincing. In any case, Lenin is happy to cite a court case and legal process relating to Abu Hamza as self-evident proof that he has not been involved in terrorist activity other than possessing a dodgy encyclopaedia. Here, I refer to an individual, Muhammed Junaid Babar, used as the chief witness for the prosecution in the crevice trial. Some of Babar’s information is therefore credible and is further corroborated by other sources not involved in such legal processes, such as that from the anonymous investigator on the links between Abu Hamza, al-Muhajiroun and al-Qaeda. The idea that al-Muhajiroun is associated with al-Qaeda is consistently at odds with the official police and government position.

“There follows a discussion of Bakri and his organisation's alleged involvement in terrorism, all sourced to this testimony from Andrew Dismore MP. I'm afraid the idea that a pathetic clown like Bakri has ever been a serious figure in these movements is unconvincing, and Dismore's claims are poorly sourced. Often they amount to Bakri mouthing off.”

Actually, Lenin omitted some important points. What followed from the previous comments in the book that Lenin ignores, was a preamble about the “covenant of security” between Islamist extremist networks and UK authorities. I quote a variety of general sources to illustrate that this framework did indeed exist for over the last decade, namely Lt. Col. (ret.) Crispin Black, a former senior intelligence officer and adviser to Downing Street on terrorism; a quote from Algerian Muslim journalist Mohamed Sifaoui who penetrated al-Qaeda cells, cited in the New Statesman; and a Chatham House briefing paper. These are strong, credible sources, two of which involved individuals with direct experience of the issues, on the subject of the blanket protection of radical Islamist groups by the British state, giving them free reign to plan and support operations abroad as long as they do not target home.

It should be noted that the official position of the government, police and security services is quite the contrary – that at no time were such groups ever allowed to operate according to such an intelligence paradigm. It should also be noted that the official position of the government, police and security services is exactly the same as Lenin’s: Omar Bakri is merely a “pathetic clown”, never a “serious figure” in “these movements”.

Lenin links to a Guardian article by Jon Ronson on some of Omar’s clownish behaviour. Yet this is hardly convincing. The ability to clown around and display idiotic behaviour with a journalist hardly discounts the point I’ve been making, which even Jon Ronson sheepishly admits in the same piece linked to by Lenin: “Without Omar clowning around on stage, how is Scotland Yard going to monitor the less clownish people who sit in his audience?” And towards the end, he observes: “ ... It is a shame that Omar has gone for good. Now there’s less chance that the security services will be able to monitor and scrutinise the other people in the room.”

Even by this naïve account of Bakri, naïve because it presumes that open interviews and meetings with an extremist Islamist militant will produce everything one needs to know about him without requiring any investigative journalism, Ronson nevertheless acknowledges that Bakri recruited “less clownish people” whom the security services need to monitor, in other words who may well get involved in serious militant activity. And this is precisely what Ronson doesn’t investigate in further detail even though he acknowledges it, mainly because his personal journalist remit is to focus on other more amusing issues. But many other sources do show that Omar Bakri was ultimately a point-man, a node, between generally younger vulnerable Muslims in the UK and al-Qaeda terrorist networks abroad. In fact this is very well-known in parts of the British Muslim community, and it's something I've seen as a college student.

Lenin’s dismissal of Andrew Dismore MP’s statements on this question in parliament about Bakri’s involvement in terrorist related activity is characteristic. “Poorly sourced”, just Bakri “mouthing off.” But in fact Dismore’s sources are not poor at all. He relies on a combination of sources, many which he has not cited directly as he is speaking in parliament not presenting an academic dissertation, including mainstream reports from journalistic investigations, observations from police and security officials, and admissions from the horse’s-mouth, that is, from Bakri himself, as well as from different members of his network, all of them forming a fairly coherent picture of their activities.

Now I referenced Dismore’s observations in the book because 1) he is one of the few MPs to be raising these questions in parliament 2) although many disagree with Dismore’s political views about the Middle East, large segments of the British Muslim community support his particular concerns about al-Muhajiroun 3) most of Dismore’s observations are amply documented by credible journalistic investigations. The oddity here is Lenin’s insistence on simply dismissing everything. A sample of links to relevant articles with some interesting analysis (though perhaps bit off-key in places) is here, and shows that Dismore’s arguments are strongly grounded.

“Ahmed also takes seriously the claims of Hassan Butt, a former member of al-Muhajiroun, who boasted that 60% of the fighters in Afghanistan were recruited from Britain by his organisation (Butt was also the source of the New Statesman story, by the way). Hassan Butt is described as having been arrested under the Terrorism Act but ‘unaccountably’ released - one possibly is that he is an obvious fantasist.”

Here Lenin’s own sloppiness is yet again apparent. It’s not “60% of the fighters in Afghanistan”, it’s 60 per cent of “foreign fighters” – a significant difference, as foreign fighters were a minority of the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, the majority of whom were Afghan. Similarly, Lenin conveniently ignores the Telegraph report that Butt’s claims were corroborated by British military intelligence. In the book, I concede:

“Butt’s claims regarding the size of al-Muhajiroun’s program seemed outlandish at first glance. However, they were subsequently verified by British military intelligence in Afghanistan, which concluded that, ‘1,200 British Muslims trained with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qa’eda terrorist network in Afghanistan. … The names, addresses and other details of the Britons were found by British military intelligence during searches of bin Laden’s cave complex at Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan.’”

So now it’s both al-Muhajiroun members and British security sources who are confirming the same thing. I can understand the possible (but speculative) qualification that perhaps the figures are being mutually exaggerated, by Butt to sound more ominous and by UK intel to vindicate anti-terror powers; but cannot understand Lenin’s downright unqualified dismissal, which is not grounded in anything except an extended posture of knee-jerk incredulity.

Confused and Inconsistent Ramblings about Official Sources on al-Qaeda Connections

And he continues:

“This story which cites the ultra-right Heritage Foundation and an unnamed US defense analyst, is adduced to bolster the claims.”

Firstly, one can now see a pattern in Lenin’s approach. Anything from the “right” is automatically suspect. A very ideological approach. Does Lenin only want us to believe what’s published by Socialist Worker, or some other so-called “left” publication? Anything from an “unnamed” source is also suspect. Yet much of what we are told about 7/7 is largely from unidentified official sources. Yet Lenin finds nothing wrong with accepting this in general. He only takes issue with such a source if it doesn’t fit his preconceived views about the clownish nature of al-Muhajiroun.

Secondly, the statement from the Washington Times article cited in the book is from a “US government security and defence analyst” – not simply a “defence analyst”, an important difference, as the claim is therefore coming from an anonymous government security source. In contrast, the British government routinely and officially denies that al-Muhajiroun and Omar Bakri have anything whatsoever to do with al-Qaeda. The American government, officially, will not contradict the British position. But clearly privately a few of its own experts will, and the statement from this US source coheres with the body of data relied on by Dismore (a sample of which is linked to above).

Thirdly, Lenin seems unable to scan for useful or insightful information within articles. He dismisses the entire Washington Times piece because it cited the Heritage Foundation. What kind of method is this? The Heritage Foundation analysis is not worth dismissing simply because it happens to be of “ultra-right” persuasion, but because of the faulty nature of its analysis. A discerning reader would be able to note that Hizb ut-Tahrir, as referred to by the Foundation in its report therein cited, has never endorsed political violence as a means to secure the caliphate and is not ideologically or materially linked to al-Qaeda. On the contrary, it is fundamentally opposed to al-Qaeda’s philosophy and methods. That’s why it can be dismissed as nonsense. But Lenin then seems to assume that this somehow proves the whole article is useless.

Then suddenly, Lenin jumps to a few pages down and says:

“Similarly, an article on the hard-right Newsmax is referenced for a claim that the group is connected to Zarqawi, citing unnamed ‘French and German officials’. I'm afraid that much of the evidence cited in connection with these claims is like this - nebulous, poorly supported information, drawn from untrustworthy sources.”

Here, Lenin conducts an absurd act of obfuscation that illustrates the general sloppiness of his approach, which is clearly motivated by an unswerving desire to show that the book’s argument is wrong. Rarely does Lenin offer a serious balance to his analysis. He ignores, for instance, the preceding several pages which discuss in detail the terrorist activities of Abu Qatada, a close associate of Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri, during his tenure at the Finsbury Park Mosque. The information is cited mostly from multiple British press reports including a Sunday Times investigation based on the findings of Reda Hassnaine, an Algerian MI5 informant who infiltrated the mosque. Further down, the Newsmax report Lenin mentions is only one of a number of different reports cited in the book NOT directly about “the group” al-Muhajiroun as Lenin falsely suggests, but about a specific individual linked to Abu Qatada, his student Mohammed Guerbouzi.

I quote “Moroccan authorities” from the Agence France Presse who believe he is the leader of the al-Qaeda affiliated group, “Group of Islamic Combatants in Morocco”, and suspect him of organizing the Casablanca bombings. His group is on the UN’s list of banned terrorist organizations. By way of balance, I cite an Observer report showing that British officials are not convinced he is a terrorist. There is also the Newsmax report, the only one Lenin acknowledges, which cites “French and German officials” who say that Guerbouzi is connected to Zarqawi, not al-Muhajiroun per se! and “Spanish counter-terrorism experts” who think he’s connected to both the Madrid and London bombings. I continue to cite the US Homeland Security Dept’s MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base and a senior Brussels police source interviewed in the London Times showing that contrary to the official position, British authorities were indeed urgently searching for Guerbouzi in connection with 7/7; and finally a confirmation from Guerbouzi himself that Scotland Yard actually knew where he was all along.

I included the links here just to illustrate the gulf between Lenin’s routine misrepresentations, and my actual work. I clearly offer a far more nuanced and complex analysis than Lenin would want readers to think. He attempts to show that I rely on singular odd-ball right-wing sources, when in fact I have tried to build up a coherent picture from a diversity of mainstream sources across the political spectrum. A discerning reader will note that the information above from quite diverse sources can be made sense of. The data suggests that European security sources, including British, on the whole see Guerbouzi as a real terrorist threat, which is why the British authorized an Europe-wide man-hunt after 7/7 according to the Times, but despite this the British security establishment appears decidedly reluctant to pursue anything against him. This is consistent with my general argument and the notion of a covenant of security as British authorities’ operative intelligence paradigm.

21/7: Naiveties and Absurdities

Next Lenin moves on to my discussion of the 21/7 bombs. He summarises the gist of my argument and he begins his critique about here:

“Whatever the case, the fact that the bombs failed, and that Adiesu allegedly abandoned his device, at the very least suggests an amateur operation. Nevertheless, they did hold extreme views, and did belong to al-Muhajiroun at some point and so, Ahmed wants to know, how is it that one of the 'cell' was monitored prior to the failed attacks in Pakistan only for him to slip under the radar because Pakistani intelligence said he wasn't doing anything significant? Surely, given Pakistan's previous 'sponsorship' of Al Qaeda, one wouldn't 'blindly' accept their word? This isn't particularly persuasive: the British presumably had intelligence-sharing with the Pakistani government, since the latter is a client-state of the West. The idea that Pakistan would conceal nefarious activities against the West isn't plausible.”

The sheer naivety of Lenin’s analysis here is revealing. His observations about the relationship between Pakistan and the West betray how little he actually knows about Pakistan. He simply argues that because Pakistan is a “client-state” of the West, it “presumably” had intelligence-sharing, and therefore a priori it “isn’t plausible” that Pakistan would ever conceal nefarious activities against the West. This is another area where Lenin gets methodologically confused, mixing up odd, crude, a priori “leftist” generalisations about metropole-satellite relations between Western and non-Western states with empirical questions. Lenin’s logic, it seems, is that because Pakistan is a client-state, it simply would never consider concealing nefarious activities against the West.

If only life were so simple, we could all be happy pseudo-Marxist ideologues. Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t work according to Lenin’s preconceptions of “plausibility.” The point is not Pakistan’s “previous” sponsorship of al-Qaeda. As I document quite clearly in parts of the book that Lenin hasn’t dealt with in his review, Pakistan continues to sponsor al-Qaeda to this day. I have sourced two declassified US documents that illustrate this in the book. But a recent example is the leaked paper written by a senior official at the Defence Academy run by the British Ministry of Defence, which describes the Pakistani ISI’s covert sponsorship of al-Qaeda and double-game activities, of course still officially denied by British authorities. The question that one needs to ask, but that apparently is of no interest to Lenin, is how much do British authorities know about this? My answer is that they do indeed know very much, but have pretty much given Pakistan a free-hand as they are supposed to be our major ally in the “War on Terror”, useful certainly from the perspective of securing geopolitical access to the wider Central Asian region.

The point is that the excuse just doesn’t make any sense in this context. We don’t rely on Pakistan to do our final threat assessments for us, only for the collection of raw intelligence data. MI5 and MI6 perform their own threat assessments, they don’t simply say, “oh, the al-Qaeda-toting ISI said the terrorist suspects are harmless, so we won’t bother”. So if plausibility is our criterion, it isn’t plausible that MI5 should be happy with a simple Pakistani assurance. The fact remains, then, that if MI5 missed a key target suspect vis-a-vis 21/7, it did so inexcusably, and partly because of its dubious military-intelligence ties to Pakistan, a state sponsoring al-Qaeda terrorists.

“Similarly, why were warnings unheeded? Or if they were heeded, why does the government claim to have had no warning? This point, too, would be more impressive if the cited source didn't stipulate that the warnings were heeded: Ahmed suspects more could have been done, but it is unclear what. It is not even clear if the Mirror's story is accurate.”

Continuing, Lenin suggests here that the Mirror’s report that police had reasonably precise warning of a second attempted bombing attempt on 21/7, is not clearly accurate. What is not clear is why Lenin thinks it is not clear. The article is perfectly clear to me, and contains no basis to view it as inaccurate. Lenin seems to forget that the basis to view something as inaccurate requires actual analysis to discern real inconsistencies, not merely an ideological predisposition or vague suspicion because it just doesn’t quite sound right. He then, curiously, manufactures an alleged contradiction within my text about unheeded warnings that were actually heeded, with little or no idea of what I mean by what the government could’ve done with these warnings. But my text is not confused on this at all. The text nowhere suggests that warnings were unheeded as Lenin, as usual, inaccurately implies. I state clearly that the official position is that there were no warnings whatsoever about the 21/7 attacks. The Mirror report provides some detailed and credible information from police sources indicating that actually some significant warning was received, and indeed acted on rather belatedly on the morning of 21/7 itself. My point is made simply as follows:

“Although the Mirror states that there was a visible increase in the presence of armed police at selected areas in London, this was simply insufficient as a preventive measure given the scale of the potential threat. In view of the fact that security sources confirm that warning of an attack ‘this week’ was based on ‘certain information’, such that security services ‘just knew it was going to happen … on Thursday’, London should have been on the highest state of alert.
If police were chasing one of the bomber-suspects on his way through Farringdon, they clearly had sufficiently precise intelligence to know that the London Tube network specifically, and transport system generally, were again the principal targets – an inference given credence by Secretary Clarke’s confidential Downing Street warning hours earlier of the probability of copycat attacks. But there have been no reports to suggest that the alert status on 21/7 had been raised in response to the specific intelligence available. Nor was the public informed in any manner. On the contrary, official pronouncements to the effect that the attack happened entirely without warning tended to confirm the opposite, that the government was taken entirely by surprise. Why did authorities fail to raise the alert level appropriately? Given the imminent possibility of further mass casualties in London, an immediate shutdown of the London Tube and transport systems for that day would have sufficed to prevent the attacks from proceeding.”

So actually, I make it rather clear what I think could and should have been done, given the information available to police suggesting a repeat of the London bombings. An immediate raising of the alert level to signify danger of an imminent attack; official notification of the public and public authorities of the danger; and in particular, a shutdown of London’s transport systems, at least in the areas under concern, on that Thursday. But none of this was done. Now Lenin may well disagree with these prescriptions, thinking them unwarranted, or overboard, or whatever. Unfortunately, he doesn’t even acknowledge them. He simply says: “Ahmed suspects more could have been done, but it is unclear what.” Now this is either simple intellectual dishonesty, or sheer ideologically-driven sloppiness.

“Ensuing claims are often similarly tentative - drawing from this story, he suggests that because Luai Zakra, allegedly one of the five most important people in Al Qaeda (not the 'number five man' as Ahmed has it), testified that he didn't know about 21/7, then it was conducted without Al Qaeda supervision. The conclusions seems right, but the supporting logic is extremely poor. At any rate, this is a curious 'Al Qaeda' leader who doesn't like to pray, but fancies a drink. Is it possible that Turkish intelligence are simply making shit up?”

What Lenin fails to understand is that the conclusions “seem right” because they’re not based solely on the information from Luai Sakra, but on the entire preceding body of analysis that repeatedly suggests a strong disconnect from the modus operandi of other al-Qaeda attacks, including the 7/7 bombing. I write:

“On the first issue, circumstantial evidence has already been discussed indicating that it is likely that the 21/7 attacks constituted a copycat operation executed by amateurs.... On the second issue, the amateurish copycat nature of the attacks, in particular the ineffectiveness of the devices, effectively rules out the idea that this was an operation planned and directed by al-Qaeda.”

This assessment is only made after several pages of detailed analysis on precisely those issues. It is only after I make these points that I bring in Sakra’s statements to Turkish intelligence. Again, Lenin’s sloppiness is apparent here. Sakra did not simply say he didn’t know about the 21/7 attacks, therefore I conclude al-Qaeda didn’t do them. He specifically stated that many “militants have the operational initiative” and that there are several autonomous groups “organizing activities in the name of al-Qaeda. The second attack in London was organised by a group, which took initiative. Even Laden may not know about it.” I therefore conclude, quite reasonably, that the 21/7 attacks didn’t involve senior al-Qaeda trainers or planners. Obviously, not reasonable enough for Lenin.

Finally, on the question of Sakra’s al-Qaeda credentials, he is well-known. Reports about Sakra’s arrest and al-Qaeda terrorist activities were carried by outlets as diverse as Spiegel in Germany, the BBC here, and the Washington Post. The instructive point is in Lenin’s question about Turkish intelligence “simply making shit up”. Once again surfaces the ugly head of incredulous ideology with all its unwarranted preconceptions. Lenin, unfortunately, doesn’t really do his homework. He claims to have read my 9/11 research in his later blog posting where he makes reference to my book, The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism (my responses to his post are in his comments section). Yet he seems curiously unaware of everything written in that book about the 9/11 hijackers. A sample of some that material is available online in my conference paper, “Subverting Terrorism” pages 5-6. I draw on reports from FBI investigators and credible eyewitness accounts published in mainstream local and national American media showing that several alleged 9/11 hijackers, including Mohamed Atta, and even the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, regularly engaged in acts of debauchery: basically getting pissed, stoned and laid. I also quote a specialist in Islamic and Middle East studies Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub, Professor of Religion at Temple University in Philadelphia, who incredulously observed: “It is incomprehensible that a person could drink and go to a strip bar one night, then kill themselves the next day in the name of Islam. People who would kill themselves for their faith would come from very strict Islamic ideology. Something here does not add up.”

Indeed. Yet the interesting thing is that endless reports connect up people like Atta with senior al-Qaeda operatives such as Ayman al-Zawahiri. So there is an odd pattern emerging here which brings into question our conventional understanding of al-Qaeda. The explanation for this sort of anomaly has very much to do with al-Qaeda continuing to function as a mercenary outfit for US covert operations.

PART 2, here.


  1. Nafeez,

    On page 14 of your conference paper "Subverting Terrorism" you write:

    "The Institute was established in honor of the memory of Netanyahu’s
    brother, Lt. Col. Jonathan Netanyahu, an Israeli officer killed by a stray bullet during
    an IDF raid in the Occupied Territories."

    If I recall correctly, this is also repeated in your book "The War on Truth".

    To my best knowledge, Lt. Col. Jonathan Netanyahu was killed in Uganda, during the 1976 Entebbe raid, a high-profile hostage rescue operation to free the passengers of a hijacked airliner.


  2. thanks for the note.

    the error, which i reproduced from a mistake in a masters thesis i cited, was noted during peer-review and corrected in subsequent editions of The War on Truth; but was in the first edition which was rushed to print. in the interim, the error was reproduced all over the place.