[Please note, this is Part 2 of a piece posted just below. If you haven't seen that yet, then please scroll down and start reading Part 1 first, as otherwise it won't make as much sense. Cheers.]
... Continued from Part 1
De Menezes: Illogical?
Lenin moves on to summarise my examination of the police assassination of De Menezes.
“Menezes was ‘a marked man’, but we don't know why. This portentous speculation, which substitutes for evidence or even discernible logic, is one of the most irritating aspects of the book.”
Why Lenin insists on being so repeatedly “irritated” by minor turns of phrase is difficult to understand. Menezes was indeed a marked man. He had been targeted by multiple police and security agencies for reasons that we still don’t know. The evidence and logic for that assertion is absolutely clear from the preceding several pages of discussion about the chronology behind his assassination, the evidence of senior official manipulation of events, and the inexplicable violation of Kratos procedures continually cited by official police spokesmen as the explanation of why he was shot.
Here is a fuller excerpt from that concluding paragraph in the book:
“In the Menezes case, the bulk of the evidence available in the public record strongly suggests that the threat perceptions of officers on the ground were manipulated by senior officials for reasons that so far remain difficult to fathom. While the weight of the evidence shows that Menezes was certainly a marked man, the conventional explanations of why he was targeted in this manner are either obviously false or riddled with inconsistencies. Although much clearly remains unknown about the shooting, one thing is certainly apparent: purported anti-terrorist operations conducted in the name of ‘national security’ without sufficient democratic accountability can backfire drastically, to the extent that the ‘security’ of an innocent civilian who should have been subject to the state’s protection instead became its victim.”
Does this really sound like “portentous speculation” substituting for “evidence or even discernable logic”? Or does it sound like Lenin trying hard to sound really clever and like he knows what he’s talking about, but really just doesn’t like the conclusions?
Warning: More Routine Misrepresentations
Lenin then moves on to the warning signs of the attacks.
“The Saudi warning ‘remarkably’ contained ‘very specific information’ - the target was the Underground, the cell contained four people (unnamed) and the month was July 2005 at the latest. Unfortunately, Ahmed omits the bit about the target being ‘the Underground or a London night club’ and the timescale being ‘within six months’.”
Lenin dude. Which book are you reading? It’s at this point that one is forced to conclude that Lenin simply can’t help but bullshit his way through a book review. Here’s the fuller text of my comments on the Saudi warning:
“In December 2004, Saudi intelligence provided MI6 with details of an imminent terrorist plot to bomb the London Underground. The Saudis even confirmed that the terror cell involved would consist of four people. Senior Saudi security sources told the Observer that the plot ‘involved a Saudi Islamic militant who fought with insurgents in Iraq and was financed by a Libyan businessman with links to Islamic extremists in the UK.’ The militant was arrested after returning to the Gulf kingdom from Iraq on a false passport in the name of a fellow insurgent known to have been killed.
Under interrogation he told Saudi intelligence officers that ‘he was on a mission to fund a plot to target the Underground or a London night club within six months’ – in other words, by July 2005… Remarkably, it contained very specific information alerting British security services to the threat of an imminent strike: it revealed the target – the London Underground; precisely established a maximum time-scale for the operation’s execution – July 2005; and confirmed the size of the cell involved, four men. During that six-month period, authorities knew exactly what was in preparation on UK soil.”
Was Lenin reading the same book? Is he just “making shit up”, to quote his well-crafted phrase?
“Similarly, Ahmed mentions the Spanish interception of a message ordering attacks on Europe - he neglects to add that the putative authors of the message, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade, are not the most reliable bunch. In fact, since this alleged group has taken responsibility for almost every recent terrorist attack including in London and Madrid, it is a matter of some doubt that they actually exist.”
A more balanced and informed description of Abu Hafs al-Masri and how Western intelligence agencies view it is here:
“The attacks for which they claim responsibility are generally attributed to al-Qaeda, or al-Qaeda-linked groups. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's #2, has claimed responsibility for the organization on more than one occasion... Doubts of the group's existence stem from the fact that several of their claims are clearly false. ... This claim certainly calls the group's credibility into question. However, there is no conclusive evidence to show that all of their claims are false. What is clear in their statements, though, is that the group subscribes to the ideology of al-Qaeda.”
This means that any warning of a terrorist attack coming from Abu Hafs al-Masri would not simply be rejected as wholly unreliable., as Lenin seems to imply. Neither would it be taken at face value. However, it would count as simply one warning amongst others, whose ultimate credibility would be considered in the context of a wider intelligence assessment of available warnings. One has to consider the warnings in the context of how they would input into the intelligence assessment process.
“Ahmed cites the preposterous Zionist propaganda site Israel Insider which supposedly 'confirms' a similar story (it cites a German newspaper story which claims that the bombing was linked to one in Tel Aviv).”
I love it! “Preposterous Zionist propaganda site”!! Doesn’t Lenin get the point? It’s the Chomsky-Herman methodology, to seek out nuggets of information precisely from within the mainstream media, and especially from sources least likely to make such admissions. The fact is that the Israel Insider is indeed a pro-Zionist news site, but one that is respected particularly as it is actually very well-connected to Israeli government and security sources. If they too confirm this story, then there is absolutely something in it. They would have no motive to manufacture such anti-Zionist propaganda about Israeli officials having some sort of advanced warning of the 7/7 attack.
“This is neither deduction, nor induction - it is reduction to absurdity. Based on retracted reports, the dodgiest of sources and pure rumour, Ahmed leaps to the most auspicious conclusions. He claims his analysis is supported by Stratfor, but it cites unconfirmed rumours.”
As usual, Lenin misses the point. Stratfor does indeed cite “unconfirmed rumours” within intelligence circles, rumours corroborated as real by several other sources (including Israeli security ones) as already noted. Stratfor, finally, which is a private intelligence firm, takes these rumours very seriously, so much so that it says, as I quote in the book: “The British government sat on this information for days and failed to respond. Though the Israeli government is playing along publicly, it may not stay quiet for long. This is sure to apply pressure on Blair very soon for his failure to deter this major terrorist attack.”
Those are not statements to make lightly, and Stratfor is not the kind of organisation which regularly makes such statements.
“Ahmed cites "inexplicable" bomb scares prior to the attacks such as this one - yet, he goes on to describe its explicability: there was a suspect package, and someone had made a prank call. Two days later, there was another in Scotland, near the G8 summit. Another suspect package. "In any case", Ahmed avers, this "should have heightened security concerns around the country". This is a 'warning'?”
This is really getting tiresome. Lenin needs someone to hold his hand and walk him through every minor turn of phrase. The bomb scares were indeed “inexplicable” because we (still) don’t know who was responsible for these scares. The suspicious package was “deliberately packaged to look like a bomb”, and investigators had “no idea for the reasons behind the prank” call. Does that make them explicable? Not when we don’t know who did them and why. We could probably argue back and forth about such things, but what’s the point? Such bizarre verbal sleights of hand are replete throughout Lenin’s review.
He is also incredulous that such events could ever constitute a “warning”. Perhaps he should interview a couple of ex-intel people and ask them what they think. I have. By themselves, the bomb scares wouldn’t mean anything more than what they were. But Lenin does not seem to understand how intelligence assessment works. It works by developing multiple sources into a single analysis of a specific threat. As I write in the book, and as Lenin ignores: “In view of the specific intelligence already clearly available about an impending strike on the London Underground, bomb scares occurring during this particular time period coinciding with the Summit were indications that an attack could be looming at any time.” The bomb scares occurred on the back of a whole series of warnings, one of which specifically pointed to July 2005 as the deadline for an attack on the UK.
“How about this theory? Abu Hamza was on trial that morning - perhaps the attacks were aimed at disrupting that for all of six months? Apparently, "terrorist trials are a traditional 'watch date' for security service", especially as 9/11 happened "on the same date as the conviction of al-Qaeda operative Ramzi Yousef ... 11 September 1996". Bollocks. Yousef was convicted on September 5th, 1996, not September 11th, 1996 - he was also convicted on other dates for other offenses. Why does he do this?”
I accept and acknowledge this error about the date of Yousef’s conviction. Unfortunately, some years ago I read the wrong material, an analysis of the 9/11 intelligence failure by the normally quite careful Dr Paul Monk, a former Australian defence intelligence analyst. Monk wrongly says that Yousef was convicted on 11th September 1996: “The date of Youssef’s conviction was 11 September 1996. From that point, given the fascination terrorists have with anniversaries, 11 September should surely have become a watch date.” Although Monk’s specific argument about 9/11 is therefore clearly false, as is my appropriation of it in the book, his logic as a defence intelligence analyst is correct; and is still applicable generally to 9/11 and 7/7. It is well-known that around September 2000, a videotape was released by al-Qaeda with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri promising to take revenge on the US for imprisoning the Blind Sheik, convicted of masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, a warning which may well have indicated the danger of another attempt on the WTC.
Lenin also, as usual dishonest, lazy and/or ideological in his approach, misrepresents my argument about the Abu Hamza trial. I don’t say that the 7/7 attack was planned for the specific aim to “disrupt” his trial. I do quote a Times article which notes: “On the morning of July 7 Abu Hamza was in the dock at the Old Bailey about to stand trial. But his case was postponed for six months.” The schedule of the trial “raises a possible new explanation for the timing of the attacks.”
The explanation may be that the timing for the London Underground attacks already being prepared was chosen on the basis of the date of Abu Hamza’s trial, but not because of the trial itself. The circumstantial evidence supporting this inference, explained in the book, is Omar Bakri’s January 2005 fatwa annulling the “covenant of security” and lambasting Britain’s anti-terror laws, just then being applied to his associate Hamza whose trial date was then scheduled for 7th July 2005. This is a plausible scenario requiring further investigation, pretty much impossible in the absence of an independent public inquiry. It is also one that I know for a fact the 7/7 Inquiry Group of survivors and families take seriously. But Lenin’s response is simply condescending dismissal, which I believe says more about his own approach, than the argument at hand.
Obfuscating on Behalf of the Alleged 7/7 Mastermind
Lenin’s treatment of the anomalies surrounding suspected 7/7 mastermind, senior al-Qaeda operative Haroon Rashid Aswat is equally astonishing.
“His accusers, however: ‘unnamed American counterterrorism officials’. Later, ITN news reported that Aswat has phone links with two of the bombers, (although Ahmed might have noticed that ITN was merely summarising what had been in some of the papers that day). Again, however, it is unnamed security sources: unnamed security sources tell me that the Times is full of shit.”
Sorry Lenin, it’s those awful unnamed security sources again. Then oddly, he continues:
“Well, at any rate, Aswat does seem to have some history of involvement in radical Islamist activity, so it is not impossible.”
So how does Lenin know that Aswat seems to have such a history? Er, security sources. So why is the history of Aswat’s terrorist activity plausible, but his connection to 7/7, not? Because Lenin says that the latter’s “full of shit”, that’s why. I don’t think most people would consider his a reasonable analysis.
“Similarly, what kind of feeble denial is it when Whitehall officials deny 'any knowledge' that Aswat was potentially an MI6 agent? I like to think, boys and girls, that if I was a state official asked to confirm or deny such a claim, I could do better than that.”
Not even clear what Lenin's ultimate point here is. Is he being critical or supportive of my argument, or engaging in yet more incoherent rambling? If critical, it hasn’t actually occurred to Lenin that perhaps the reason Whitehall has not specifically denied the allegations that Aswat was an MI6 informant, is because they cannot deny. But for Lenin even a non-denial such as this amounts to evidence to the contrary, or at least reason for scepticism! This is not a rational manner of inquiry.
“Loftus, as I say, makes the charge, and is supported in it by John O'Neill, a former FBI counter-terrorism agent. Unfortunately, Loftus displays a certain amount of ignorance in his claims, alleging that Al-Muhajiroun ‘got started’ when the British decided to recruit ‘some Al Qaeda guys’ to ‘defend the Muslim rights in Albania and in Kosovo’. That particular sect ‘got started’ in 1996, when it split from Hizb ut-Tahrir.”
Actually, former Justice Department official John Loftus is supported by former and active American intelligence officials, including FBI investigators, as well as their French counterparts. However, he is explicitly NOT supported by John O’Neill, a former FBI counter-terrorism agent who actually died in the 9/11 WTC attacks. Fair enough, the New Criminologist report doesn’t say anything about O’Neill having died, but still not sure how Lenin manages to misread the report which certainly doesn’t suggest that O’Neill supports Loftus (from the dead).
But anyway, the multiplicity of security sources across the Atlantic isn’t enough for Lenin. Perhaps they were all conspiring to come up with this story for some bizarre hitherto unknown motive?
A simpler and more credible conclusion is that they’re actually revealing credible information available to them, that is highly embarrassing for the British (and American) state intelligence agencies. But Lenin then tries to discredit Loftus for saying that al-Muhajiroun was founded when the British decided to recruit "some Al Qaeda guys" in Kosovo. He argues that al Muhajiroun is “a sect” that actually got set up in 1996, when it split from Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Actually, firstly, al-Muhajiroun is not a sect, and doesn’t claim to be one. Secondly, no contradiction here. The British SAS and US Special Forces were active in Kosovo training KLA fighters in 1996 according to Balkans expert Tim Judah, the same year that al-Muhajiroun was formed as a breakaway group from the Hizb. Loftus’ information thus shows that Omar Bakri and company were involved quite early on in Kosovo. This is consistent with many other reports about Anglo-American involvement in the Balkans, some available in my London bombings book and The War on Truth.
Abu Qatada, and More Trademark Verbal Wizardry
Moving on, Lenin talks about my discussion of Abu Qatada:
“His lawyer is cited by Ahmed is saying that he was being monitored by intelligence and that 'his actions had a large degree of tacit approval'. However, Ahmed's source actually has Qatada's lawyer stipulates Qatada's opposition to and non-involvement in terrorism. The 'tacit approval' alleged by Qatada's lawyer is actually for lawful, 'spiritual' activity. (The constant, and completely unnecessary, misrepresentation of sources by Ahmed is extremely discouraging).”
Once again, the misrepresentation here is on Lenin’s part. The Guardian piece referred to does not state that the security services gave “tacit approval for lawful, spiritual activity”. It makes two separate observations 1) that Abu Qatada denies involvement in terrorist activity; and 2) that Qatada’s activities as a cleric in the UK received “tacit approval” from British security services. Lenin takes both at face value, and therefore presumes that they are logically entwined. I don’t, and they aren’t.
The point is rather simple. I don’t accept that Qatada was entirely innocent of terrorist activity, and therefore do not find his denial credible. Does this mean I am obliged to ignore the second observation, that his activities as a cleric received tacit approval from MI5? In my view, no. The “tacit approval” is confirmed by his own lawyer as part of his defence, and finds coherence with other evidence such as the findings of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, as Lenin acknowledges, where MI5 specifically concedes that he had contact with dangerous extremists as part of his “spiritual” activity; and further, Qatada’s absolute innocence of terrorist activity is in contradiction to other evidence in the public record mentioned in the book. Hence, my focus on this particular observation is a perfectly reasonable interpretation, and indeed arguably the most plausible. Lenin, as usual, is simply nitpicking to avoid alarming conclusions.
Finally, in his summary of my argument about Abu Hamza, Lenin mentions the al-Qaeda Encyclopaedia that was used to secure his conviction, but not the 600 tapes containing evidence of incitement to violence and terrorism that police had confiscated in 1999, but returned, only to use 3 of them to obtain a conviction in 2006. Lenin remains unconvinced by the evidence described by MI5 informant Reda Hassnaine. He dismisses the evidence from British “intelligence sources” about Hamza’s terrorist training programmes using AK-47’s, describing them as “those mendacious guys?”; without pausing to read closely how these sources were in fact “worshippers at Finsbury Park who opposed” Hamza’s hardline stance, and were thus recruited by MI5 “to help monitor the activities of extremists”. He criticises my use of the report relying on testimonials from detainees in Guantanamo, which is fair enough, except he doesn’t point out that I fully acknowledge the exact same problem as follows: “Although the legal value of the testimonies is questionable, the details have been independently corroborated by other witnesses. Indeed, Hamza made no effort to conceal the extensive training sessions, which were openly advertised at Finsbury Park mosque.”
And finally, one more outstanding example of Lenin’s extraordinary analytical skills, where he takes issue with my criticism of statements by David Blunkett about the Hamza failure:
“(At this point, Ahmed is once more extremely sloppy, claiming that if Blunkett had used his extensive anti-terrorism powers, Hamza could have been arrested seven years before his conviction in 2006 - Blunkett became Home Secretary in 2001.)”
I of course accept that this is another silly error. Sloppy yes. Extreme, not quite.
“Unfortunately, Ahmed relies on tendentious sources, tentative reasoning, and sometimes straightforward misrepresentation. It is a pity because even when you discount for all that (and I have necessarily focused on those aspects of the book that I want to challenge or scrutinise most), there remains a strong case for an independent investigation, reasonable suspicions about the use of Islamist activists and groups by intelligence and serious misgivings about the official account provided by the government. There is an account of the relations between states and Islamist groups which use terror, drawing on the same kinds of media and internet sources that characterise Ahmed's book throughout, which is useful if equally tendentious.”
This is essentially Lenin’s summary of the book. The principal problem is that for the most part, Lenin’s criticisms apply less to the book and more to his own review. Perhaps the only main points that can justifiably apply are my two embarrassing blunders about the date of Ramzi Yousef’s conviction, and Blunkett doing something about Hamza before he was actually Home Secretary. Inexcusable errors, but hardly fatal. Apart from that, upon deeper scrutiny of Lenin’s methodological approach, his critique is far below compelling, to put it politely. (Lenin's own phrase about "making shit up" comes to mind....)
In conclusion, Lenin’s blanket approach to the issues and reports raised in the book signifies the extent to which his social analyses are highly ideologically-charged; he is able to accept official accounts in understanding 7/7 in general from police, government and media; but cannot accept particular kinds of reports from official police, government and media sources that contradict those official accounts; he cannot stomach material from the “right” or “ultra right” or “hard right”, which he feels somehow automatically mean the material is not worth considering; and once his mind is made-up, he uses these filters to ignore all information, however credible, that questions his preconceptions; and worse, he repeatedly uses verbal sleights-of-hand and outright misrepresentations in a concerted effort to disparage arguments which he finds unpalatable.
This is a shame, as from reading many of Lenin’s other posts, he is normally far more careful and sophisticated in tackling complex theoretical questions, such as those relating to capitalism and imperialism. Unfortunately, his treatment of issues surrounding terrorist attacks on the West, such as 9/11 and 7/7, although at first glance apparently formidable, upon close inspection is revealed to be surprisingly poor.
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