Sunday, July 31, 2005

The Slant

All five of the suspected bombers of 21st July have now been captured. It's good to know that our security services are doing their job. A round of applause for the scary looking anti-terrorist units. Seriously, bloody good job all round.

The one really good thing to have come out of the recent unpleasantness is that it should provide some decent intelligence. Suicide bombers rarely talk. It looks like these one's will. Osman Hussain, who was captured in Rome, has apparently already made a confession to the Italian authorities.

Here's a handy roundup of the Sunday newspaper coverage of what he's alleged to have said [assume "alleged" where appropriate from here on].

The Independent seems to be reasonable rational about the statement. Hussain claims that Iraq was the key motivation.
The would-be bombers watched films, "especially those in which you saw women and children killed and exterminated by the English and American soldiers, or widows, mothers and daughters who were crying".
They also say that Hussain said:
"We never had contacts with the Bin Laden organisation. We knew that they existed. We had access to their platforms through the internet, but nothing direct."
And they seem to have checked the authenticity of the statement with the Italian authorities.
The Italian Interior Ministry confirmed that the quotes from Hussain's interrogation in La Repubblicaand the Corriere della Serawere authentic but declined to comment on the source of the leaks.
The Observer goes along the same lines.
In a remarkable insight into the motives behind the alleged would-be bombers, Hussain Osman, arrested in Rome on Friday, has revealed how the suspects watched hours of TV footage showing grief-stricken Iraqi widows and children alongside images of civilians killed in the conflict. He is alleged to have told prosecutors that after watching the footage:
'There was a feeling of hatred and a conviction that it was necessary to give a signal - to do something.'
They mention potentially conflicting reports from the Italian media. They do also point out that Hussain has claimed to have had no contact with Al Queda or Bin Laden. It's reasonably consistent with the Independent version of what Hussain said.

The Sunday Times has inside information to bring us which is far more important than the words of an actual attempted suicide bomber. Hussain's words are relegated to little more than a footnote. They start with this instead:
A THIRD Islamist terror cell is planning multiple suicide bomb attacks against Tube trains and other “soft” targets in central London, security sources have revealed.
A classic story from that most authoratative and accountable source, the "security forces". Oh wait, they are actually "seniour police officers". A "member of the Yard’s firearms unit" is also quoted. A remarkable coincidence that this story should break today, I'm sure you'll agree. Anyway, after they've finished scaring the pants off their readers with unattributed, unaccountable "information" (just to get you in the right state of mind you understand), they do eventually get round to mentioning Hussain.
His group decided to carry out the attacks as a statement about the war in Iraq but was not linked to Al-Qaeda or any other terrorists. Contrary to some reports, he told his interrogators that the plotters did intend to explode their rucksacks but that they did not intend to kill anybody. He is reported to have said: “Religion had nothing to do with this. We watched films. We were shown videos with images of the war in Iraq. We were told we must do something big. That’s why we met.”
I'd say the Times report, after the obligatory scare story, is also consistent as to what Hussain said.

Scotland on Sunday does it's traditional job of scaring the living crap out of their readers.
THE London bomb plot suspect arrested in Rome has allegedly confessed to Italian interrogators, lifting the lid on the plan to bring a wave of terror to Britain.
Yikes! And there's more.
In the remarkable confession to Italian prosecutors, Osman gave a dramatic indication that the July 21 conspiracy went far beyond the four people originally named as the key suspects for the failed attacks on three Underground trains and a bus.
Run away! Run away!

They do eventually mention that Hussain claims to have had no contact wiith Al Queda. They're not buying it though, and even seem to have their own theory on a link to Bin Laden.
In a new development last night, it emerged that Osman made a mobile phone call to Saudi Arabia shortly before his arrest, opening up the possibility that the bomb plot was carried out with the help of Saudi extremists. Saudi is the home country of Bin Laden and 15 of the September 11 terrorists.
Even the Times didn't think to indulge in this one. It's a spectacular example of a relatively recent phenomenon, "Possiblity News". Why report facts when the possibilities are endless? In fact, what Hussain actually appears to have said has been almost entirely buried by possibilities. Good job. Wouldn't want the facts to get in the way of a splendid editorial policy.

Well, what can we conclude from all that? Newspapers used slanty writing? I think we know that already. I've got a post in mind about terrorism and the media. These examples are a good starting point for that.

Back to the point thought, it does appear that Hussain has provided a confession but it's entirely possible that every word he has said is a lie. He may or may not have had direct contact with Al Queda. He says he was motivated by the Iraq war but that could be a lie too. At this stage, I don't think we can be confident that the statement is an accurate reflection of Hussain's motives and actions. It's probably wise to resist placing too much emphasis on this until a lot more interrogation has been carried out. What we really need is to get the 5 suspects into court as soon as possible.

Just one final thought on a general point Blair has been making. He said that even if Iraq was linked to these attacks it was irrelevant because we can't allow our foreign policy to be influenced by "these people" (as he like to call them). What's the "war" on terror then? Isn't that foreign policy influenced by "these people"? It's another contrary Blair defence, completely devoid of common sense. Yes, I'm fighting a "war" but my foreign policy will not be influenced by my enemies in the war. Right, imagine this fictional scene. We've laughed at the French once to often. War is declared. The French army is assembling at Calais. Blair sends our army off to invade Poland. He's not having the French dictate his foreign policy. Oh, we've been invaded. Next thing you know, we're all eating smelly cheese and other such stereotypes. What's French for "doh!"?

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