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The intelligence question and conspiracy theories

Last Friday, with reference to the London bombings, Sir Ian Blair (the Metropolitan Police commissioner) announced that no warning of an attack had been given to the police by any organisation whatsoever.

On Monday, Mr Blair announced that

I know of no intelligence specific enough to have allowed them to prevent last Thursday’s attacks.

This implies, of course, that there was some intelligence suggesting an attack. Intelligence that the police clearly weren’t made aware of, and so clearly weren’t investigating. Why not?

On BBC Radio Five Live, a former Scotland Yard official, Peter Power, confirmed that an exercise simulating the exact nature of this attack was underway as the attack actually happened:

At half past nine this morning we were actually running an exercise for a company of over a thousand people in London based on simultaneous bombs going off precisely at the railway stations where it happened this morning

Of course, this is particularly intriguing because at the time the interview was conducted, it was thought that the bombs had detonated over a period of about an hour. It has only recently transpired that the bombs detonated simultaneously.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories. I’m not about to suggest that this was all planned by the government for some largely unconvincing reason. But it suggests to me that intelligence was received, specific about the threat but not specific on time – and hence not a ‘warning’ – it could have happened hours, days, weeks, months, or years after the intelligence was received. The security service, or possibly the government, were therefore possibly getting together lots of discussions of the type Power attended, to discuss whether the planned responses would be appropriate, and whether any extra security measures could be implemented. This would certainly not be an unprecedented measure – procedures are usually reviewed in the light of a given threat. The fact that one of these meetings happened to coincide with the attack itself is just coincidence.

This would also explain why Mr Blair is refusing an investigation into the intelligence failures – the intelligence services were actually quite good, as many of the details about the attack were known. Mr Blair would obviously prefer that this weren’t known, though, because it would appear that despite knowing of the attack, they were unable to stop it. Which is true, but obviously these situations are rather more tricky – one can’t close the whole underground for years on the basis of possible threats… it would never be open!

Whether Al-Qaeda or another group are behind the attack or not, I have no idea, and haven’t really seen any convincing evidence either way. I don’t think the website claim is credible. The fact that ID has been found so quickly, though, apparently linking the bombers to Al-Qaeda makes me wonder whether the attacks were orchestrated by a group unconnected to them but attempting to provoke reprisal attacks against Muslim groups in the UK. But I might be reading too much into that.

This post was filed under: News and Comment.

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Comments and responses

Comment from Maximilian Goldenberg

    21.14, 15/07/2005

You do not have to be a genius to realize :

1) a bomb attack was on the way as a reprisal against the UK of GB & NI involvement in Operation Enduring Freedom.

2) the perfect day to commit such an act of infamy would be on the first full day of the G8 summit when the eyes of the world would be on the UK of GB & NI

Comment from sjhoward (author of the post)

    13.47, 16/07/2005

That would appear to be the most logical conclusion, but it is yet to be proved. Not that I’m disputing it.

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