Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Clash of Civilizations: London Lying?



Preserving civil liberties

Tuesday July 12, 2005
The Guardian

Parliament was in sombre mood yesterday. All three main party leaders emphasised the need for unity and sought to avoid divisions in their first opportunity to discuss Thursday's terrorist attack. Yet beneath the unity, some serious issues were left unresolved. Before MPs assembled, senior Downing Street spokesmen were unequivocal that there should not be a public inquiry into last week's attack. The prime minister was reported to be "incensed" by the proposal from Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, that an inquiry would allow the government to learn from any mistakes that had been made. It was dismissed by Downing Street as "a ludicrous diversion" from the number one priority: catching the bombers. The message was repeated by the Home Office minister Hazel Blears on the Today programme yesterday morning.

Tony Blair made no mention of the Conservative proposal in his statement, but he did defend the police and security services: "I know of no intelligence specific enough to have allowed them to prevent last Thursday's attacks. By their very nature, people callous enough to kill completely innocent civilians in this way, are hard to stop." Few would want to dispute the difficulties, but as Crispin Black, a former government intelligence analyst, argued on our comment pages last Friday, when the details and gestation of last week's plot are laid bare, "we will see that at various stages it would have been deterrable or discoverable". Certainly this was the story of Madrid and 9/11.

Mr Howard was in conciliatory mood, paying handsome tributes to the prime minister for the "calm, resolute and statesmanlike way in which the government responded to the attack", recognising as a former home secretary the difficult decisions ministers had to make. But he did rightly add that at the appropriate time there ought to be a limited inquiry, not to apportion blame, but to provide "a calm and dispassionate forum for learning ideas, helping to quell unhelpful speculation and equipping us to respond even better in the future". He was right, and parliament should insist on an inquiry being appointed. An obvious thing that needs reviewing is last month's decision by Whitehall's joint terrorism analysis centre to downgrade the threat level facing London from "severe general", the third highest of seven levels, to "substantial", the fourth level.

MPs will also need to be vigilant in monitoring yet another anti-terrorist bill already promised for this session. To his credit, Charles Clarke, the home secretary, openly conceded last week that the government's ID card bill would not have prevented the bombings. At least this should make it more difficult for the government to apply more pressure on MPs to support the unnecessary and divisive bill. But Mr Clarke will seek tomorrow, at an emergency meeting of the EU justice and interior ministers that he will chair, much wider retention of telecoms traffic data. Liberal Democrats rightly questioned why, when terrorists would be able to use pay-as-you-go phones or internet cafes to escape detection, European states were being required to maintain logs of all citizens' calls, text messages, emails and websites. Even Franco Frattini, the EU's commissioner for justice and security, called for a much shorter period (six months to a year) than the five years that Mr Clarke is reported to favour.

Lastly, MPs must remember draconian procedures introduced to control terrorists can end up applying to non-terrorists. Look no further than last week's disgraceful ruling by the law lords. They upheld the right to withhold from potential parolees evidence denying their release - a procedure introduced to apply to terrorists, now applied more widely. It denies ordinary criminals the right to challenge their imprisonment.

SOURCE - http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/comment/story/0,16141,1526352,00.html


U.K.'s Blair Rejects Call for Probe of London Blasts

Bloomberg | July 11, 2005

U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected a call for an inquiry into the July 7 London bomb blasts, telling lawmakers there wasn't any intelligence that could have enabled police to prevent the attacks.

``Our services and police do a heroic job and as this particular new and awful terrorist threat has grown, they have done their utmost to keep this country and its people safe,'' Blair said in Parliament today.

Last week's three explosions on London's subway system and one on a bus during the morning rush hour killed at least 52 people and injured about 700.

Blair said planned anti-terror laws, scheduled for consideration later this year with a view to introduction early next year, will go ahead on the current timetable.

``If, as the fuller picture about these incidents emerges, it becomes clear that there are powers which the police and intelligence agencies need immediately to combat terrorism,'' Blair said, the legislation would get ``an accelerated timetable.''

Michael Howard, leader of the main opposition Conservative Party, yesterday called for an examination of ``whether anything more could have been done'' to prevent the bombings.

`Limited Inquiry'

Today, he backed away from that call, asking instead for ``a limited inquiry'' to take place ``in due course.''

Howard has said he will step down this year. David Davis, Conservative Home Affairs spokesman and the bookmakers' favorite to replace Howard, said yesterday that the bombers shouldn't be allowed to split political parties over terrorism issues.

After Blair's statement today, lawmakers in the House of Commons will debate the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, a piece of legislation designed to extend the current offence of incitement to racial hatred to include vilifying people based on religious belief, bringing all religions under the same level of protection.

Police said yesterday there had been one serious assault on a Muslim following the July 7 attacks. While police haven't confirmed who they believe is responsible for the London bombings, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said last week they bore ``the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.''

Blair's spokesman Tom Kelly today declined to rule out using the religious hatred measures, if they are passed, against Muslim leaders who incite violence against non-Muslims.

SOURCE - http://www.infowars.com/articles/London_attack/blair_rejects_probe_london_blasts.htm