Britain's Airline Terror Plot: Questions That Need to be Answered
Friday, August 11, 2006
The claim that American
and British security forces have thwarted a terrorist plot to blow up
commercial flights between Britain and the United States should not be
It is impossible to
determine at this point whether or not such an attack was in the offing,
although the mass media have, as usual, reported the assertions of the
British and American governments as indisputable fact, without bothering
to ask for any specific information that would substantiate the official
The British police
statement that the alleged plotters aimed to "create mass murder on
an unimaginable scale" by blowing up mid-flight an unspecified number
of aircraft is chilling. The far-reaching security measures that have been
implemented? including the shutdown of London's Heathrow Airport and an
indefinite ban on carry-on luggage? add to the climate of fear and
At a time such as this?
in the midst of spectacular claims from London and Washington, a media
barrage supporting them, and a massive disruption of commercial flights
resulting from extreme security measures? it is all the more imperative
that people not suspend their capacity for critical thought and political
Raids in the early hours
of Thursday morning on homes and business premises in London and the West
Midlands resulted in 21 arrests. Spokesmen for the US and British
governments asserted that those arrested were involved in the most
significant terrorist plot since 9/11.
Later reports said that
24 people had been arrested in Britain and more had been detained in
Pakistan. Among those arrested were a Muslim charity worker and a Heathrow
Airport employee with an all-area access pass, according to Britain's
Channel 4 News. Five suspects in the plot are still at large, according to
ABC News, which cited US sources.
BBC News reported
Thursday evening that the arrests were the result of a long-standing
investigation coordinated between the US, British and Pakistani
governments. British Home Secretary John
Reid in a press conference earlier on Thursday said Prime Minister Tony
Blair had briefed President George Bush on the impending arrests and
security measures over the weekend.
claimed the plotters had planned to target simultaneously up to ten
aircraft from three US carriers by smuggling onboard liquid chemical
explosives disguised as beverages or electronic devices.
US intelligence officials
said the plotters hoped to stage a "dry run" today (Friday) and
the actual attack would have followed days later.
A senior congressional source claimed the plotters planned to mix a sports
drink with a peroxide-based paste to make an "explosive
cocktail" that could be triggered by an MP3 player or cell phone.
President George Bush
made a brief statement mid-day Thursday that was calculated to heighten
public anxieties and exploit the alleged terror plot to justify the
panoply of reactionary policies his administration has pursued since 9/11
in the name of the "war on terror."
Speaking on an airport
runway in Green Bay, Wisconsin, he said that the thwarted plot was a
"stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists
who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom." He
suggested that the plot vindicated the measures? massive domestic spying,
military tribunals, detentions without trial? taken by his administration
to "protect the American people," and went on to warn that
"it is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States
We have no information
that allows us to make a definitive judgment on the existence or
non-existence of a terrorist plot on the scale claimed. However, it
is the responsibility of the US and British governments to produce the
facts that would substantiate their allegations and justify the extreme
security measures they have taken, and to present these facts to the
public in a clear and concise manner.
They have produced no
such factual account or substantiation.
Neither the White House
nor Downing Street has any right to expect people to accept their claims
at face value, or place confidence in any of their statements. The war
against Iraq was legitimised on the basis of false claims of Iraqi weapons
of mass destruction and ties between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. These
lies have destroyed forever the credibility of Bush and Blair.
If it is true that such a
heinous crime was being planned, the responsibility for this ultimately
rests with the policies pursued by Washington and London. Ever since 9/11,
both Bush and Blair have employed the mantra of the "war on
terror" as a cover for their predatory war aims in the Middle East,
immensely intensifying anti-American and anti-British sentiment within the
Muslim world. At the same time, the "war on terror" has been
used domestically as the pretext for an unprecedented assault on
Faced with a worsening
debacle in Afghanistan and Iraq, and massive international opposition to
their support for Israel's devastation of Lebanon, both governments have
an interest in perpetuating an atmosphere of hysteria. Such a climate
serves to intimidate their opponents and justify ever more draconian
measures at home and abroad.
In point of fact, the
official accounts in Britain of the alleged terror plot lack any specific
or verifiable facts and are remarkably short on detail. The statements by
American officials are no better when it comes to serious substantiation.
They are, however, more detailed in their claims.
US Homeland Security
Secretary Michael Chertoff told a televised news conference that the plot
was "a very sophisticated plan and operation" and was close to
fruition. "It was not a circle with a handful of people sitting
around and dreaming,'' he said. "They had accumulated the capability
necessary and they were well on their way.''
The plot appeared to have
been aimed at US carriers flying out of Heathrow, he continued. It was
"international in scope" and suggestive of Al Qaeda.
He did not give a
specific date for the timing of the plan, but said it may have been before
the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. "I can't tell you they had a
particular date in mind," he
said. "Nor can I tell you that they would have waited that long. This
was quite close to the execution date."
Chertoff offered no
explanation of how security services knew that a terror attack was
imminent when they didn't know the target date for its execution.
This is by no means the
only question mark hanging over official accounts.
Britain's Home Secretary
Reid gave the impression in his press conference that the evidence
prompting the arrests came from the UK, and CNN reported that information
gathered after recent arrests in Pakistan convinced British investigators
they had to act urgently to stop the plot. However, Britain's Channel 4
reported that UK authorities had acted based on intelligence provided by
Moreover, if Blair was in
discussions with Bush over the weekend about an "imminent"
terrorist attack, why did he still leave for his holiday in Barbados on
Tuesday? And given that the plot is said to have targeted planes, why did
the security services allow him to do so?
And if the threat posed
by the plot was considered dangerous enough to warrant raising the terror
alert in the UK from "severe" to "critical" and to
code red in the US, why were no arrests made for five days? And why was
the terror alert only raised after the arrests were made and not before?
No such questions have
been asked by the media. And yet recent months have seen a number of
alleged terrorist plots?in the US, Canada and Australia?that were
supposedly thwarted by the security services. In each case, mass arrests
were made of people who, according to the indictments, had merely
discussed terrorist acts. No concrete plans were discovered, no
weapons or explosives seized. And in most of these cases, the supposed
plots were initiated and encouraged by government informers who acted as
agent provocateurs and entrapped the alleged conspirators.
In the case of July's
so-called "tunnel bomb" plot in New York, the purported
conspirators were foreign nationals who had never set foot in the US.
As for the political
utility of the current terror scare, it should be noted that only hours
before Thursday's raids, British Home Secretary Reid gave a major speech
in London in which he accused opponents of the government's
anti-democratic legislation of undermining the "war on terror."
In the face of what he
called "probably the most sustained period of severe threat since the
end of the second world war," Reid decried those who "don't get
it," blaming them for the fact that "we remain unable to adapt
our institutions and legal orthodoxy as fast as we need to.
"Making it clear
that the required "adaptation" meant the gutting of traditional
democratic rights, he added: "Sometimes we may have to modify some of
our own freedoms in the short term in order to prevent their misuse and
abuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy all of
our freedoms in the modern world."