Tuesday, November 23, 2004
There is a very odd story making its way through the media, having to do with British security "foiling" terrorist plots on Heathrow airport and the Canary Wharf. I say it is "odd" because of its origin. The story was broken by ITV, Britain's largest commercial television network and a part of the Rupert Murdoch media empire.
ITV News understands that the security services have thwarted four or five September 11-style attacks on targets including Canary Wharf and Heathrow Airport.
One plot is said to have involved pilots being trained to fly into target buildings, including London's famous financial centre and the world's busiest airport.
It is one of a number of attacks planned by al-Qaeda since 9/11 that have come to nothing after the authorities intervened.
How do you like that for precision?
The story concludes by noting—
The disclosure comes as the Government prepares to unveil a series of tough law-and-order Bills in this morning's Queen's Speech, setting out the legislative programme for what is expected to be the final session of the current Parliament.
So the story has been picked up by pretty much everyone, but the British government is remaining "mum."
Here's how Australia's The Age reported on the report—
The reports yesterday and today quoted unidentified sources. They did not say when or where the plots were uncovered, or how close they came to being carried out.
ITV News and the Daily Mail newspaper claimed the attacks on the two high-profile targets were among four or five strikes that had been planned by terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.
As well as preventing the attacks, British authorities also disrupted training programs for suicide pilots, ITV said.
Officials at Britain's Home Office and Metropolitan Police in London refused to comment today.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "We never comment on security matters."
Right, Tony. But your government does leak to Murdoch-owned news outlets,
The Scotsman, which normally appears to strive for accuracy, had this for its lede [all emphasis added]—
AN AL-QAEDA terror plot involving aircraft being flown simultaneously into the towers of Canary Wharf and Heathrow Airport has been foiled by British security forces, it emerged last night.
Reporters Chris McAuley and Russell Jackson tried to get some column-inches out of it, so they interviewed a terrorism expert. Either their reporting, or the expert—I'm not sure which—becomes rather incoherent at this point.
On the basis of knowing absolutely nothing about the specifics, Dr. Magnus Ranstorp ventures forth with—
If this is the case [that Canary Wharf and Heathrow were targets], then of course there may have been different degrees of development and preparation for such attacks - it may not have been fully operational plans that were either days or hours away.
No. It may have been some doodles in a schoolboy's notebook for all we know.
This didn't prevent Dr. Ranstorp from praising the security services—
It is a great credit to the law enforcement and security services who are carrying out one of the more advanced counter-terrorism operations in Europe.
The article goes on with the obligatory mention of the upcoming proposals for changes to Britain's legal system—
News of the plots against British targets came ahead of a Queen’s Speech, which is expected to be dominated by the issue of security. Numerous bills tackling terrorism, organised crime and anti-social behaviour have been trailed.
Home Secretary David Blunkett’s more controversial proposals, such as the use in court of evidence acquired by wire taps, will be shelved until after the General Election expected in May.
However, the government’s programme will set the scene for a poll [election] campaign Tony Blair is said to want to fight on security. Opponents have accused the Home Secretary of deliberately creating a climate of fear.
One of the government's proposals not mentioned here is the ending of the right to trial by jury. While the media seem disinclined to mention it, one of the consequences of this would be to make the holding of secret trials much more convenient.
Canary Wharf is a financial center, so any plans for attack mirror the Orange Alert to which Wall Street was subjected shortly before the election. You did notice, didn't you, that the threat level there was lowered just after November 2? Apparently, in the wake of George Bush's electoral triumph, al-Qaeda just gave it up as a bad job and went home. Perhaps they will be similarly flummoxed by Blair's re-election. But that is unlikely to stop the advancement of the Patriot Act in the U.S. or of Home Secretary David Blunkett's proposals to strip what few rights remain from British citizens.
But I would never wish to imply that Tony Blair could be so crass as to use terrorism in the service of his re-election. No, in this case he may be using it to fend off that nasty group in Parliament that is expected to table a motion for his impeachment today.
I really wanted to share the account given by Murdoch's other organ, the New York Post, so that we may all appreciate "spin" in its purer manifestations—
Chilling plans for a 9/11-style terror onslaught — complete with hijacked planes — targeted London's Heathrow Airport and famed financial district Canary Wharf, it was reported yesterday.
The ghoulish copycat plot was thwarted by British intelligence sometime after the U.S. terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 — and before the would-be suicide pilots could finish training for their fiendish mission — sources told Britain's ITV News.
The ominous plan was one of up to five targeting the country and concocted by al Qaeda, which was behind 9/11, a senior administrative source in Britain said.