Saturday, August 06, 2005


Tom Flocco's website has disappeared

Last Tuesday I linked to a most incredible story at that asserted that grand jury indictments had been made of Bush, Cheney and a host of other criminals.

Now the site has disappeared. It may be due to nothing more than not paying the hosting service. In any case, the article was mirrored by Ottawa Indymedia here.

Previous post
This just in: Bush, Cheney and a whole passel of 'em indicted (8/2/05)


Statistic of the Day

When I went back to Iraq in October of 2003, the Pentagon said there were 22 AWOL's. Five months later it was 500, and when I got out of jail that number was 5,000. These are the Pentagons' numbers for the military. Two things are significant here—the number went from 500-5,000 in 11 months, and these are the numbers from the Pentagon
—Camilo Mejia, who served a year in military prison for refusing to return to Iraq, as reported by Dahr Jamail

Factoid of the Day

Which federal law-enforcement agency has the highest rate of death or injury?

According to the group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), it is the Park Police.

Its officers are 12 times more likely to be killed or injured as a result of an assault than are FBI agents.


Flying Orwell Airlines

The Justice and Homeland Security Departments are trying to sneak past Congress and the courts by getting administrative permission from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). To do what?

According to Chris Strohm of,

The Justice and the Homeland Security departments submitted several proposals to the FCC in May and July seeking authority to monitor the electronic communications of airline passengers. The proposals would allow Justice to record all electronic activity without a court order, identify any user by seat number, and automatically interrupt or shut down any communication.

The move is being fought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), which have filed a petition [PDF] with the FCC.

"The commission should decline DoJ's requests, and should instead defer to Congress, which is the only body that can in the first instance consider the constitutional and policy problems raised by such unprecedented proposals," the groups wrote.

"We do not dispute the fact that law enforcement is able, under existing laws and without any action by the commission, to obtain a court order that permits the interception of the electronic communications of people in airplanes," the groups added. "Instead, the critical issues are whether the commission has any statutory authority whatsoever to impose anticipatory, full-time and warrantless interception of information about all communications of all airline passengers--a proposal seemingly drawn directly from George Orwell's 1984--and whether law enforcement should be given extraordinarily invasive design control over air-to-ground communications."

Friday, August 05, 2005


Which is it?

Here are two starkly different views of the impact of a reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq.

From Agence France-Presse,

Newsweek reported Sunday that Washington plans to reduce troop levels to 80,000 by mid next year and to 60,000 by the end of 2006.

Fewer US troops on the ground is likely to mean fewer casualties -- and less of an incendiary presence for insurgents.

Politically, a partial US withdrawal would allow Bush to point to progress in Iraq ahead of the 2006 elections.

From a soldier,

If we pull out immediately, it's likely the Iraqi security forces will not be able to provide stability on their own. In that event, the new Iraqi government could possibly be overthrown. The other option would be to reduce our troop numbers and have a gradual pullout. That is very risky because it seems that even with the current number of troops the violence still continues. With a significant troop reduction, there is a strong possibility the violence and attacks on US and coalition forces could escalate and get even worse. In my opinion, that is more of a certainty.

Some feedback on the Ohio election

Commenter MeowMeow took umbrage at my remarks about the campaign of Paul Hackett, and urges me not to trust whatever the MSM had to say about it. Since she was an on-the-scene campaign worker, I'm reposting her comments. (And believe me, MeowMeow, I don't trust the MSM.) Thanks for adding to the reporting about the Democratic efforts. They do cheer me up.
Your analysis of the campaign's organization is mostly just plain wrong. Dems got out about 63% of the vote from 2004 while Repubs only got out about 28% of their vote.1 The Dem organization did a fantastic job. Yeah, sure, mistakes were made. There are always mistakes made. But Hackett's campaign used the blogsphere to its advantage and raised .. I don't even know the figure.. something like $400K.2 He also pulled in workers from all over the country--people like me who drove 10 hours each way to help him make his final push.

Yeah, there wasn't much work left to be done on election day. That's because we'd already done it all!

Please don't trust the mainstream media's opinion of what happened with the campaign. Hackett's campaign was bustling with activity. Schmidt's office across the street was completely empty. Yeah, they panicked at the last minute and brought in some horses. They needed to. Ours were already there.

Now, for the man who said he doesn't vote. 32,000 OH-02 Democrats who voted in 2004 did not vote on Tuesday. Paul Hackett lost by less than 4,000 votes. Never give up. We can do it. We would have done it on Tuesday if those 32,000 people would have shown up to do their civic duty.

Previous post
Jean Schmidt elected to lifetime appointment as U.S. Congresswoman from Ohio (8/3/05)


1To get out 63% of the Democratic vote in a special election is truly a fantastic accomplishment. But if the Repugs got out only 28% of their vote and still won, it reinforces the point I was making in the previous post—that Hackett's loss was due to the gerrymandering of the district. [back]

2ActBlue is showing a total of $450,628.63 contributed by 8,760 donors for an average contribution of $51/44 per donor. [back]


Iraq and Kuwait are at it again

The Iraqi government hasn't settled in yet, but that hasn't prevented them from stirring up a problem with Kuwait. Bassem Mroue of the AP writes,
Iraqi legislators accused Kuwait of stealing their oil as well as chipping away at their national territory on the border — allegations similar to those used by Saddam Hussein to justify his invasion of Kuwait that began 15 years ago Tuesday.

An Iraqi delegation was scheduled to head to Kuwait on Wednesday discuss the incidents along the Kuwaiti border

"There have been violations such as digging horizontal oil wells to pump Iraq oil," legislator Jawad al-Maliki, chairman of the parliament's Security and Defense Committee, told the National Assembly on Tuesday.

In such horizontal wells, instead of drilling straight down, Kuwaitis would drill at an angle either going into subterranean Iraqi territory or sucking oil out of pools from Iraqi territory. He also said Kuwaitis have taken territories up to half a mile inside Iraq.

Relations between Iraq and Kuwait resumed after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam and border points were reopened.

"There has been a border problem with Kuwait since the Iraqi state was established," legislator Mansour al-Basri said. "We hope that these border problems will be solved according to historical and geographical basis."

He accused Kuwaitis of even taking the deep water side of the Umm Qasr port where giant ships dock.

Hundreds of Iraqis demonstrated at the frontier last week to stop Kuwait from building a metal barrier between the two countries. Shots were fired across the border into Kuwait, but no one was injured and Kuwaiti border guards did not return fire.

Now let's hear it from the Kuwaiti side—

On Saturday, a Kuwaiti official said a number of Iraqi homes and farms have slightly "encroached" into Kuwait at the border area of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq. The officials said they want to resolve the border issue in negotiations.

Some farms that belonged to Iraqis were razed when the United Nations redrew the border in 1993, two years after a U.S.-led international coalition fought the Gulf War that ended a seven-month Iraqi occupation of this country that began with Saddam's Aug. 2, 1990 invasion. The Iraqi owners were compensated.

Kuwait insists the pipeline barrier, meant to stop vehicles from illegally crossing through the desert, is on its side of the frontier. The U.N. demarcation also gave Kuwait 11 oil wells and an old naval base that used to be in Iraq.

All this had been contained, if not resolved, until the U.S. invasion—

When Saddam was still in power, Kuwait built a defensive trench along the 130-mile border to stop border infiltration from both sides. U.N. peacekeepers patrolled the frontier until just before the invasion of Iraq.
Think of it as just one more benefit of the war.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


If you're thinking of leaving the U.S., be careful

Tuesday the State Dept. issued a "worldwide caution," which is to stay in effect until February 2, 2006. The key word here is "worldwide." It includes every spot on the globe except the Western Hemisphere and Antartica—
Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks against U.S. interests in multiple regions, including Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics to include assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings. Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests. The latter may include facilities where U.S. citizens and other foreigners congregate or visit, including residential areas, business offices, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, hotels and public areas.

While Bush and Blair continue to deny any linkage between the London bombings and the invasion of Iraq, the State Dept. couldn't make the linkage any clearer&mdash

As causes of concern, the department cited spillover from the U.S. intervention in Iraq in and outside the Middle East, as well as other recent terrorist attacks in Europe. 'Ongoing events in Iraq have resulted in demonstrations and associated violence in several countries; such events are likely to continue for the foreseeable future,' the statement said. 'U.S. citizens are strongly encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, be aware of local events, and take the appropriate steps to bolster their personal security.'"

So your globetrotting days are done and you think it's time to check out some Mayan pyramids. Well, don't forget your passport! You'll be facing some new requirements under the "Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative". Specifically,

  • December 31, 2005 – Passport or other accepted document required for all travel (air/sea) to or from the Caribbean, Bermuda, Central and South America.
  • December 31, 2006 – Passport or other accepted document required for all air and sea travel to or from Mexico and Canada.
  • December 31, 2007 – Passport or other accepted document required for all air, sea and land border crossings.

To put it more plainly, by 12/31/07 U.S. citizens will not be allowed to leave the United States or its territories without a passport—period.

I seem to remember several countries during the Cold War where that happened. Now where was it? Let me think.

No word yet whether passports will be required for the hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers entering the country annually. Presumably they will remain free to travel.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Joke of the Day

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad says it is very important that Iraqis agree on a new constitution, and he has expressed his willingness to help facilitate consensus among the constitutional drafters. —State Department press release

Quote of the Day

With the political news being so relentlessly depressing, many liberals seek solace by watching beautiful sunsets or listening to great music or reading fine literature. I'm not quite so pretentious. I get off on seeing conservatives unhappy. No bleeding heart liberal here. I revel in their pain. The more misery they incur, the sunnier my disposition. Contemptible, isn't it? I almost feel guilty.
—David Podvin in "Schadenfreude"

Jean Schmidt elected to lifetime appointment as U.S. Congresswoman from Ohio

Most of you have probably learned by now that Republican Jean Schmidt defeated Democrat Paul Hackett yesterday in a heavily Republican district in the Republican state of Ohio. No surprise there.

But for those who go around with their glasses half full or are in the manic phase of their bipolar disorder, yesterday's outcome has been taken as a sign of "hope." Paul Hackett won a greater percentage of the vote (48%) than any Democrat in living memory in a district that went 2 to 1 for Bush. And he did it despite a half-million dollar TV blitz paid for by the Republican National Congressional Committee.

But the bottom line is that Hackett lost and Jean Schmidt has just secured for herself a lifetime appointment to represent Ohio's 2nd district in Congress, because if a Democrat of Hackett's caliber can't win in the current climate, a Democrat can't win there—period. The only way Schmidt can be unseated is by losing to another Republican in a primary or get hit by a truck, whichever comes first.

Another cause for despair is the superior organization of the Republican party in the final moments of the campaign. Fascists are famous for getting the trains to run on time, but the Democrats had better get their own storm-troopers organized if they ever hope to win another election. (I know. Liberals don't want to be like them—they'd rather be high-minded and powerless.)

Howard Wilkinson of the Cincinnati Enquirer describes the Republican effort—

Republican phone bank operations in all seven counties were calling GOP voters and urging them to go to the polls.

Even the Butler County Republican Party, which isn't in the 2nd District, had a crew of Miami University Republicans phoning GOP voters in the 2nd District.

By the middle of last week ... the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) landed in southern Ohio with both feet, pouring more than a half-million dollars into TV advertising claiming Hackett wanted to raise taxes.

Hackett also got the attention of the Ohio Republican Party, which sent its entire field staff to the 2nd District to set up phone bank operations in all seven counties of the district.

Here's how Wilkinson describes the Democratic effort—

Dave Lane, the Clermont County Democratic chairman, said his party organization had about 20 canvassers roaming Miami Township, Schmidt's home base, with targeted lists of Democratic voters they were contacting to get them out to vote.

"The good news is that most of the people they contacted had already voted, Lane said.

The bad news is that most of the people the canvassers contacted had already voted. What the hell difference did they make?

Keep in mind that this represents the Democratic effort in only one county, and it is to be hoped that there were efforts in other counties that reporter Wilkinson simply failed to mention. But I fear that it was because there wasn't much to talk about.

The real reason Hackett lost the election

But put my carping aside and consider why Hackett really lost—the gerrymander. To gerrymander is defined as "to divide (a State) into districts for the choice of representatives, in an unnatural and unfair way, with a view to give a political party an advantage over its opponent."

Now don't tell me that the Democrats have done that too. I know that. But the Republicans have taken the practice to new heights and to the point where there can be only a pretense of democracy. (Turnout in this race was 25%, which was considered "good." There really was no point in voting.)

Take a look at the Ohio Congressional districts. My, oh my. These districts were drawn by a 5-member Apportionment Board controlled by the Republicans.

District 2 (at the bottom of the map) has been drawn in a U shape and excludes Highland County. Now note that while District 2 as currently drawn went for Bush by 64%, in Highland County Bush also won but only by 50.82% to 48.72%.

Can you doubt that if a portion of Highland County had been included in the district, Hackett would have left Schmidt at home clipping coupons?

The fact is that of incumbent U.S. Representatives who choose to run for reelection, from 95% to 98% of them will win. The primary reason for this is the ignorance of the American electorate. An incumbent Representative has "name recognition." Since most Americans in a voting booth are more likely to vote for someone whom they've at least heard of, the incumbent enjoys an enormous advantage. (Of course, if the incumbent should do something so bad that it makes the nightly news, that name recognition can turn into a reason for defeat.)

But in the Ohio race there was no incumbent. And here is where we see the effects of the other great factor that controls our undemocratic elections—the drawing of voting districts.

The gerrymander is not a "threat" to democracy. It is a mechanism already in place to maintain one-party power. Voting-machine fraud is a threat; voter intimidation is a threat; dirty tricks are a threat. But the gerrymander is not a threat; it is a fait accompli.

Those who still want or hope to resurrect representative democracy must start here. Without eliminating the gerrymander, very little can be done.

Follow-up post
Some feedback on the Ohio election (8/5/08)


Statistic of the Day

In 2004, the Democrat running in OH-02 lost by 44 points. Tonight, the Democrat, Paul Hackett, lost by a mere 4 points - just 4,000 votes out of over 114,000 cast. That's one-eleventh the prior margin, and that's fighting against one of the most corrupt state Republican parties in the land.
—DavidNYC in the Swing State Project

Follow-up post
Jean Schmidt elected to lifetime appointment as U.S. Congresswoman from Ohio (8/3/05)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


Statistic of the Day

The personal savings rate fell to 0%, the lowest since the post-9/11 consumer spending binge in October 2001 and the second-lowest since the Great Depression.
—Rex Nutting of MarketWatch's "Economic Report"

Finally revealed: The difference between porn and prostitution

Intuitively I've always known there was a difference between porn and prostitution. They just don't feel the same. But at last a judge has put the issue to bed.

Mark Fasso writes in the New York Law Journal

Prostitution, as traditionally defined, requires person A paying person B for sexual activity to be performed on A....

Pornography, on the other hand, involves person C paying B for sexual activity performed on A.

"In other words, prostitution is and has always been intuitively defined as a bilateral exchange between a prostitute and client," Goodman opined.

I've never tried the bilateral position, but it sounds like fun.

This certainly clears up something that's been bothering me. If a group of guys, say, go out and hire a person to perform certain acts for a friend, say, for like, well, a going-away party, is that person an actor/actress or a prostitute? Now I know.


This just in: Bush, Cheney and a whole passel of 'em indicted

Tom Flocco has the breaking news.

Do I believe it? I'm ready to believe anything these days. It's known as getting religion in a foxhole.

Follow-up post
Tom Flocco's website has disappeared (8/6/05)

Monday, August 01, 2005


Quote of the Day

If we didn't have that facility at Guantanamo to undertake this activity, we'd have to have it someplace else....
—VP Dick Cheney, as quoted by Robert Weiner in "Prison Abuse Decisions Came From The Top"

British government saves Briton from "extraordinary rendition" by the U.S.

On July 21, the date of the 2nd London bombings, a British citizen of Indian descent, Haroon Rashid Aswat, was arrested in Zambia at the request of the U.S. This much seems certain. After that the accounts begin to diverge, and British and American intelligence services are said to be in hot dispute over the importance of Aswat. So let's see what we can figure out—

Aswat's arrest and detention

The Times of London offers the most cogent account—

In the weeks before the attacks Aswat, according to American officials, was under surveillance in South Africa and US authorities wanted to arrest him for questioning.

The South Africans are believed to have relayed the request to British authorities who were reluctant to agree to him being seized because of his status as a British citizen. The US, it is claimed, wanted to take control of Aswat using a process known as “extraordinary rendition”, which would bypass the normal extradition process and may have resulted in him being flown to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba or a country that allows torture.

However, questions are also being asked about whether the British did not wish to have Aswat arrested because he was seen as a useful source of information. To some, British intelligence is too willing to let terrorist suspects run in the hope of gathering useful leads and other information.

In the weeks before the London attacks a man said to be Aswat may have entered the UK, though British security officials think this may be a case of mistaken identity.

What seems clearer is that he either slipped his surveillance or was allowed to move on from South Africa. He was seized in Zambia on July 21, according to the Foreign Office, the day the second wave of would-be suicide bombers struck.

The possibility is being suggested here that Aswat was allowed to move into Zambia,1 which is more "deportation friendly" to the U.S. than is South Africa.

After Aswat's arrest, it was reported that British consular officials were denied access to Aswat by Zambian authorities. Aswat's family, who have been in Britain for 40 years were concerned that he might be sent to Guantánamo. According to Martin Bright and Tariq Panja in the Observer—

Aswat's family, who have been estranged from him for 10 years, said that Britain should be doing more to gain access to him as he could face a lightning extradition to the US. They point to the example of the British Zambian, Martin Mubanga, who was flown directly from Zambia to Guantánamo Bay in 2001 after the US alleged he had fought allied forces in Afghanistan.

On Friday or Saturday Aswat's family released a statement—

We are extremely concerned, distressed and disappointed by the attitude of the British government and the FCO [Foreign Consular Office] in not providing consular access to Haroon.

It is very worrying that after more than 10 days the British government is still unable to verify that the British citizen detained is actually Haroon.

Our son, albeit estranged for many years, is surely entitled to the presumption of innocence as any other British citizen.

Press reports are reporting unnamed British officials in discussions with the US government over extradition of Haroon, yet our government and the FCO is dilly-dallying and does not have the decency to confirm Haroon's detention.

We wonder whether the government's attitude would have been any different if it was a white, non-Muslim citizen detained in a foreign country?

The family's lawyer added,

The family are desperate as the Foreign Office appears to be utterly failing in any representation of this young man's interests ... It seems extraordinary that our own consulate is getting nowhere. We are only too familiar with other cases where British citizens and those granted refugee protection by the British have been arrested in and removed from Zambia, Gambia and Pakistan to Guantánamo Bay.

Although accounts continue to differ, the British Foreign Office has apparently managed to secure an order for extradition to Britain. The Independent Online reported today—

A Briton arrested in Zambia on suspicion of terrorism was set on Monday to be extradited to Britain after the interior minister signed a document handing over custody of the man, an official said.

"We have signed the document for his movement. The minister has completed the whole process," Peter Mumba, secretary of the interior ministry, said.

Why the U.S. wants Aswat

This part of the story is at least reasonably consistent. The U.S. is claiming that Aswat came to the U.S. to set up a terrorist training camp. Here's the Times account—

While Aswat was closely connected with the Finsbury Park mosque, he was sent to America to meet a known Al-Qaeda activist. US investigators accuse him of being one of the “co-conspirators” of Earnest James Ujaama, who co-operated with US authorities after being charged in 2002 for planning to recruit and train jihadists in the US.

Aswat is said by US investigators to have travelled from London to Oregon in November 1999 to meet Ujaama and scout out a potential jihad training “ranch”. In the end the conspirators did not proceed with it.

But here is where the American story about Aswat gets interesting—

According to US intelligence sources, .... [t]hey believe he assisted or masterminded the London attacks.

This leaves one to wonder why, if the U.S. believes Aswat is a possible "mastermind" of the London 7/7 bombing, it would not defer to the British. There are at least two possibilities here, which are not mutually exclusive—

Official British reaction to U.S. charges and efforts to extradite

Before the British had prevailed in their extradition request, Scotland Yard had downplayed the importance of Aswat in their investigations and characterized him only as a "person of interest" and said there was no evidence that Aswat was involved in either the bombings of 7/7 or 7/21.

Then the British-American squabble was made known. Saturday Ian Cobain and Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian reported

A dispute has arisen between British diplomats, who have no objection to him being extradited to stand trial, and American authorities, who are understood to wish to see him subjected to a process known as rendition, which could see him taken to a country other than the US, where he may be at risk of being tortured.

"The British government's policy is not to deport or extradite any person to another state where there are substantial grounds to believe that the person will be subject to torture or where there is a real risk that the death penalty will be applied," the spokesman said....

Before civil libertarians take too much comfort in this high-minded stance by the British they should consider this: (1) These statements were made by the British Foreign Office and not the intelligence services. And (2) Britain has its own in-country Guantánamo that can countenance torture quite nicely, thank you.2

Who is Aswat?

Unfortunately you will not get the definitive answer to that question here. Still, some facts are known.

1. Aswat is a jihadi.

This was an assertion made by his father. And during the 10 years since his family last saw him, Aswat has been quite busy. The Times offers an interesting account—

As a potential mastermind of the London attacks, Aswat has connections and a past that are almost too neat a fit. Now 31, he was brought up in Dewsbury, near Leeds, where Mohammad Sidique Khan, one of the London bombers, lived. He left the area 10 years ago and is believed to have travelled to training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is said to have told investigators in Zambia that he was once a bodyguard for Osama Bin Laden.

When Aswat returned to Britain he attended the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, which was a hotbed of radicalism in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Reda Hassaine, an Algerian journalist who worked as an informant for the British and French security services, witnessed Aswat recruiting young men at the mosque to the cause of Al-Qaeda.

“Inside the mosque he would sit with the new recruits telling them about life after death and the obligation of every Muslim to do the jihad against the unbelievers,” said Hassaine last week. “All the talk was about killing in order to go to paradise and get the 72 virgins.”

Aswat also showed potential recruits videotapes of the mujaheddin in action in Bosnia and Chechnya.

“He used to tell them look at your brothers, the mujaheddin. All of them are now in paradise living next to the prophet,” said Hassaine.

“He was always wearing Afghan or combat clothes. In the evening he offered some tea to the people who would sit with him to listen to the heroic action of the mujaheddin before joining the cleric for the finishing touch of brainwashing.

“The British didn’t seem to understand how dangerous these people were.”

Among the extremists who attended the mosque were Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber”, and Asif Hanif, a British suicide bomber who blew himself up in a Tel Aviv bar in 2003 killing three others and injuring 60.

There are other concerns. If Aswat knew the London bomber Khan, it would also link him to a group uncovered last year who allegedly were planning a large bomb attack. Under Operation Crevice, police arrested eight men after finding a large quantity of explosive material in a garage in west London.

During that investigation, Khan’s name surfaced on the periphery, but he was deemed no threat and not pursued. Some US investigators now claim another name also surfaced during Operation Crevice: that of Germaine Maurice Lindsay. He became another of the 7/7 bombers — and US authorities claim he was also on a watch list of suspected terrorists when he caused carnage at King’s Cross.

However, British security sources deny Lindsay’s name cropped up in Operation Crevice. And investigators say there is no hard evidence of what role, if any, Aswat played in the London attacks. Scotland Yard sources say he is not considered a priority in their criminal investigation into the July 7 and July 21 attacks. But senior Whitehall officials do not rule out the possibility there my be links to one or more of the bombers.

“I don’t think the evidence is conclusive either way,” one official was reported as saying in the US.

2. Aswat may conceivably be a British agent

The Times also took the trouble to report that—

Senior Whitehall officials also deny “any knowledge” that he might be an agent for either MI5 or MI6.

If he wasn't an agent, he was certainly given free rein. But the Times offers one explanation—

[Q]uestions are also being asked about whether the British did not wish to have Aswat arrested because he was seen as a useful source of information. To some, British intelligence is too willing to let terrorist suspects run in the hope of gathering useful leads and other information.

3. He has been rather vaguely implicated in the 7/21 bombings through cellphone calls.

According to a report in the NY Times,

Investigators also ... that calls had been made from his cellphone to West Yorkshire, where three of the July 7 bombers lived. But investigators said they now had determined that none of the calls were to the bombers themselves.

These were calls said to be from Aswat. The U.S. has asserted that calls were made to Aswat. The Independent Online, for instance, reported that "They said that the four suicide bombers behind the July 7 attacks had made about 20 calls to him on his cellphone.


The story of Haroon Rashid Aswat is certainly one to follow. Whether he is an al-Qaeda mastermind terrorist, as so many media accounts have urged, or a British agent, as the Times of London has ever so subtly suggested, will probably be known only by inferences we can make from the disposition of the case after Aswat has been returned to Britain.

The repeated British denials of the seriousness of Aswat's complicity in the bombings suggest that Aswat may be an agent. After all, if he is an agent, they can hardly put him away in Belmarsh Prison for the rest of his life, so he will have to be in some sense exonerated.

On the other hand, if Aswat is an agent, you have to wonder why the British didn't simply inform the Americans and ask them to back off, though there is an easy answer to that. British and American intelligence agencies have a long history of mistrust, and this may be just one more example.

Since the U.S. appears to have been the instigator of Aswat's arrest, it is not inconceivable that it has once again blown apart a British investigation.3


1According to the Financial Times, Zambia has no deportation treaty with the U.S. As a Commonwealth country it does have such an agreement with the UK. [back]

2To get some idea of prisoner treatment in Belmarsh Prison, see Anti-human-rights law to go to the Law Lords (12/14/04) [back]

3In August 2004 the U.S. issued a politically motivated "terrorist alert" based on the intelligence of Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan. This blew open an ongoing investigation in Pakistan.

MSNBC reported,

In addition to ending the Pakistani sting, the premature disclosure of Khan's identity may have affected a major British operation in which 12 suspects were arrested in raids this week, one of whom U.S. officials said was a senior al-Qaida figure. One of the men was released Friday.

British police told Reuters on Friday that they had been forced to carry out the raids more hastily than planned, a day after Khan's name appeared in the Times.


Sunday, July 31, 2005


British bomber suspect held by Italy "confesses"

Osman Hussain (Hamdi Issac, maybe), by varying accounts born in Ethiopia or Eritrea, was captured at his brother's home in Rome and quickly gave the lie to Tony Blair's claim that that there was no connection between the invasion of Iraq and the London bombings. Brian Brady and John Phillips report in the Scotsman that
Anti-terror police in the Italian capital say Osman Hussain has told them that the "bombers" watched videos of British and American troops "exterminating" Iraqi women and children before embarking on the attack on London's transport network on July 21.

Osman has supposedly made a number of declarations to Italian prosecutors. Since his statements are secret under Italian law and since there are significant variations in the newspaper accounts, it's hard to know how much credence to give to any of this—

There are possible links to Saudi Arabia. According to Catherine McAloon of the AP,

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported that police discovered that Hussain called a telephone number in Saudi Arabia hours before his arrest. The Sunday Times said that another bombing suspect, 27-year-old Muktar Said Ibrahim, captured Friday in London, went on a monthlong visit to Saudi Arabia in 2003, telling friends he was to undergo training there.

Related post
Blair contradicted by MI5 (7/29/05)


1The AP account has this—

Without identifying sources, Italian newspapers gave differing accounts of what Hussain told investigators.

Milan's Corriere della Sera reported that he first told authorities he did not know what was in the backpack he carried onto the Underground, then said he was told the bombers were only supposed to carry out "demonstrative" attacks.

The Rome daily Il Messaggero said the suspect told investigators, "We were supposed to blow ourselves up."

Based on reports of one bomber lying atop his knapsack with his eyes closed, it appears that at least one of the bombers expected to wake up in paradise. It is of course possible that not all of them had the same expectation. [back]

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