Bum Rush the Terror Threat

Remember Rashid Rauf? Probably not. He was arrested in Pakistan in connection with the ‘Liquid Explosives’ terror plot in August 2006, and was extradited to the UK on suspicion of coordinating a plot, on behalf of al-Qaeda, to blow up transatlantic airlines.

Here is the timeline of events, to refresh your memory. Note that it begins with the Joint Terrorism Assessment Centre upgrading the UK security threat level to “critical” - the highest level meaning an attack is imminent. Followed by the Home Secretary John Reid announcment that the terror threat was “a very significant one indeed” delivered in his characteristic hard-man snarl.

The events saw massive disruption to transatlantic airline traffic, planes were diverted and schedules were trashed. A total of 24 people were arrested, remanded in custody and charged under the Terrorism Act. Pakistan, eager to be seen as standing shoulder to shoulder with USA and the UK in their war against terrorism, was active in charging Rauf and another man on suspicion of these charges.

Not so well publicised was the news earlier this month that charges against Rashid Rauf were dropped. Of the 24 original arrests in Britain, only eleven have been charged and their involvement in the plot has yet to be proven.

This ‘power of nightmares’ scenario is the subject of this article, by Matthew Carr, which asks on what evidence the British and Pakistani governments based their assumption that Rauf was the point-man as well as other pointed questions.

Was the plot the result of the kind of western intelligence blundering and incompetence that we have seen so often during the War on Terror? Was it conjured up by agents provocateurs in Pakistan in order to boost the Musharaf government’s anti-terrorist credentials? Or was the plot deliberately misrepresented and exaggerated in order to mobilise support for the ongoing state of emergency which our leaders had declared to be inevitable?

The answers to these questions are unlikely to come from a discredited prime minister or his security chief, who has just announced her surprising resignation. But we need to get them from someone, otherwise we may be in even deeper trouble than we realise.

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