Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Now that you've had a chance to let the Monday news of the charges against the alleged British liquid bomber terrorists sink in, let's review some of it.

Dick Destiny addressed deputy assistant police commissioner Peter Clarke's reputation here.

Generously, you have to take whatever Clarke says about evidence that's been gathered with a shaker of salt for reasons not apparent to most of the American newsmedia but obvious to many in Britain.

Although the journalists in the States don't get it, when Dick Destiny was talking with a journalists from the BBC over the weekend, there's ready admission from that end that a substantial portion of the English polity -- especially in the law-abiding Muslim population -- views terror announcements from the authorities with anywhere from a fair to a credibility-roasting amount of suspicion.

This is characterized in quotes taken from the British newsmedia a week ago here.

Restated, in brief:

". . . Many Britons believe that ministers not only exaggerated but lied about intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to provide a basis for the 2003 invasion, an affair which has done untold damage to public trust in the government . . . The Iraq intelligence debacle was followed by a string of security and intelligence blunders, the most tragic being the police shooting of an innocent man mistaken for a suicide bomber . . . It later emerged that police had been acting on only the flimsiest of intelligence . . .

"Most recently, a dramatic raid on the home of a Muslim family in Forest Gate, east London, has again highlighted the fallibility of intelligence . . . [the June raid] . . . resulted in the police shooting of one of the suspects, later found to be innocent. [A] suspected chemical weapons factory was never found . . . "
The chap from the Beeb also mentioned the Forest Gate incident as an extreme sore point.

In addition, British prosecutors have been seen as ludicrous in the case of a framejob instigated by a newspaper and handed over to authorities, known as the trial of the Red Mercury Gang.

Red mercury is a long-standing hoax and prosecutors asked that the jury not take that into account.

"The Crown's position is that whether red mercury does or does not exist is irrelevant," said the prosecutor in the case. The jury subsequently cleared the men in the dock.

In today's Los Angeles Times, reporter Kim Murphy recounted the appearance of the eleven accused liquid bomb plotters in court where eight were charged with conspiracy to commit murder and terrorism.

One American diplomat, granted anonymity, furnished quote on terror capability of the kind one has come to expect and despise from those usually granted anonymity.

"The diplomat said U.S. officials have taken the evidence seriously despite the public skepticisim in Britain . . . ," wrote Murphy.

Although only hydrogen peroxide has been attested to as part of the evidence, with no specificity as to its amount or grade, "With some scientific background, some guidance from someone knowledgeable of the chemicals and processes, no it would not be very difficult [to presumably make a bomb]."

It's a quote anyone could have furnished. So why not either leave it out or find someone willing to have their name printed? As for, "it would not be very difficult to do" -- readers can review what Dick Destiny blog thinks of such claims.

This doesn't rule out that someone could sneak bombs onto an airplane. But it doesn't get the press off the hook in scrutinizing arguments from authority.

So far, the best that has been produced is some talk of hydrogen peroxide and a "17-year old boy, who was not identified because of his age, was charged with possessing a book on bombs, suicide notes, and the wills of people who were prepared to commit acts of terrorism. He also had in his possession a map of Afghanistan containing information 'likely to be useful' to a person preparing an act of terrorism . . . " This, from the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday.

While the evidence has been described as immense by British authorities, the substance of it devoted to accurately describing materials and methods -- which would allow one to get a handle on actual capabilities rather than just murderous desire -- is still thin tea.

The New York Times put Alan Cowell on the story and his reporting was not substantially different from that published in the LA Times.

Cowell, however, merits special attention because he did a patently awful job while attempting to do catch-up coverage on the foul-up that was the London ricin trial in April 2005.

Dick Destiny blog recounts Cowell's wretched performance, written of on GlobalSecurity.Org here.
On April 13 [2005], the New York Times covered the Bourgass trial. The Times has had a documented rough time of it reporting on the intersection between alleged exotic al Qaida weapons and the war in Iraq/war on terror. Its article on the alleged poison ring in London did not depart from tradition.

Reporter Alan Cowell furnished a piece that was largely a mixture of UK anti-terror forces jive and frankly weird mistakes brooking no intrusion of reality. In the story's fourth paragraph, Cowell writes, "Details of the trial emerged only today after a judge lifted strict reporting restrictions on two secret jury trials of Mr. Bourgass, arrested in the aftermath of the reported discovery of traces of ricin in an apartment in north London in January 2003."

In the very next sentence, Cowell writes: During [Bourgass's] arrest, in Manchester in the north of England nine days after the ricin was found ..."

It is not until well down into the Times story that the reporter gets around to printing quote from a defense lawyer that "no traces of manufactured ricin had been found," perhaps confusing himself, editors and readers . . .

[Cowell] further wrote, "[The terrorists] were said to have used household ingredients like tobacco, cherry stones and castor oil to make poisons." Ricin does not come from castor oil and "poisons," those discussed in the Bourgass trial, cannot be made from it. Attention, New York Times! Castor seeds were recovered, castor seeds!

This was journalistic clowning of the worst kind. Dick Destiny blog had access to evidence presented in the London ricin trial and Cowell's say-so bore absolutely no resemblance to what those with direct experience had in hand.

Why would this be of importance?

For that, it is necessary to again recall the London ricin trial, one which the US newsmedia largely declined to cover.

The verdicts -- not guilty for everyone but murderer Kamel Bourgass, whose knifing of a British constable during his apprehension was not a direct terror action, were awkward. Bourgass was also convicted of the unusual crime of conspiracy to create a public nuisance with poisons and explosives.

Bourgass and the other Muslims roped in with him had taken part of the central stage in the run up to the war in Iraq. In Colin Powell's presentation to the UN Security Council, the London ricin ring was connected through an intermediary -- who it later turned out had been tortured -- to al Zarqawi in Iraq. This was evidence, it was said, that al Qaeda was directing chemical attacks aimed at England.

During the trial, none of this was proven. Indeed, the original hearsay presented to the newsmedia, wasn't even brought. The prosecution could not connect any of the defendants to al Qaeda even though it tried to do so through the use of a variety of documents on chemical weapons and poisons obtained in Afghanistan after the route of the Taliban.

The story is long and complicated, recounted here, in the articles dated from April 2005.

Additional evidence, provided by the British metropolitan police in a videotape of Operation Springbourne, or the breaking up of the alleged Bourgass ricin ring is here.

Watch closely.

The first envelope contains a handful of ground spice. Quite the weapon of mass destruction, capable of poisoning many! The round things in the dish are cherry pits. England was going to be attacked with the fiendish cherrystones of jihad! Plus, a coffee grinder.

It was these things, along with some foolish recipes scribbled off an American web server, and a jewelry tin containing a handful of castor seeds, which were presented as the basis for mention of the London ricin ring in Powell's presentation to the UN Security Council. And, therefore, part of the evidence for war with Iraq.

It looks absurd and it is. A reasonable person would be enraged by it. But it was not taken so at the time because no one had any idea, outside of authorities, what the evidence looked like. And they weren't furnishing the details.

The U.S. press covered the ricin ring story but asked no serious questions. And then it promptly forgot about the matter. The Brit press went into hyserical overdrive, one tabloid proclaiming of the al Qaeda chemical threat: It's Here.

Had the U.S newsmedia made any attempt to seriously cover the London ricin trial, it would now be obvious to its reporters why extra effort is called for in scrutiny of the airplane liquid bombers.

Perhaps the liquid bomb plot is just as British authorities have said. Or maybe it is something different, threatening, but not of the degree of menace described in early days of reporting. And perhaps it is -- and let us hope not -- London ricin ring, the sequel, or something similar.

We'll be the worse for it, if so. Becuase the U.S. press won't be able to keep its attention on the ball for the couple of years it's going to take to get this into and through the Old Bailey.


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