Friday, June 29, 2007

FLOPPED: Car bomb plot foiled by blind luck or incompetence?

We can give Londoners a salute for showing phlegm in the face of news that two car bombs were discovered in their midst. The media hasn't been quite so phlegmatic.

"On the streets of Baghdad the use of car bombs is a daily tactic which reaps horrific results," wrote someone for England's Guardian as the news machine began to gather speed. "Senior officers have been waiting and dreading for those tactics to be employed in the UK by homegrown Islamist extremists."

Yet one is also prompted to ask the writer to get into the differences between the environments in Baghdad and London and not just furnish a drive-by assessment. Fundamentally, they're big.

Iraq is a de facto failed state awash in weapons, bomb-making materials and people professional experienced in the art of making infernally effective improvised bombs. As far as DD can tell, London is not a failed state and it is not obviously overflowing with handy and always available large bomb-making materials. So while it may be tempting to make comparisons between the two for the sake of the argument that since it's happening there, it will eventually happen in London in the same way, it is not ruthlessly logical to embrace the idea.

Naturally, it did not take long for some news agency -- in this case the Times of London -- to drag out a professional witness and an even more extreme outright nutcase (from the obscure British national security trade magazine industry) who foamed at the mouth over how apocalyptic things could have been.

"The patio gas bomb defused in Haymarket would have generated a fireball the size of a house and a shock wave spreading out over a diameter of at least 400 yards, explosives experts said today," wrote the Times.

"Other experts suggested that the total blast could have been bigger still, depending on how many propane cylinders ignited and on whether high explosive was also used ... Andy Oppenheimer, editor of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical International, said the blast radius could have been anything from 200 years [sic] to half a mile. 'It would have been a devastating explosion,' he said."

Newsmen can't resist these excitable types. News operations often seem to display a morbid glee in finding the worst possible interpreters, the scariest tellers of tales, just for the juicing of the news.

For instance, the day news of the liquid bombers broke last year, one American clown, a professional witness in civil cases on the dangers of various chemicals, showed up in multiple newspapers to describe how easy it was to bring a plane down from the refuge of the bathroom.

"All I have to do is take [my ingredients] in the restroom with a standard water bottle ... I empty the water out, mix them in the bottle, and before I'm done mixing them, the reaction had already occured and the plane is in serious trouble," screeched the professional witness, not seen since, for the Los Angeles Times, as well as many other newspapers, in August of last year.

"[The Met's Mr. Peter Clarke] says he recognises that facets of this attempted bombing 'resonate' with previous plots - in particular the gas cylinders and the location," reported BBC News.

"A man called Dhiren Barot jailed for life in 2006 had meticulously planned what he called a gas limousines bomb. He drew up a complex 'business plan' of how he could hit targets in the UK using propane gas canisters."

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow analyzed the computer files released by the Metropolitan Police and found no such complex business plan. (Link to analysis provided at end of story.) The Metropolitan Police subsequently withdrew Barot's files from its website. We're in the process of getting some of them back on-line.

In any case, the Beeb reported: "The [Barot] plan was shown to al-Qaeda funders in Pakistan and parts of it were made public when he was jailed. Experts will be considering whether this bomb has any relationship with Barot's project."

And well they should although the public should be made aware, by the media or authorities, that Barot had never accumulated any materials. His plots were outlines and not particularly detailed, although opinions on what constitutes detail may vary.

As for targeting a nightclub, it's where the people are.

In the continuing case, some good fortune seems to be the lesson from the day, as it appears the second bomb car was uncovered after being towed to an impound yard!

A number of newspapers, most notably the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, even went so far as to rope in the old London ricin case from just prior to the war.

For example, it is read in a Canadian publication, the Chronicle Journal:

"Jan. 5, 2003: Police raid a London apartment and arrest nine people accused of plotting to spread the deadly toxin ricin in the city. No traces of ricin are found, although scientists say evidence shows attempts to make the poison. None of the men were charged in connection with the ricin, although one was convicted of murdering a policeman during his arrest."

Almost all of it is wrong, some of it in large ways, other parts in small. No evidence of ricin-making was found although a jewelry tin of castor seeds was. The alleged ricin ring was fundamentally nonexistent. The accused were acquitted by jury trial except for Kamel Bourgass who was sent away for life. The British government then took action to ensure the acquittals were functionally overturned anyway by issuing a variety of orders designed to either keep the acquitted under house arrest or to return them to prison to await deportation. This blog has covered it previously.

"In [previous] investigations," reported the New York Times, "suspected terrorists have been accused by the police of planning to use a variety of weapons including the poison ricin ..." The Times then attempts to get away without informing its readers what actually happened in the ricin case.

If one were to attempt to explain how the ricin case actually relates to the discovery of car bombs, the potential for a great deal of embarrassment and backtracking arises.

One can hold out a slight if naively optimistic hope that subsequent coverage of the event won't degenerate into the usual exaggeration and hysteria suggesting the empire is about to be overthrown and everyone is at risk. It would also be good to keep in mind that despite one notable success on 7/7, the jihadist aimed at the heart of merry old England has proven, in general, to be an inept one -- far less capable than even the legions of the sinister Dr. Fu Manchu, always thwarted at the last minute by the intrepid Nayland Smith.

Jeep man on fire.

Dhiren Barot archive on DD.

Ricin terror archive.

London peroxide/Chapati flour bombers archive.

Brit airplane liquid bomb plotters archive.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr Destiny. As a Brit I've been waiting all day to get your sane appraisal of today's events. Even the usually reliable BBC has been reduced to hyprbole such as : "... a bomb that would have killed hundreds of people in central London had it exploded."

"Would have"? How do they know?

3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

guess they must have gotten that bomb recipe off the internets!

11:11 AM  
Blogger Enrico SuarvĂ© said...

Thanks DD for a more sensible take on proceedings

Whilst I agree that IF the cannisters had gone off whilst people were around, it is likely there may have been deaths (apparently the car was also filled with nails), I have major problems with the fanciful descriptions in the papers who seem to be competing for the more ridiculous claims.

I mean honestly "if the car had contained high explosives" then yeah it would have been a bigger bang IF it had gone off. If the car had contained a nuclear warhead I have no doubt it would have made an impressive boom - but it didn't so why mention it?

In fairness to the police every statement I have heard them issue has tried to downplay the whole thing and they probably do have more information on the specifics of Barot's fanciful schemes. I do remember at the time there being stories of plans for gas bottles in Limos outside nightclubs, so it really doesn't seem that fanciful that these latest wackos might be at least inspired by his musings...

But anyway - DD is there another word for these idiots other than 'terrorists' which stretches the reality slightly. From the look of people on Sunday, queuing for their planes only a hundred yards from where a "car bomb" went off the day before, I would say they were less terrified, more annoyed.

Can we start to call them annoyancists or irritatingerists or something more appropriate?

3:24 AM  
Anonymous Antipholus Papps said...

Well, you've got to ask yourself who is spreading the terror here and it's the media. It's a fucking terrorstorm from every MSM source.

3:10 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home