Saturday, June 30, 2007

JEEP MAN ON FIRE: Threat to civilization?

Jeep Man burnt! Soon to be ex-President of the Dhiren Barot Fan Club.

"An apparent car bomb attack on a crowded Glasgow airport ended in blazing failure as the weekend onslaught of would-be terror outrages continued," reported the Guardian minutes ago.

"A Jeep Cherokee containing two Asian-looking men rammed the doors of the main terminal building and burst into flames ... Amazingly, only one person was injured - one of the men in the car who fell out with his clothes on fire."

"Unconfirmed reports say one of the men was holding a home-made petrol bomb."

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow will assume readers may agree pouring gasoline under your crashed vehicle on the fly and setting yourself on fire isn't probably the best way to rig an improvised vehicular bomb. And a very good thing that is, too!

Until the details of the last two days more completely sort out, this blog will do what some in the Metropolitan Police are probably doing -- having a another gander at various recent terror cases for possible relationships.

One case that will probably return to the news (indeed, it already has to some degree) is Operation Rhyme, the plans of crackpot Dhiren Barot.

Barot kept his plans on laptop and these files -- .pdfs -- were put on the web by the Metropolitan Police. One of them dealt with what was called the Gas Limos Project. It has been indicated as something with relevance toward this weekend's events.

Barot's Gas Limos Project files were said to be detailed. DD analyzed the files, which were heavily redacted by the Metropolitan Police, and published an analysis in February here.

One of Barot's plans involved the theoretical assembly of a team to pack limousines with propane cylinders and a few other burnables.

However, Barot was and is not a smart man. Throughout the text, he struggles with his plan, most obviously with how to set off his car bombs. In the end, he really never comes up with a firm way although a few options are ventured. One can perhaps set the car on fire, tape pipe bombs to gas cylinders, maybe employ electronic detonators. Barot is very big on the possibilities but grievously short on practical hands-on details born from experience and savvy. (This general obstacle, efficient and reliable detonation of an improvised explosive, may have some bearing on recent events.)

At one point, he writes:

"Weapons such as grenades and Uzi rifles can be also be brought to the scene in order to aid security and as a final recourse in order to bring about [gas] cylinder fracture, i.e., by shooting or exploding a grenade directly at the cylinder itself."

Indeed, this analyst read Barot's files and became convinced that as a stupid man, the terrorist became a little too sold on the Hollywood idea, perpetrated in action movies, that all one has to do to get a car to explode witht the impact of a 2,000 lb. bomb is shoot at it with a pistol, set it aflame or crunch it in a two car collision.

And there might be some truth to that. Barot surveilled New York City in 2001 and attached his camera footage to a video copy of a John McClane/Willis adventure from the "Die Hard" series.

Throughout his plans, Barot regularly invokes Allah. Inshallah this, inshallah that. Inshallah -- if I'm full of hot air and all this is rubbish, it was Allah's will.

Barot also recommends putting charcoal around his gas cylinders.

"Underneath and around the cylinders, generously place some loose pieces of charcoal..."

Posted at the foot of the article, from a Barot section entitled "Putting It All Together," the terrorist advises of pitfalls which would cause car bombers to fail, the obvious odor of petrol being one.

In a lengthy speech in April of this year, Peter Clarke, the public face of the Met's anti-terror operations said, "One of the challenges for counter terrorist policing is to give ourselves the ability to operate internationally (for every case takes us across the world), but at the same time not lose our local connections within communities.

"This is not going to be easy. We must increase the flow of intelligence coming from communities. Almost all of our prosecutions have their origins in intelligence that came from overseas, the intelligence agencies or from technical means. Few have yet originated from what is sometimes called ‘community intelligence.’ This is something we are working hard to change."

On the Barot case, Clarke said, "The intelligence rightly told us that he was involved in attack planning, but we did not know how far advanced he was."

"We did not know whether he posed an imminent threat or not. Surveillance could not give us the answers we needed, and so the decision was made that we had to arrest him straightaway. It is no exaggeration to say that at the time of the arrest there was not one shred of admissible evidence against Barot. The arrest was perfectly lawful - there were more than sufficient grounds, but in terms of evidence to put before a court, there was nothing.

"There then began the race against time to retrieve evidence from the mass of computers and other IT equipment that we seized. It was only at the very end of the permitted period of detention that sufficient evidence was found to justify charges."

Clarke remarked at some length on the lack of actionable intelligence from human sources in London and the reasons for this:

"... [S]uspicion of anything that is described as intelligence is such that it has been rare to receive the benefit of the doubt from either communities or the media. And this is crucial. I think it is no exaggeration to say that the lack of public trust in intelligence is in danger of infecting the relationship between the police and the communities we serve. Trust and consent are two concepts that lie at the heart of the relationship between the British police and the public. We must maintain that trust. But how to do so? I have no doubt that the operational and political independence of the police is the key to this. The communities must believe, and it must be reality, that the police stand aside from politics in the exercise of their powers. That is why the allegations of political partiality that seem to have been made so lightly in recent times are so damaging.

"They undermine the relationship between police and public. They undoubtedly inhibit the flow of intelligence, and in doing so actually increase the risk to the public."

Paradoxically, a Guardian column from June 21 was entitled: "The government's persecution of the Muslim community is alienating the very people whose support is needed to stop further atrocities."

"The wider question that arises though regards whether what the government has done since 9/11 has been effective in deterring terrorism or whether it has made life more dangerous," wrote Paul Donovan.

"There seems little doubt that there is a small group of foreign nationals that the government, advised by the security services, has been targeting and continually coming back to since December 2001. Mainly Algerian, 10 of these men were originally detained without trial under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act (ATCSA). They were then put under control orders following the House of Lords 2004 decision that detention power under ATCSA was incompatible with the Human Rights Act."

Donovan primarily refers to men involved in alleged ricin ring. After being acquitted in a fair jury trial except for lone murderer Kamel Bourgass, the British government, in effect, nullified the verdicts through the use of control orders and deportation proceedings.

"The worry at present is that everything that is happening to persecute the Muslim community is simply alienating the very people whose support is needed to stop further terrorist atrocities," wrote Donovan, echoing Clarke's assertion on the difficulty the police face in getting tips. "[Ricin case defense solicitor Gareth] Peirce draws parallels with what happened in Northern Ireland where those in the suspect community completely lost belief in the operation of the rule of law and so were more likely to move toward violent confrontation."

Tips from the community are, of course, geatly needed for the nipping in the bud of homegrown terror plots. Although everyone will take luck and the incompetence of perpetrators if they can have it, chance is not the most reassuring long-term safety net.

Excerpt from Operation Rhyme files of Dhiren Barot, originally furnished by the Metropolitan Police.

Afternote: DD plans to have more of the .pdfs from the Barot case on-line in the coming week.

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll surely enjoy: Reverse-engineering the laptop files of Dhiren Barot.

Peter Clarke lecture: Learning From Experience – Counter Terrorism in the UK since 9/11.


Anonymous BGG said...

The charcoal was a hoot! You know, we spend a lot of our time red teaming as "smart" terrorists. Clearly we need a stupid red team, too. And possibly a red team comprised of mental patients.

12:41 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home