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Investigating the Liquid Bomb Plot

July 1, 2011

 

The National Geographic Channel recently broadcast a 2 hour documentary about the investigation of the Liquid Bomb Plot (http://natgeotv.com/uk/liquid-bomb-plot). I found it to be a fascinating piece of journalism with a quality that is normally expected of the BBC. I was also glad that it was a 2 hour programme because there was a lot of information would have had to be cut to make it any shorter and that would have resulted in a very poor programme.

As is to be expected from programmes like this, there was still much that wasn’t broadcast. I would have liked to have seen more details on the investigation, more information of the physical evidence, more information on the technologies used and information on any tests that were done to prove that the ingredients being assembled where explosives and how they might have worked. Of course one has to be pragmatic about this and accept that there are certain things that the intelligence agencies won’t reveal because it could compromise other investigations or even give away information that would help future terrorist attacks evade discovery. With that in mind, I accept that I will never get to see all the information I’d like to see.

The story is told from the perspective of the investigators, who are almost exclusively British, and is an example of good intelligence and patient investigation.

Patience is a Virtue

Another thing I found interesting was the level of impatience demonstrated by the American secret services. I understand their keenness to have the plot stopped and perpetrators arrested. However, the pressure they exerted to fold it up early rather than trust their British counterparts was somewhat unprofessional. Their concern that those being investigated were planning an attack on planes destined for America, from Britain, is fully understandable. However, as pointed out in the programme, going in early holds the very real risk of the evidence being deficient and the perpetrators going free after a few years or even escaping prison altogether. Effectively allowing them to plot something else and not actually solving the bigger problem.

Things very nearly went wrong when the man at the Pakistan end of the operation got arrested. This happening during the visit of a key American official to Pakistan. The gentleman concerned smiled to camera as he revealed his pleasure at the event, though not quite admitting that he had a part in it. I thought it rather disgraceful that he could risk so much British effort and investigation into this plot by pushing for this arrest. It was this event that drove the British to rush around and arrest all the people involved in the plot. Evidence was still building and its very fortunate that the British were able to arrest all those implicated within hours of the arrest in Pakistan.

Thankfully there was enough evidence to convict the main plotters, however those lower down the ranks and who were only implicated escaped with no charges at all. Who knows what more evidence could have been gleaned if the Americans has not forced the issue with this disgraceful betrayal of trust?

What is with Pakistan and Terrorists?

What was very bizarre about this plots’ man in Pakistan was that, after his arrest, after pressure from America, he apparently managed to escape. Then sometime later he is apparently killed in an airstrike, the conclusion being that the Americans had managed to keep track of him, even if the Pakistani security forces couldn’t.

One does wonder what on earth Pakistan is doing to allow terrorists apparent free roam and then when they arrest them, they fail to keep sufficient control over them. One would be forgiven for asking if there is government support of terrorists.

Final Conspiracy?

I did have a little chuckle when at the end of the programme one of the British intelligence officers posited that the aforementioned man in Pakistan might not actually be dead, but instead be residing in a secret American jail undergoing torture. Of course, this coming from an intelligence officer doesn’t make the conspiracy any more true than if it came from an teenager thumping his nonsense one handed on an obscure internet forum.

So, is the Pakistan connection dead or not? I don’t know and I’ll probably never know. Either way it seems he could be out of the picture when it comes to the next terrorist plot. While that’s a good thing, I doubt that there is a shortage of those prepared to plan more, sadly.

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