Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Inevitable 

Our sympathies, needless to say, go out to the victims of the London bombings and to their families. We are pleased to report that our eminent colleagues Avedon Carol, Chris Floyd, and Alex Harrowell are alive, uninjured, and blogging with their usual fearless abandon; you will certainly desire to read their commentaries on the events of this morning.

Our combustible colleague Arvin Hill recommends the Guardian's G8 NewsBlog, which is posting frequent updates on the subway attacks, and through which we discovered an item called "Surviving a Terrorist Attack," by London blogger Justin of Pfff, who happened to be riding the tube this morning when a bomb went off one carriage away.

We would also direct your attention to useful remarks by our learned colleagues Roger Gathman and Billmon (twice).

Meanwhile, Zemblan patriot J.M. has been tracking the permutations of a story that has evolved considerably over the course of the day. The early version, from the AP wire:
British police told the Israeli Embassy in London minutes before Thursday's explosions that they had received warnings of possible terror attacks in the city, a senior Israeli official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the nature of his position.

Israel was holding an economic conference in a hotel over the subway stop where one of the blasts occurred. Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was supposed to attend the conference, but in response to the warning, did not leave his hotel to attend the conference, government officials said.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said he wasn't aware of any Israeli casualties. Just before the blasts, Scotland Yard called the security officer at the Israeli Embassy and said warnings of possible attacks had been received, the official said. He did not say whether British police made any link to the economic conference.
In the update, also from AP, Mr. Shalom's chronology has been revised:
Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on his way to a hotel near the scene of one of the London blasts Thursday when he received a call to stay put, the foreign minister said.

"After the first explosion, our finance minister received a request not to go anywhere," Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told Israel Army Radio.
The subscription service Stratfor (via our stouthearted colleagues at Cursor) proposes a third scenario:
Contrary to original claims that Israel was warned “minutes before” the first attack, unconfirmed rumors in intelligence circles indicate that the Israeli government actually warned London of the attacks “a couple of days” previous. Israel has apparently given other warnings about possible attacks that turned out to be aborted operations. The British government did not want to disrupt the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, or call off visits by foreign dignitaries to London, hoping this would be another false alarm.

The British government sat on this information for days and failed to respond. Though the Israeli government is playing along publicly, it may not stay quiet for long. This is sure to apply pressure on Blair very soon for his failure to deter this major terrorist attack.
UPDATE: Tim Grieve of Salon's War Room plucked the following from a story Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball wrote for Newsweek back in November:
"According to a U.S. government official," Isikoff and Hosenball wrote, "fears of terror attacks have prompted FBI agents based in the U.S. Embassy in London to avoid traveling on London's popular underground railway (or tube) system, which is used daily by millions of commuters. While embassy-based officers of the U.S. Secret Service, Immigration and Customs bureaus and the CIA still are believed to use the underground to go about their business, FBI agents have been known to turn up late to cross-town meetings because they insist on using taxis in London's traffic-choked business center."
UPDATE II: Steve Soto at the Left Coaster:
Lastly, as Tony Blair oversees the carnage and anger in his country, he may want to ask his good buddy George W. Bush why his administration crippled Blair’s domestic anti-terror efforts to track down and stop Al Qaeda cells inside Great Britain by exposing a known Al Qaeda asset at a time when the Brits were very close to nailing a ring of Al Qaeda cells inside the country? With today's tragedy in front of them, don't you think that British intelligence would have wanted to finish their work last fall in smashing London's Al Qaeda cells before the Bush Administration blew a covert operation just so Bush could be reelected?

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