Thursday, July 14, 2005

The Payoff 

Courtesy of our august colleague Melissa at Shakespeare's Sister: we are grieved to report that one week ago, Steve Sota of The Left Coaster got it exactly right:
Officials tell ABC News the London bombers have been connected to an al Qaeda plot planned two years ago in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

The laptop computer of Naeem Noor Khan, a captured al Qaeda leader, contained plans for a coordinated series of attacks on the London subway system, as well as on financial buildings in both New York and Washington.

"There's absolutely no doubt he was part of an al Qaeda operation aimed at not only the United States but Great Britain," explained Alexis Debat, a former official in the French Defense Ministry who is now a senior terrorism consultant for ABC News.

At the time, authorities thought they had foiled the London subway plot by arresting more than a dozen young Britons of Pakistani descent last August in Luton, a city known for its ties to terrorism.

"For some time, the locus of terrorism in Britain has been around the Luton area and in some of the northern cities," said Michael Clark, professor of defense at King's College in London.

Security officials tell ABC News they have discovered links between the eldest of the London bombers, Mohammed Sadique Khan, 30, and the original group in Luton. Officials also believe it was not a coincidence the subway bombers all met at the Luton train station last week.

"It is very likely this group was activated last year after the other group was arrested," Debat said.
ABC inexplicably omits to mention that Naeem Noor Khan had been turned and was supplying western intelligence agencies with information about Al Qaeda operations until the Bush administration decided there was political capital to be gained by outing him, as reported here --
U.S. officials providing justification for anti-terrorism alerts revealed details about a Pakistani secret agent, and confirmed his name while he was working under cover in a sting operation, Pakistani sources said on Friday.

A Pakistani intelligence source told Reuters [that] Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan, who was arrested in Lahore secretly last month, had been actively cooperating with intelligence agents to help catch al Qaeda operatives when his name appeared in U.S. newspapers.
-- here --
The British MI5 was forced to have the London cell of 13 arrested immediately on Tuesday, fearing that they would flee now that they knew Khan had been arrested two weeks earlier. The British do not, however, appear to have finished gathering enough evidence to prosecute the 13 in the courts successfully.

It now turns out, according to Neville, that "Reports last week also claimed that five al Qaida militants were on the run in the UK after escaping capture in last Tuesday’s raids." If this is true, it is likely that the 5 went underground on hearing that Khan was in custody. That is, the loose lips of the Bush administration enabled them to flee arrest.
-- here --
Using computer records, e-mail addresses and documents seized after the arrest of Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan last month in Pakistan, intelligence analysts say they are finding that Al Qaeda's upper ranks are being filled by lower-ranking members and more recent recruits . . . .

While the findings may result in a significant intelligence coup for the Bush administration and its allies in Britain, they also create a far more complex picture of Al Qaeda's status than Mr. Bush presents on the campaign trail. For the past several months, the president has claimed that much of Al Qaeda's leadership has been killed or captured; the new evidence suggests that the organization is regenerating and bringing in new blood.
-- and here:
BLITZER: He [Noor Khan] was disclosed in Washington on background.

RICE: On background. And the problem is that when you're trying to strike a balance between giving enough information to the public so that they know that you're dealing with a specific, credible, different kind of threat than you've dealt with in the past, you're always weighing that against kind of operational considerations. We've tried to strike a balance. We think for the most part, we've struck a balance, but it's indeed a very difficult balance to strike.

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