Daily Archives: May 21, 2010

British Intelligence faces probe over 7/7 bombings

The suicide bombers set off near-simultaneous explosions on three London Underground trains and a bus on July 7, 2005

AFP | May 21, 2010

LONDON — Inquests into the deaths of 56 people in London’s July 2005 suicide bombings will probe alleged failings by police and MI5 intelligence before the attacks, the coroner conducting the hearings said Friday.

Judge Heather Hallett also ruled that inquests into four suicide bombers will be held separately from those of the 52 victims, a relief to families who had protested plans to hold the inquests together.

The suicide bombers set off near-simultaneous explosions on three London Underground trains and a double-decker bus on the morning of July 7, 2005, in what has become known as 7/7, nearly four years after the 9/11 attacks in the United States.

Hallett, giving details of arrangements for the inquests due to start in October, said they would probe what police and MI5 officers knew ahead of the shock attacks.

“The scope of the inquest into the 52 deaths will include the alleged intelligence failings and the immediate aftermath of the bombings,” she said.

“To my mind it is not too remote to investigate what was known in the year or two before the alleged bombings. Plots of this kind are not developed overnight,” she added.

Janine Mitchell, whose husband Paul survived the King’s Cross explosion, welcomed the decision to probe MI5’s role.

“We have been very concerned that there were serious failings and it seems that this is the case… We are relieved that someone independent of Government is going to examine what happened.

“We put all our faith in the coroner to do that, so if anything did go wrong it can be fixed.”

Hallett also announced that the inquests will not be held with a jury, and that the hundreds of people injured in the attacks will not be designated “interested person” status — granting the right to cross-examine witnesses.

Survivors of the bombings voiced disappointment. “Once again we have been shunted aside by officialdom and those questions may or may not be answered,” said Jacqui Putnam, who survived the Edgware Road blast.

The 7/7 attacks struck during the rush hour on a Thursday morning, as British Prime Minister Tony Blair was meeting with Group of Eight (G8) counterparts for a summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.

Three bombs exploded shortly after 8:50 am: Mohammad Sidique Khan, 30, blew himself up at Edgware Road station, 22-year-old Shehzad Tanweer at Aldgate, and Jermaine Lindsay, 19 between King’s Cross and Russell Square.

Hasib Hussain, 18, detonated his device on board a number 30 bus at Tavistock Square at 9.47 am. As well as the dead, some 700 people were injured in the blasts.

It later emerged that intelligence services had followed the bombers’ ringleader, Khan, in early 2004 during an investigation into extremists planning a fertiliser bomb plot.

As well as interrupting the G8 meeting in Scotland, the bombings also shattered a sense of euphoria in London from a decision the previous day to stage the 2012 Olympic Games in the British capital.

Two weeks after July 7 there was an apparent attempt at a copycat simultaneous attack, but the devices involved failed to go off. In the rush to find the plotters police mistakenly shot and killed an innocent Brazilian man.

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7/7 London bomb survivors excluded from probe

UKPA | May 21, 2010

The number 30 double-decker bus which was destroyed by a terrorist bomb

Survivors of the July 7 bombings said they have been “shunted aside” after being excluded from inquests into the deaths of the 52 people who were killed.

Some of those affected by the 2005 atrocities said they were disappointed not to be granted a special status by the coroner which would allow them to question witnesses.

But they pledged to throw their full weight behind Lady Justice Hallett as she tries to get answers for what happened and whether more could have been done to prevent the attacks.

Their solicitor Clifford Tibber said he would not rule out appealing against the coroner’s decision at the Royal Courts of Justice.

Jacqui Putnam, who survived the Edgware Road blast, said many questions still needed answering. Speaking at a press conference she said: “Our role now will be one of answering questions, which we will do, but our questions are not going to be answered.

“Once again we have been shunted aside by officialdom and those questions may or may not be answered.

“They need to be answered because they involve the safety of everyone on public transport.

“It is very important that we remember that the inquests are for families and loved ones of those who died. But this is our only voice, we have been led to believe this would be our opportunity for us to have a voice and now we don’t.”

Lady Justice Hallett said the inquests into the deaths of the 52 people killed by suicide bombers would be heard later this year without a jury.

She said the inquiry would scrutinise alleged failings by police and the security services as well as the immediate aftermath of the blasts and she said inquests into the deaths of the four suicide bombers would be held separately, if at all, while questions over public funding for legal representation remained unanswered.

Our questions about July 7 will never be answered – we’ve been shunted aside, say survivors of London bombings

dailyrecord.co.uk | May 21, 2010

SURVIVORS of the July 7 bombings said they’ve been “shunted aside” after being excluded from inquests into the deaths of the 52 people who were killed.

Some of those affected by the 2005 atrocities said they were disappointed not to be granted a special status by the coroner which would allow them to question witnesses.

But they pledged to throw their full weight behind Lady Justice Hallett as she tries to get answers for what happened and whether more could have been done to prevent the attacks.

Their solicitor Clifford Tibber said he would not rule out appealing against the coroner’s decision at the Royal Courts of Justice earlier today.

Jacqui Putnam, who survived the Edgware Road blast, said many questions still needed answering.

Speaking at a press conference she said: “Our role now will be one of answering questions, which we will do, but our questions are not going to be answered.

“Once again we have been shunted aside by officialdom and those questions may or may not be answered.

“They need to be answered because they involve the safety of everyone on public transport.

“It is very important that we remember that the inquests are for families and loved ones of those who died.

“But this is our only voice, we have been led to believe this would be our opportunity for us to have a voice and now we don’t.”

Lady Justice Hallett said the inquests into the deaths of the 52 people killed by suicide bombers would be heard later this year without a jury.

She said the inquiry would scrutinise alleged failings by police and the security services as well as the immediate aftermath of the blasts.

She said inquests into the deaths of the four suicide bombers would be held separately, if at all, while questions over public funding for legal representation remained unanswered.

Tim Coulson, who survived the attacks, said the “door is still open” to appeal against the decision, but they would still have some input as witnesses.

He said: “It hurts to be reminded but there are occasions when it is essential to be reminded of security issues in our country.

“Not to upset people, not to make everybody screw everything down so tightly you cannot move, but to bring about a general awareness.

“If one more person is put in the position some of us are in that is one too many, especially if one more person dies. That is unacceptable.”

Janine Mitchell, whose husband Paul survived the King’s Cross explosion, said the inquests would be a chance to finally examine the work of MI5.

She said: “We have been campaigning for a very long time now for an inquiry, we are just ordinary people caught up in an atrocity.

“We have been very concerned that there were serious failings and it seems that this is the case.

“We do not know what went on and we are relieved that someone independent of Government is going to examine what happened.

“We put all our faith in the coroner to do that, so if anything did go wrong it can be fixed.”

Mrs Mitchell added that she accepted there would be some sensitive intelligence information, but said that did not mean people should not be held to account.

Ernest Adams, whose son James was killed at King’s Cross, said he was “delighted” inquests into the bombers’ deaths would not be held at the same time.

He said: “The important thing to find out first of all is if it could have been prevented.

“We do not want to go around looking for blame, we just want to know if it could have been prevented and lessons learned for the future in the operation of the security service.”

Rand Paul: Obama’s criticism of British Petroleum ‘un-American’

AP | May 21, 2010

By MICHELE SALCEDO

WASHINGTON — Taking another unconventional stand, Kentucky’s Republican Senate nominee Rand Paul criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of the Gulf oil spill Friday as anti-business and sounding “really un-American.”

Paul’s defense of the oil company came during an interview as he tried to explain his controversial take on civil rights law, an issue that has overtaken his campaign since his victory in Tuesday’s GOP primary.

“What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP,'” Paul said in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.”

The Obama administration has used the “boot heel” phrase to describe its commitment to holding BP accountable for the spill and its cleanup.

Other Republicans have criticized the administration’s handling of the oil spill, but few have been so vocal in defending BP, the company responsible for the deep well and offshore rig that exploded last month, killing 11 workers.

Paul appeared two days after a landslide primary victory over the Republican establishment’s candidate, Trey Grayson. He has been scrambling to explain remarks suggesting businesses be allowed to deny service to minorities without fear of federal interference, even though he says he personally abhors discrimination. On Friday he said he wouldn’t seek to repeal the Civil Rights Act or Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of race, among other areas.

On the oil spill, Paul, a libertarian and tea party favorite, said he had heard nothing from BP indicating it wouldn’t pay for the spill that threatens devastating environmental damage along the Gulf of Mexico coast.

“And I think it’s part of this sort of blame-game society in the sense that it’s always got to be somebody’s fault instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen,” Paul said.

The senate candidate referred to a Kentucky coal mine accident that killed two men, saying he had met with the families and he admired the coal miners’ courage.

“We had a mining accident that was very tragic. … Then we come in and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen,” he said.

An eye doctor and political novice, Paul defeated a rival recruited by Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. He immediately invited Obama, whose approval ratings in Kentucky are fairly low, to campaign for the state’s Democrats.

Paul, 47, credited tea party activists with powering him to victory on Tuesday. The first opinion poll since then showed him with a wide lead over his Democratic rival, Jack Conway.

Paul blamed the 24-hour news cycle for the controversy over his civil rights law comments, a point his father, Rep. Ron Paul, -Tex., endorsed.

In a sometimes testy exchange with reporters in the Capitol on Thursday, the elder Paul said liberals were treating his son unfairly and reporters were hoping to stop his political momentum with “gotcha” questions based on out-of-context remarks.

“Making something out of nothing is just not fair,” he said.

$200 million worth of ‘behaviour detection’ officers fail to spot a single terrorist at airports

The specially-trained officers patrol terminals monitoring passengers for suspicious body language and facial expressions.  Photo: GETTY

A team of more than 3,000 “behaviour detection” officers hired to spot terrorists at US airports have failed to catch a single person despite costing the taxpayer $200 million (£140 million) last year.

Telegraph | May 21, 2010

By Nick Allen in Los Angeles

Since 2006, the officers have been stationed at more than 160 airports across the US in order to provide a hidden measure of security.

But 16 people accused of being part of terrorist plots have passed through US airports undetected a total of 23 times since 2004 – a number of them since the scheme was started – according to an investigation by the Government Accountability Office.

Earlier this year, officials at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which runs the behaviour detection programme, asked US Congress to expand the scheme, which is known as Spot – Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques.

John Mica, a Republican congressman from Florida who was involved in setting up the TSA in response to the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, said it had become too bureaucratic.

He said the report into behaviour detection would further call into question the agency’s ability to perform its security mission.

The TSA said the programme is a “vital layer of security based in science”, which has led to more than 1,700 arrests for other crimes like drug smuggling.

However, a 2008 report by a team at the National Academy of Sciences said “behavioural surveillance” had “enormous potential for violating privacy” and there was no evidence it worked.

The report said a person behaving oddly could just as easily be planning an extramarital affair as a terrorist attack.

Stephen Fienberg, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, described the programme as a “sham”. By 2008, around 160,000 people had been selected to be interviewed or given further pat downs based on the behaviour detection technique but less than one per cent of those were arrested.

Charles Slepian, and aviation security analyst, said the failure of the programme to catch a terrorist was a “disgrace.” He told CBS News: “If it worked, you would catch them.”

Dog DNA ‘to be used to track down owners not cleaning up after pets’

DNA testing: Uncleared dog mess would be collected and sent to a laboratory for testing. Photo: ALAMY

The residents of a smart apartment building are considering testing DNA of their dogs to discover which owners are not clearing up after their pets.

Telegraph | May 20, 2010

By Tom Leonard in New York

Leaders of the residents’ association at Scarlett Place, a development in Baltimore’s expensive Inner Harbour district, have proposed that the dozens of dog-owning residents submit their animals to a compulsory cheek swab.

Dog owners would then have to pay $50 (£35) per dog to cover the cost of the test, as well as $10 (£7) each month for building staff to collect uncleared dog mess and send it to a laboratory for testing. Any negligent dog owner could be fined $500 (£350).

“We pay all this money and we’re walking around stepping in dog poop,” said Steve Frans, a member of the building’s board and dog owner.

He told the Baltimore Sun: “Some people think it’s funny. But you know, this seems to be a reasonable, objective way to say, ‘This is your poop, you’re responsible.”

Dog mess has even been discovered in the building’s lifts and hallways. Mr Frans, who is blind, said some neighbours suspect his guide dog is responsible for some of it.

At a meeting on Wednesday, many residents scorned the idea but the company that would test the DNA insists its “PooPrints” service has been successful.

Jim Simpson, president of BioPet Vet Lab, a Tennessee company, said that uncollected dog waste had declined in the handful of communities that had signed up for its service since it was launched last year.

Richard Hopp, a dog-owning lawyer who lives in Scarlett Place, said: “It’s absolutely ridiculous. I feel like I’m living in a ‘Seinfeld’ episode.”

Secret dossiers on “enemies of Scientology” found in Italian police raid

Tom Cruise preaching the Word.

Secret dossiers of information on the “enemies” of Scientology were found when Italian police raided the movement’s offices in Turin.

Telegraph | May 20, 2010

By Nick Squires in Rome

During a nine-hour search of the offices, Carabinieri officers are said to have discovered a cache of files hidden in a basement behind a locked door.

The files allegedly contained personal information relating to judges, magistrates, journalists and police who had reportedly been deemed hostile to the US-based Church of Scientology, Italian media reported.

Police seized computers as well as handwritten files, which are also said to contain details of former members of the religious movement.

The raid was ordered by magistrates who suspect that the local chapter of the worldwide movement may have violated laws governing the holding of sensitive data, including information about the health, political opinions and sexual orientation of a range of people, La Stampa newspaper reported.

Scientology, which counts among its most high-profile adherents the Hollywood actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, was founded in 1953 by the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.

The controversial religion is often criticised as a cult. It was denounced in the Australian parliament in November, when a senator described it as abusive, violent and manipulative, and only narrowly escaped being banned in France after being prosecuted for fraud.

In the United States, two former members launched a landmark law suit against the movement last month, alleging that for years they were treated little better than slaves and forced to work 20-hour days.

Claire Headley alleged that she was coerced into having an abortion, while her husband Marc said he was subjected to strange mind-control exercises.

The Church has denied all the allegations and has questioned the plaintiff’s motivation in bringing the law suit.