Friday, November 24, 2006

Foiled German "Terror Plot" Was A Joke?

According to the BCC, the NYT, and many other sources, German officials announced on Monday that they had broken up a terrorist plot to blow up a passenger plane.

The story was widely reported, even though nobody has been charged in connection with their investigation; in fact five of the six so-called "suspects" were quickly released, and the other one was being held on an unrelated matter. Hmmm.
German police questioned six suspects on Friday over the alleged plot, but five were released on Saturday, the federal prosecutor's office said.
One of those arrested on Friday remains in custody in connection with another investigation, the officials said.

Nine apartments were searched on Friday in Rhineland-Palatinate state and Hessen, they added.
You'd have to think if they had any evidence implicating any of the "suspects", they would have kept them around... Wouldn't you?

So ... What kind of terror plot was it?

A conspiracy!!

A report from the South African, had more details:
"During the summer, several suspects made contact with an individual who had access to the security-restricted zone of an airport," a statement said.

The individual agreed to help smuggle explosives concealed in a case or a bag onto a plane in return for payment, it added. But the plot broke down when the as yet unidentified suspects failed to reach agreement with the airport employee on the amount he would be paid to plant the luggage.
There was even more in The Guardian, which said:
A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the matter, said the plot was centered on the Frankfurt airport and the plan apparently was to attack a plane belonging to Israel's El Al.
Ahh! El Al!! Needless to say, there was plenty of coverage in the Israeli press.

Arutz Sheva even reported on the "co-conspirators": 
The six, in addition to other unidentified conspirators, were backed by a “so far unknown” terror organization, according to a statement issued Monday by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office.
But I digress. The Guardian continued:
Under German law, authorities must release suspects after a maximum of 48 hours unless they have enough evidence to convince a judge that they can be held in long-term investigative custody.
So ... they didn't have enough evidence to hold the suspects for even 48 hours, but they did have enough to splash the story all over the world? Hmmm. Have we heard this story once or twice before?

The Guardian also noted:
In a similar investigation, police in the northern city of Hamburg in 2002 arrested seven suspected Islamic extremists who were believed to be plotting new terrorist attacks, only to release them several hours later.

Authorities there later said that through five months of surveillance they had not managed to come up with enough evidence to charge the men, but that they were convinced they were getting ready to act and wanted to thwart their plot.
That was then; this is now.

Plot in Germany was a 'joke,' says terror suspect
24 November 2006

Mainz, Germany (dpa) - One of six Arab men arrested in Germany last week and accused of plotting to blow up a plane asserted in a television interview Thursday that the scheme had been a "joke."

A newspaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, added that prosecutors had "inflated" the incident into a plot although investigators had wanted to close the file. It said searches of homes and the arrests of the men had been carried out after four months of fruitless inquiry.

Officials in Germany say the group offered a person with a Frankfurt international airport security clearance a bribe to smuggle a bomb in a suitcase onto a plane. News reports said the group were Palestinians and had targeted the Israeli airline El Al.
According to newspapers, the airport employee reported the approach to police. German authorities say they are hunting the "sponsors" of the attack.

The Sueddeutsche, quoting "security services," said the evidence had never been grave and the supposed "sponsors" did not exist.

It said federal police and prosecutors had decided October 23 after months of vain inquiries to search the suspects' homes, mainly so they could say they had left no stone unturned.

The paper said investigators had been worried they would lose judicial permission to continue tapping the men's telephones because the evidence was so slight.
It's funny how German Terror Plot Joke never made quite the same splash as German Terror Plot Foiled -- in fact it's almost invisible on Western news sites, although it has been noticed in Iran and Romania.

And some people wonder why I'm skeptical.