He is still held on non-terror charges including impersonation and traveling with forged papers, and faces a maximum of 14 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
Rashid Rauf may also face extradition to Britain. The British have been trying to question him in connection with a 2002 murder as well as this summer's alleged plot.
They haven't been successful, and there's no extradition treaty between Britain and Pakistan, so they might never get him to the UK.
But that hasn't stopped them spending money trying.
Rashid Rauf's brother, Tayib Rauf, was arrested in the UK during the "anti-terror" raids of August 9/10 and held for two weeks before being released without charges. Their father, Abdul Rauf, was arrested (or merely detained) in Pakistan before he too was released without being charged. Within a few days of his release, however, a Muslim charity which he founded, and which had allegedly been funneling money to terrorists, had its funds frozen. Hmmm.
Serious strangeness surrounds the Rashid Rauf story in multiple layers.
For instance, some reports indicate that he was arrested on August 9th in Pakistan, that he sent a text message (or else phoned a friend who sent a text message) to the alleged plotters in England, telling them to go ahead, and that the police intercepted the message and arrested the alleged would-be bombers.
Other reporters believe that he was arrested three or four days (or maybe as much as a week) earlier, that he was tortured in a Pakistani prison, that he revealed the names of the alleged plotters to his interrogators, and that the so-called Liquid Bombers were arrested thanks to cooperation of the Pakistani police, who promptly shared the names with Scotland Yard.
We may never know the truth ... but I am still digging.
In my opinion, this is not primarily about Rashid Rauf, and neither is it primarily about the eleven Britons who are charged with "conspiracy to murder".
It's not even about the abrupt change in the news cycle which it caused, and which was used to maximum advantage both by the Blair government in the UK and by the Bush government in the USA.
It has something to do with the draconian restrictions imposed on air travel, first at Heathrow and then all over Europe and North America, restrictions which have just recently been relaxed and which are still ludicrous.
But even more than that. It sideswiped the political landscape at a time when the war criminals who prowl the Oval Office, and the war criminals who take their orders from the aforementioned Oval Office war criminals, badly needed a change in said political landscape. It led to three weeks of full-bore terror-alerts, which were followed by another round of Pin 9/11 on Osama bin Laden, and -- as if by magic -- the war criminals (on behalf of whom both Osama bin Laden and Rashid Rauf appear to have been working) had a plan all ready to make sure that that exploitation of this frenzy for political purposes was complete.
And what was in the plan? It's easier to understand it if you can see it from a distance. And it helps to have a good guide with you. David Wallechinsky published one recently, at Huffington Post, and we'll share the final few paragraphs (along with a few slightly frozen remarks from yours truly):
Bye, Bye, Bill of Rights
What with Bush's low approval ratings, the president and his administration could not count on Congressional Republicans to pass this Act just because Bush asked them to. So they ratcheted up the terrorism fear level and, six weeks before an election, forced the Republicans to rush through the Act in order to look tough on terrorism just before Americans went to the polls.The timing was very kind to the British as well, with Tony Blair teetering on and on, and his would-be successors bringing the knives into the open for the first time in many years.
And how did the Bush administration raise the fear level? Take a look at the Gallup Poll results relating to President Bush's handling of terrorism. In July of this year, more Americans disapproved of his handling of terrorism than approved. Four weeks later, there was a reversal and a majority approved of Bush's anti-terror performance. What happened in between?...the arrest of more than twenty suspects in a terrorist plot in England that was aimed at destroying ten airplanes.An alleged terrorist plot in England that was supposedly aimed at destroying ten airplanes (although we now know that destroying even one airplane with a so-called "liquid bomb" is quite impossible)
This incident was a perfect launch for the Bush administration's pre-election Be Afraid of Terrorists campaign. Even Bush's overall approval rating went up, albeit by a modest 3%. The Bush team sure got lucky on that one. Or was there more to it? Maybe it's just my fertile imagination, but...The link above leads to a site set up expressly to mirror that NYT article.
I recommend reading the article about the plot by Don Van Natta, Elaine Sciolino and Stephen Grey that appeared in the New York Times on August 28 and that is available online through the TimesSelect service or on various unofficial sites.
The article makes clear that the plot was real. However, it was not imminent.It's hard for me to imagine in what sense the plot was "real", but in all other respects Mr. Wallechensky's approach seems quite sound.
British officials apologized, two weeks after the fact, for the exaggerated, panic-inducing statements they had made at the time of the arrests. Naturally, the dire warnings made headlines, while the retractions and apologies went largely unnoticed.Naturally!
The most intriguing revelation in this article is that British officials at Scotland Yard felt in complete control of the plotters,Scotland Yard may have been in complete control of the alleged plotters, in more ways than one!
who had not yet made flight reservations and two of whom had not yet even obtained passports. The British spies wanted to continue their surveillance of the plotters. Unfortunately, Scotland Yard was forced to act quickly because, thousands of miles away in Pakistan, the Pakistani government, without informing their British anti-terror colleagues, arrested a man with dual British/Pakistani citizenship who was, presumably, vital to the plot and whose arrest was immediately known to the plotters.Mr. Wallechensky here joins the text-message school of thought, as opposed to the tortured-confession school of thought favored by such seasoned observers as Nafeez Ahmed and Craig Murray.
From the Times: "Several senior British officials said the Pakistanis arrested Rashid Rauf without informing them first. The arrest surprised and frustrated investigators here who had wanted to monitor the suspects longer, primarily to gather more evidence and to determine whether they had identified all the people involved in the suspected plot." So if the hijackings were not imminent and the British wanted to wait before making any arrests, why did the government of Pakistan's dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, arrest Rashid Rauf when it did? So far, there has been no official explanation.Well, the official White House explanation for this series of events would not be difficult to predict:
"Terrah! Terrah! 9/11! Look Over There!!"
Other reports suggested that Pakistani intelligence picked up Rashid Rauf because the Americans had threatened to "render" him.
As I said, maybe I just have too fertile of an imagination, but one thing is certain: over a period of just seven weeks, that arrest triggered the British arrests that set off a fear-of-terrorism panic that gave President Bush extra ammunition to pressure Congressional Republicans, who then rushed through passage of an anti-terrorism billAhem. A so-called anti-terrorism bill. Please. There's no evidence -- not even a hint of a suggestion -- that any aspect of the Military Commissions Act will deter, prevent or otherwise mitigate terrorist attacks in the USA or indeed terrorism in the world generally. The Act in effect codifies some of the most grievous transgressions Bush and his junta have been claiming the right to commit -- and actually committing! -- since September of 2001. Or, as David Wallechensky describes it, it's the Act
that transferred new powers to the executive branch while, at the same time, immunizing President Bush and others from prosecution for their violations of the U.S. War Crimes Act.Indeed.
Some guys have all the luck.They sure do.
twelfth in a series