In addition to the charges and upcoming trial, airport security was tightened dramatically after the arrests were made, and only relaxed much later, and then not entirely. So if you were thinking of taking a bottle of drinking water with you on your next flight, you can forget it. Why? Because of the Liquid Bombers!
According to the story floated at the time, the British Muslim wannabe-terrorists were plotting to take down multiple transcontinental airliners, more or less simultaneously, killing "hundreds of thousands of people" according to a breathless Michael Chertoff.
Their plot -- according to the story -- was a devious one: they were planning to circumvent airport security -- especially the bomb-sniffers -- by making their bombs on the planes, from common household liquids that they would bring onto the planes in their carry-on luggage.
And they were inspired, or directed, or at the very least al-Qaeda connected, by Rashid Rauf, a British-born Muslim real-terrorist who had fled to Pakistan following the murder of his uncle and who had been allied with a shifty sequence of murky characters ever since. Or so the story goes.
But then, like the trail in Robert Frost's famous poem, the paths begin to diverge.
Back in August of 2006, there were conflicting stories about Rashid Rauf's exact connection to the plot; there were conflicting stories about where, and when he had been arrested -- and why; and there were conflicting stories about how his arrest had triggered the arrests in England.
Some sources said Rashid Rauf was the mastermind of the plot, some said he was the mastermind's right-hand man, and some said he was merely the messenger. But nearly everybody said he was the al-Q'aeda connection -- everybody except the Pakistanis, who kept calling him a "key figure" in the investigation.
Some sources said the British had the whole crew under surveillance for months and were being patient since there was no danger and not enough incriminating evidence either, but the Americans were anxious to score some political points and as soon as they found out the British were following some wannabe-terrorists, they threatened to go into Pakistan and arrest the "mastermind" themselves. This threat, according to these sources, forced the Pakistani security services to arrest Rashid Rauf, to keep him out of the hands of the Americans if nothing else. But other sources hinted that all this was just a cover story put out by the British, who were the ones actually seeking to score political points, and doing so at the expense of the Americans.
Some sources said Rashid Rauf (or a friend to whom he sent some sort of a signal, or who had seen him being arrested) sent a text message to the UK Liquid Bombers, saying to go ahead with the plot. This message might have made sense if they all had airline tickets; or if they all had passports; or if they had all applied for passports -- which they hadn't. But all such details are conveniently left out of this version of the tale, in which the heroic British authorities promptly arrested all those who had received the text messages. Other sources say Rashid Rauf was arrested several days before the others and was tortured into revealing their names, after which they were summarily arrested.
British newspapers reported on a search of the woods near where the suspects lived, which cost about 30M pounds or roughly $60M before it was called off after four months. Ironically, at the same time as the search was stopped, all terror-related charges against Rashid Rauf were dropped!
And rightly so, from the chemical point of view, because although one can make a number of different explosives from freely available liquids, it is not possible -- for many reasons -- to make any of them on an airplane, unless you have unlimited time, space, ventilation, and refrigeration, to name just a few of the requirements.
The charges against Rashid Rauf were dropped last December and since then, the Liquid Bombers have dropped out of media sight, even though the charges were reinstated shortly thereafter.
It's been a long time since Rashid Rauf or any of his alleged accomplices were mentioned in any Western media, but the travel restrictions are still in place, and Rashid Rauf is still being held without any indication that a trial may be imminent, and all this rigmarole, unless I'm reading this story way wrong, plays directly into the hands of the British.
The British won't sign an extradition treaty with Pakistan because, as they explain it, Pakistan has the death penalty. But without an extradition treaty, the British have very little chance to get their hands on Rashid Rauf, for a trial. This they apparently would love to do. But they are bound to honor Pakistan's legal claim against the suspect, so the Brits have said they would wait for charges against Rashid Rauf to be settled in Pakistan before they press for his extradition to the UK, where he is wanted not only in connection with the Liquid Bomb plot but also because of his uncle's murder. That's the story; but the legal case against Rashid Rauf appears to be proceeding (if that's the right word) as slowly as possible; and this makes Britain wait, and it raises the possibility that the others will be tried without the testimony of Rashid Rauf, and it remains my hypothesis that this suits the British just fine!
Because the case is not what it is cracked up to be, in any respect. The alleged plotters couldn't possibly have killed hundreds of thousands of people. They probably couldn't have killed any people. They surely couldn't have brought down any airplanes. There's nothing to be afraid of; no reason at all why you shouldn't be able to bring a bottle of drinking water on your next flight. And if all this ever came out at a trial -- especially a trial involving Rashid Rauf, the alleged mastermind and al-Q'aeda connection -- a public airing of the facts could demolish the whole war on terror, not to mention the CIA, ISI and MI6.
In short, there's more coverup here than plot, and this short article from Khalid Iqbal of Pakistan's The News is very good news for the coverup:
Court rejects Rashid Rauf’s bail plea
Rawalpindi: The Special Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC) here on Wednesday rejected bail application of accused Rashid Rauf allegedly involved in a plane hijacking case in 2006.Of note: the "explosive material" recovered from his possession was hydrogen peroxide, one of the common liquids that can be used to make explosives.
The hearing in his bail application was completed two weeks back. The court announced its judgment on Wednesday and rejected bail application of the accused.
Rashid Rauf has allegedly been involved in a plane hijacking case registered with the Airport Police Station last year. He was arrested from Bahawalpur and explosive material and weapons were recovered from his possession. According to police, the accused wanted to hijack a plane, which was going to New York from Britain.
Shaukat Aziz Saddique, counsel of Rashid Rauf, told ‘The News’ that he would move the bail application of his client in the Lahore High Court, Rawalpindi Bench.
This is the first report, to my knowledge, that mentions weapons being seized from Rashid Rauf. But that's no surprise as the story keeps changing all the time anyway.
This is also the first report, to my knowledge, in which the accused wanted to hijack a plane going from New York to Britain. In previous reports, he wanted to facilitate others who were trying to hijack a dozen planes going from Britain to the United States. But whatever...
Even if it were possible -- which it is not -- to make enough explosives to damage an airliner, from hydrogen peroxide and other common liquids, in a short time, without any other technical requirements -- even if all that were possible, nobody has ever explained how a man in Pakistan -- hydrogen peroxide or no! -- was going to blow up a plane flying between Britain and the US.
It's one of the great mysteries of our century, one that nobody even wants to think about anymore. And it looks like it's gonna stay this way for a long time. His attorney is going to ask for bail in another court, in another city. And the judge will most likely say "No". And months will have elapsed. And nobody else will even breathe a word about it.
But, as the man says, stay tuned, for I will surely keep you posted.
twentieth in a series