Monday, August 28, 2006

Brother of So-Called 'Ringleader' Released Without Charges in Alleged British Bombing Plot

One Other Suspect Charged; One Released; Charity Funds Frozen; more...

The Media 'Lid' Seems To Be 'On' -- But It Can't Contain That Old Familiar 'Fish Market' Aroma!

British authorities investigating the alleged "liquid bombing plot" released two more (suddenly former) suspects last Thursday, charged one person, bringing the total now charged to 12, and extended the custody limit for the remaining suspects who are still being held without charges.

One of the two people released Thursday (August 24) had previously been described as "a potentially important figure" in the alleged plot, since his brother is (or was) supposedly the ringleader.

Allo, London? We're getting mixed messages here!

But then again ... what else is new?

As you remember -- unless you don't -- the alleged plot was reportedly broken up two and a half weeks ago (August 9/10), when 24 people were arrested in England and 15 or more were arrested in Pakistan. At the time, the timing seemed more than a little bit odd, since news of the arrests was accompanied -- one might almost say "preceded" -- by a great thunderous roar from the Republican Spin-And-Noise Machine, all of them yelling "Terrah Terrah Terrah" simultaneously, except for those who were shouting "al-Q'aeda! al-Q'aeda!! al-Q'aeda!!!". Your humble and slightly frozen reporter documented the noise and the smell of that day (August 10) in a subtly-titled post called "An Avalanche of Bullshit".

It soon became obvious that the timing seemed odd for a very good reason: high-level Americans, allegedly having learned of an ongoing British-Pakistani investigation, and badly needing to change the flow of "news" on the "home front", apparently coerced Pakistani authorities to arrest Rashid Rauf, Business Man, Entreprenuer, Author and Research Analyst, the alleged ringleader of the alleged plot -- and its alleged al-Q'aeda connection. Rauf, according to authorities, sent a message saying he'd been captured, and this message was intercepted, which was why the British had made the arrests in haste, earlier than they would have preferred. In other words, this so-called "terror event", if it was an event at all, was timed and manipulated for partisan political advantage, as readers of (August 15th's) "Spin? Counter-Spin!" will remember -- unless they don't.

The following day, the New York Times revealed -- apparently accidentally -- that none of the suspects being held in Britain -- 23 at that point -- had yet been charged with a crime. Your humble blogger picked up on this aspect of the NYT's otherwise innocuous story, and blogged about it (August 16) in "NYT Beats The Terror Drums Again, But Exposes A Vital Fact!"

By the next day, the NYT had changed its story! But it was too late to fool the green-and-yellow regulars, since your cold correspondent had already quoted the vital sentence. Fortunately he had also saved a copy of the original text -- which was true, by the way; the first charges in this case were handed down five days later.

But before the charges were announced, we saw a very weird media-storm in Britain. On Thursday (August 17), word of the alleged plot was everywhere; there were hints of "al-Q'aeda connections", faint whispers about the so-called plotters' alleged intentions to "hatch" the "plot" on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and "news" of the "discovery" of a suitcase containing a "bomb-making kit" (which was found in the woods, of course!). These stories were flying around all day. But on Friday (August 18), nothing of the sort could be seen.

Your humble blogger noticed the difference between the tone of the British and American coverage (especially the American coverage!) and the attitude of the rest of the world, which seemed quite a bit more skeptical, and wrote about it in Friday's piece: "British News Full Of Terror Revelations; World Opinion Appears Skeptical".

The first charges were announced last Monday (August 21), when eight people were charged with conspiracy to murder and another three were charged with less serious offenses. When the charges were made public, the police announced that they had collected a wide variety of so-called "evidence", including "bomb-making materials", one of which they mentioned by name: hydrogen peroxide.

Why hydrogen peroxide? For the peroxide, of course! It's a key ingredient (the "P") in TATP, otherwise known as "tri-acetone tri-peroxide", a.k.a. "acetone peroxide", a.k.a. "Mother of Satan", a.k.a. The Suicide Bombers' Weapon of Choice.

What's so special about acetone peroxide? Two qualities in particular:

  • [1] it can be made from materials that are (supposedly) fairly inexpensive and readily available, and

  • [2] it's a vicious explosive, and an unusual one: it's endothermic (all blast, no heat) and it has an explosive velocity of 5300 meters per second (nearly twelve thousand miles per hour).

  • Is that enough to blow a hole in an airplane fuselage? I should say so, provided you've got enough of it. But how much would you need? And how much could you make? And how long would it take? So many questions!

    If you were a terrorist, or a terrorist wannabe, and somebody told you that you could go into the bathroom of an airplane, mix some common household liquids together, and step back out into the passenger compartment armed with a handful of white crystals that could blow the plane out of the sky, would you be interested?

    If you said "Yes", you may now be in a most unfortunate bind. Because it turns out that making a bomb out of acetone and hydrogen peroxide is a much more difficult, hazardous and time-consuming feat than anything one could possibly do on an airplane. Last Wednesday's (August 23) piece, "To Mix The Impossible Bomb", describes in some detail just how impossible it would be to make such a bomb on a plane, and comments on illustrates the barrage of apparently meaningless (or time-managed) stories that seemed to be squeezing this particularly lurid tale out of the major British media schedule.

    Why all the pressure? Could it be because this story is falling apart?

    Maybe. But it could also be that this story is just starting to get interesting!

    Did you ever stop and think about that one?

    I did ... and the idea stuck!

    We now know beyond any doubt that something very fishy has happened here. And it seems to me we have two choices; to wit:

  • [a] we can say "Well, that was fishy. But I didn't believe the government before now, so what else is new?" and take a deep breath and "get over it" and "move on"
  • ... or ...
  • [b] we can try to find out what happened -- and why it smelled so much like rotting seafood -- and what there is to learn from all the fish we've been smelling for the last few weeks.

  • I like [b], and I don't think it's too hard to follow your nose in an atmosphere such as this.

    So ... I've been sniffing into the strange saga of Rashid Rauf, whose reported capture by Pakistani police allegedly sparked the series of arrests that took place in England on August 9/10.

    We've been told that Rashid Rauf was the main suspect, the ringleader, the mastermind, a central figure, or maybe just a transmitter of messages; in any event there's hardly ever been any room for doubt that Rashid Rauf allegedly played a key role in the alleged plot, if in fact there was a plot.

    Among the various suspects, Rashid Rauf has attracted the bulk of the interest, possibly because his brother (Tayib Rauf) and his father (Abdul Rauf) have both been arrested (and released) during this investigation; or maybe because he is connected to the banned militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), unless of course he isn't!

    Or perhaps it was his ties to al-Q'aeda; or possibly his al-Q'aeda connections; or maybe it was his suspected links to al-Q'aeda militants that got everybody so interested. Who can say?

    Rashid Rauf's father, Abdul Rauf, was either arrested or simply detained for questioning in Pakistan during all this -- and released without charge very soon thereafter. They could have kept him a lot longer had they wanted to. But they let him go free.

    This despite his known connection to a Muslim charity -- Crescent Relief -- that was thought to be linked to Pakistan-based militant groups -- and whose funds have just been frozen. Hmmmm.

    We are told that Abdul Rauf co-founded the charity in 2000 but stepped down from his role in 2003. Personally, I would find this story much more convincing if I had seen a claim that Abdul Rauf had severed all his ties with Crescent Relief. But I have not heard so much as a whisper to that effect.

    As you will remember -- if you can remember all the way back to the beginning of this post -- Rashid Rauf's brother, Tayib Rauf, was one of the two suspects arrested in the initial raids (August 9/10) and released without charge on Thursday (August 24). By British law, terror suspects can be held without charge for 28 days. Tayib Rauf was held for only two weeks. They could have kept him two weeks longer, had they wanted to. Hmmmm.

    Meanwhile, Rashid Rauf is still being held in Pakistan, and the British are anxious to get their hands on him. Is Pakistan likely to cooperate? Up until a few days ago, I would have said: "Not a chance!"

    Why? Primarily because of this article:

    [Daily Mail, August 19, 2006]
    Pakistanis find no evidence against ‘terror mastermind’
    The Briton alleged to be the ‘mastermind’ behind the airline terror plot could be innocent of any significant involvement, sources close to the investigation claim.

    Rashid Rauf, whose detention in Pakistan was the trigger for the arrest of 23 suspects in Britain, has been accused of taking orders from Al Qaeda’s ‘No3’ in Afghanistan and sending money back to the UK to allow the alleged bombers to buy plane tickets.

    But after two weeks of interrogation, an inch-by-inch search of his house and analysis of his home computer, officials are now saying that his extradition is ‘a way down the track’ if it happens at all.
    It's not normally possible to extradite a person unless the country currently holding that person is amenable to the idea. And usually they want to see evidence.
    Rauf’s arrest followed a protracted surveillance operation on him and his family which, The Mail on Sunday has established, dates back to the 7/7 bomb attacks on London.

    The possible link between 7/7 and the alleged plot emerged when this newspaper spoke to Rauf’s uncle, Miam Mumtaz, in Kashmir.

    Mumtaz was approached by two members of ISI, the feared Pakistani security service, as he nervously denied any knowledge of his nephew’s alleged activities.
    Well, of course. And what about the ISI men? Did they deny everything, too?
    One ISI man said it had been monitoring all movement by Mumtaz and the rest of Rauf’s relatives since the 7/7 attacks.
    I'll bet they have! Maybe even longer, perhaps?
    It is the first official acknowledgement of any suspected link between the London bombings and the plot to blow up planes flying from Britain to America.
    So ... it's no wonder the aroma seems familiar!!
    It comes amid wider suspicions that the plot may not have been as serious, or as far advanced, as the authorities initially claimed.

    That it was not as far advanced?

    As authorities initially claimed?

    Oh, puhh-leeeeze!


    They didn't all have passports yet. They didn't even have plane tickets. And they hadn't made any bombs.

    And yet we saw this exchange on CNN [emphasis added]:
    BLITZER: How many planes, specifically, were targeted?

    CHERTOFF: You know, I don't know that I can give you a definitive answer to that. I think we're still investigating. We've uncovered a lot of material. The British have, and so it may take awhile before we get a precise picture. It's clear that the plan was multiple planes at about the same time.

    Now, whether the exact number had been decided upon or whether that was going to depend upon some factors has not yet resolved. We don't know. But it was, under any circumstances, an attack which had the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of people.
    This is our chief of homeland insecurity talking. Look at all the things he says he doesn't know. Now look at what he doesn't know, but thinks he does know. How many people would have to fit on an airplane before you could kill "hundreds of thousands" of them by knocking 10 or 12 planes into the ocean? Tens of thousands, right? And it's an easy calculation, too.

    But this Chertoff character, who allegedly wields all sorts of power, who supposedly is doing everything possible to keep us all safe, clearly has no idea what he's talking about. Or else he's a stone-cold liar.

    Either way, how could we not have suspicions?

    Quoting the August 19th Daily Mail again:
    Analysts suspect Pakistani authorities exaggerated Rauf’s role to appear ‘tough on terrorism’ and impress Britain and America.
    Well, that's what "they" always do, don't they?

    And "we" do it too, no? But still ...
    A spokesman for Pakistan’s Interior Ministry last night admitted that ‘extradition at this time is not under consideration’.
    ... which is why I would have said "The Brits won't be seeing this Rauf character in person anytime soon!"

    A couple of days ago.

    But maybe I would have been wrong.

    Here's the latest from the Times of India [emphasis added]:

    [August 26, 2006]
    Pakistan set to extradite Rauf to UK
    ISLAMABAD: Top security officials of Britain and Pakistan are negotiating the extradition of Rashid Rauf, the key suspect in the plot to blow up US-bound passenger aircraft from London, although there is no extradition treaty in place between the two countries.

    Britain is waiting expiry of the physical remand of Rauf, whose arrest was registered in Airport police station for holding tampered travelling documents, The Nation said.
    Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam confirmed the possibility of shifting Rauf to Britain where he is required in the extensive probe into the London terror plot.
    A tip-off from Rauf through a phone call is believed to have been the green signal for the plot that was foiled by the timely arrests in Pakistan and in London suburbs.

    "Timely" arrests indeed.

    And what did "the green signal" say?

    Here's my guess:
    Dudes And Dudettes Of The Crescent: Let's Roll!!!!

    Start applying for your passports now, but don't all go in together.

    Don't buy any airline tickets until you all have your passports. Doh!

    Remember what I told you about making a bomb on a plane: It's really, really easy!

    And above all, don't believe the crazy French website that says
    "Apr├Ęs trois jours (ou plus), il est temps de filtrer les cristaux!"
    It doesn't really mean:
    "After three days (or more), it is time to filter the crystals!"
    Honest, it doesn't! Would I lie to you?

    Ok, Good. Praise the Will of Allah!!

    And repeat after me:
    Rashid Couldn't Possibly Be An Agent Provocateur!

    Rashid Couldn't Possibly Be An Agent Provocateur!

    Rashid Couldn't Possibly Be An Agent Provocateur!
    Agent Provocateur:
    a secret agent who incites suspected persons to commit illegal acts

    sixth in a series