Mistakes were made when the so-called "Liquid Bombers" were arrested, and in two instances, British national dailies reported information which turned out to be false. These false reports led to claims of defamation which have cost the publishers hundreds of thousands to settle out of court.
In the first instance, it was reported that a British man had been arrested, held overnight, and released without charges. But later a consortium of newspapers published an apology saying he had never been arrested at all, and they paid £170,000 (about $330,000) to settle a claim filed on his behalf.
The second instance concerned a man about whom many different reports were published. Thus it was variously reported that he had been arrested or detained for questioning, in Britain or in Pakistan. But later a group of newspapers apologized, saying that he had not been arrested or detained or even questioned by any police, anywhere. Again a substantial settlement was paid, but in this instance the amount was not disclosed.
When these stories came out, we didn't know very much about the people involved in the settlements. But now, thanks to the trial of the British suspects, we know a bit more.
The £170,000 settlement was paid to Amjad Sarwar. His brother, Assad Sarwar [top photo], has been described as the gang's "quartermaster" and appears to have been the intended bomb-maker.
Assad Sarwar, according to the British prosecutors, bought the bomb-making chemicals and the glassware, was responsible for experimenting with hydrogen peroxide, and held the martyrdom videos made by the other alleged plotters, although he hadn't made one himself. According to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, prosecutors told the court that "Assad did not intend to die himself." He had other, bigger, plans.
The undisclosed settlement was paid to Abdul Rauf. His son, Rashid Rauf [second photo], who was arrested in Pakistan, was the alleged al Qaeda connection to the alleged plot. But Rashid Rauf has played no role in the trial, because he's missing. He supposedly slipped away from a police escort last December while on his way to a court appearance. And he hasn't been seen since, although five policemen were arrested after his "escape" and nine have been sacked in its wake.
Where would the "Liquid Bomb" plot be without Rashid Rauf and Assad Sarwar? There would be no al Qaeda connection, no bomb-making expert, no bomb-making chemicals, nothing! So these are bad guys of the highest order: indispensable bad guys who allegedly meant us great harm. Therefore it makes some sense to ask a few impertinent questions, such as:
Why have the British press paid their families hundreds of thousands of pounds? We're told it's because they printed some erroneous information; but is this true?
If it is, where did the erroneous information come from? Nobody's saying; so I'm asking: Where do you think it came from?
Let's put it this way: If you were a reporter and the police told you they had arrested Jim Bim, would you believe them? If anyone else told you Jim Bim had been arrested, would you believe them? Or would you check it out first? And with whom would you check it out? You see what I mean?
Or to come at it another way: A few days ago in Pakistan, a police superintendent told a press conference that police had raided a residence where Rashid Rauf supposedly lives, but the suspect had fled before they arrived. He says they'll try again.
But meanwhile a Pakistani journalist has reported that Rashid Rauf's name doesn't even appear on the government's list of terrorists they're looking for. So it might be a while before the police pay another visit to Rashid Rauf's place.
On the other hand, his father can probably afford to visit him -- wherever he is.
As for Amjad Sarwar and his brother Assad, we'll just have to see what happens in the trial, won't we? The jury are nearing the end of their two-week holiday, and perhaps a verdict is imminent ... or perhaps not ... as the Terror War gets weirder and weirder ... but I digress.
What has gone on here with this bad reporting and these out-of-court settlements?
You don't suppose the sponsors are paying off the families of the cutouts, do you?
If that were the case, it would make perfect sense that they'd be doing it with somebody else's money, wouldn't it?
It would also make perfect sense to see these little episodes as messages from the sponsors of the plot to the big British media. Under such a scenario, the message would say, "We can cost you hundreds of thousands of pounds anytime we like." And the effect would be somewhat chilling, would it not?
These are difficult questions, aren't they? Because who else but the police could plant erroneous information of this sort on the media? And who else would the media protect, having been deceived not once but twice?
If this is an unsettling line of thought, then perhaps we should consider the alternative.
What if the originally published reports were correct, and the apologies and "corrections" were bogus?
That doesn't help much, does it?
[UPDATE] Here's a bit more detail on the papers involved, prompted by a great question from James at Winter Patriot dot com. James asked whether the Telegraph was one of the papers involved, and the answer is:
The papers that paid Amjad Sarwar £170,000 were:
the News of the World,
the Daily Mail,
the Mail on Sunday,
the Evening Standard,
the Daily Express, and
the Daily Star.
And the papers that paid an undisclosed amount to Abdul Rauf were three national dailies:
the Daily Mail,
and three local papers (all owned by Trinity Mirror):
the Birmingham Mail,
the Birmingham Post, and
the Sunday Mercury.
Three papers were involved in both instances: the Guardian, the Times, and the Daily Mail. All three have been relatively critical of Bush and his war. The Telegraph has been embarrassingly supportive of Bush and his war ... and it wasn't involved either time.
What does this tell us?
thirty-fifth in a series