Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The benefit of the doubt

Aug.11, 2006
The benefit of the doubt

IS THERE more than meets the eye in Thursday's uproar over a reported plot to blow up in mid-air some 10 passenger airplanes in several phases?
On the surface, it seems like a major success for British and allied security agencies to have bust the plot and arrested 24 people, with 19 of them being pinned down as definite suspects. Raids were conducted, but we don't know as yet whether any liquid explosives or any other evidence of what was reported as a plot of mass murder were seized from the suspects. Nor was any material evidence recovered from the massive search mounted at British airports, mainly Heathrow.
The alleged plotters are said to have been inspired by Al Qaeda but there has not been any revelation of any direct link between them and the group. If such a link was found and reported, then it is only natural for the public to expect the security forces to be specific at some point in time as the saga of conspiracy unfolds.
A sifting through the various contentions and claims with a view to getting to the bottom of the affair would reach the point where it would appear that British security agents had come across a few British Muslims talking heatedly about what they saw as injustice being perpetrated against fellow Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere and suggesting how to retaliate in their own way.
They were immediately branded as terror suspects and kept under surveillance. Their movements were monitored, and their telephones were tapped. Anyone who happened to come into contact with them were also categorised with them and turned into suspects.
The surveillance continued, apparently with the objective of arresting the suspsects when the security agencies felt it was the right time and as many people as possible could be caught in the net.
And this happened on Thursday, we presume.
What was so special about Thursday? For one thing, no suspect or incriminating material was reportedly found during the unprecedented security alert that went into effect at British and other airports on Thursday. So why was Thursday picked for the operation?
Some security experts said on television channels that the suspects had not reached anywhere near where they were ready to carry out their alleged "mass murder plot." Why then the high-profile, no-pulls-punched "critical" alert that was announced on Thursday?
The ambiguity that surrounds the affair — the only certainty that we know of is the arrest of the suspects and raids conducted in various pars of England — is so typical of the anti-terror drive in the UK following the enactment of a tough anti-terrorism law that denies the right of people to know.
The predictable course of events is simple: At some point, say a few weeks down the line, all or some of the suspects would be produced in a court for a closed-door hearing where the defence lawyers would have no right to have access to the evidence against their clients. Everything related to the actual details of the trial would be kept under wraps, and the court would jail them for whatever period it finds fit.
And all that the public would know is that the suspects plotted mass murder and the authorities, working to ensure public safety and prevent terror, busted them and jailed them so that they would not pose further threats. Details of what they plotted and how they planned to carry out the plot would be "classified" and kept "top secret." The public would be told it is for own good that they are not being told how a large number of people were spared certain death.
That could be the end of the story, except of course that it does not satisfy some people who have valid questions. But then they do not have a recourse. After all, that is why the British government enacted the tough anti-terrorism law which dictates that it is for the government to decide what the public should know even it is half-truth.
The timing of the "mass-murder plot" should also be seen against what is going on in Lebanon and the need for Israel and is backers to convince the world community of the need to adopt a UN Security Council resolution the way they have drafted it. The implications are many.
However, let us give the concerned governments and intelligence agencies the benefit of the doubt but with a condition: They better come up with a more convincing tale where every dot is connected.