August 11, 2006


Months of monitoring exposed details of conspiracy: Security operation stepped up after 'go' order from Pakistan intercepted (Richard Norton-Taylor, Sandra Laville and Vikram Dodd, August 11, 2006, The Guardian)

For well over a year, MI5 had been watching a group of young British Muslims after a tip-off from an informant.

Through an unprecedented surveillance operation involving bugging and phone tapping, they learned that in mundane residential streets a plot was being hatched which a senior security source described yesterday as "bigger than 9/11". [...]

In December 2005 the police joined the MI5 operation, with officers and agents monitoring what the alleged plotters read on the internet, where they spent their money, where they took their dry cleaning, which shops they used, and the meetings they attended as the authorities attempted to piece together what Peter Clarke, the head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch, described as the "aspirations of a large group".

As well intrusive surveillance, their spending habits and bank accounts were tracked by a special anti-terrorism unit which can monitor flows of money to provide evidence of association. [...]

It became clear last night that the trigger for the sudden police sweep on houses in Birmingham, High Wycombe and east London, and the arrest of 24 terror suspects, came from Pakistan.

The arrests in Britain followed the detention of terrorist suspects in Pakistan, it is believed, within the past fortnight. According to some government sources, after the arrests a message was sent to the suspected terror cells in Britain telling them: "Do your attacks now." In effect, it was a "go" order to the British bombers.

According to these sources, the message was intercepted and decoded by either British or US intelligence in the past 72 hours, spurring counterterrorism officials to intensify the investigation against the alleged plotters.

More (via Tom Corcoran)
'Mass Murder' Foiled: A terror plot is exposed by the policies many American liberals oppose. (Opinion Journal, August 11, 2006)

"This wasn't supposed to happen today," a U.S. official told the Washington Post of the arrests and terror alert. "It was supposed to happen several days from now. We hear the British lost track of one or two guys. They had to move." Meanwhile, British antiterrorism chief Peter Clarke said at a news conference that the plot was foiled because "a large number of people" had been under surveillance, with police monitoring "spending, travel and communications."

Let's emphasize that again: The plot was foiled because a large number of people were under surveillance concerning their spending, travel and communications. Which leads us to wonder if Scotland Yard would have succeeded if the ACLU or the New York Times had first learned the details of such surveillance programs.

And almost on political cue yesterday, Members of the Congressional Democratic leadership were using the occasion to suggest that the U.S. is actually more vulnerable today despite this antiterror success.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2006 8:06 AM

The Times is deperately trying to change the subject in this morning's editorial, basically attacking the administration for using this for political gain while trying to camoflague the fact their own efforts sought to sabotage the system that exposed the plot.

The tome sounds like a 16-year-old Gail Collins throwing a diva fit because that mean old bully George Bush and his sidekick Joe Lieberman are spoiling Ned Lamont's coming out party (and if Bush really was playing politics with this whole thing, after being briefed by Tony Blair on Sunday, wouldn't it have made sense to take the terror suspects down on Monday, instead of waiting for another three days, in order to give Lieberman the boost he would have needed to win the primary?).

Posted by: John at August 11, 2006 10:14 AM

Of course, the only issue here that has relevance to the recent debates in America is whether or not the surveillance was done legally, with a warrant.

Posted by: Tano at August 11, 2006 12:51 PM

Rather, the question is whether it was done constitutionally.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2006 12:56 PM

The left is all for surveillance. Just not the illegal kind that allows presidents to spy on political enemies.

Glad I could clear that up for you. If you have any more questions, just ask an adult, mm'k?

Posted by: jpe at August 11, 2006 2:01 PM

It can hardly be illegal for the government to spy on our enemies.

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2006 2:09 PM

It can hardly be illegal for the government to spy on our enemies.

We require things like warrants to ensure that the government spies only on enemies, and not political opponents etal. Our system, if you will, is premised on deep distrust of the power of the state.

Posted by: jpe at August 11, 2006 4:38 PM


No, we don't. How many warrants issued to the Roosevelt administration to spy on the Nazis? For that matter, how many Nazi prisoners got trials during the war?

Posted by: oj at August 11, 2006 5:18 PM