Wednesday, July 21, 2010

US news blackout on Iraq testimony?

The former director general of Britain's domestic intelligence agency said Tuesday that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had greatly increased the terrorist threat to Britain and that intelligence available before the Iraq war had not been sufficient to justify the invasion of that country.
"Our involvement in Iraq, for want of a better word, radicalized a whole generation of young people -- not a whole generation, a few among a generation -- who saw our involvement in Iraq, on top of our involvement in Afghanistan, as being an attack on Islam," said the former official, Baroness Manningham-Buller.

The above is from Sarah Lyall's "Briton Who Led MI5 Disputes Reasons to Invade Iraq" which went up at 9:00 p.m. EST at the New York Times website last night and appears in this morning paper. I have a few complaints (re: Times' British staff) that I'll table for now and just note that the New York Times covered yesterday's very important story. Where was everyone else?

As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Eliza Manningham-Buller, former MI5 Director General (2002 - 2007) gave testimony to the Iraq Inquiry which was very important and, around the world, outlets treated it as such. Except in the US. So good for the New York Times for covering the story and I'll table other objections for another time. Crispin Black (Mirror) notes, "She and her service, charged with protecting us all at home, clearly believed at the time that a military expedition to Iraq under American leadership would lead directly to an increase in the terrorist threat particularly from some of our own citizens. Her advice - the key advice, you would think, if the Iraq War's ultimate purpose was designed to make the UK safer - was ignored."

Around the world (including in Iraq), news outlets paid attention . . . except in the US. (As noted yesterday, the wire services covered it.) And the US media very loudly advanced the illegal war, took part in the roll-out, refused to practice journalism. Where are their major reports?

As noted in yesterday's snapshot, the [PDF format warning] letter Eliza Manningham-Buller sent to John Gieve (Home Office) was declassified [though some parts remain redacted]. Gieve was the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office at that time and the position provided oversight to MI5 (which is Military Intelligence, Section 5).

We have been giving some thought to the possible terrorist consequences should the US, possibly with UK support, seek to topple Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. I thought that you might find it helpful to see our current assessment, together with an outline of our own preparations.
2. Since the end of the Gulf War Iraq has been implicated in a small number of murders of Iraqi oppositionists in the Middle East but only one terrorist plan directed against a Western target -- a planned car bomb attack on ex-President Bush in Kuwait in 1993. There is no credible intelligence that demonstrates that Iraq was implicated in planning the 11 September attacks.
3. We judge that the current period of heightened tension between Iraq and the US is unlikely to prompt Saddam to order terrorist strikes against Coalition interests. Even limited military action (for example, cruise missile attacks such as the those in response to the attempted murder of ex-President Bush) would be unlikely to prompt such a response. We assess that Saddam is only likely to order terrorist attacks if he perceives that the survival of his regime is threatened.
In the UK
4. If Saddam were to initiate a terrorist campaign, we assess that Iraqi capability to mount attacks in the UK is currently limited. We are aware of no Iraqi intelligence (DGI) officers based in the UK. There are up to DGI agents here who report on anti-regime activities. But most of these agents lack the inclination or capability to mount terrorist attacks. So if the DGI wished to mount attacks in the UK it would need to import teams from overseas. It is possible that some Palestinian groups based outside the UK might be willing to mount attacks in support of Iraq,
5. Nonetheless, in case Iraq should try to co-ordinate action by existing UK-based agents, or to import its own or a surrogate terrorist capability, we will be taking a number of steps over the coming months, including:
reviewing our knowledge of past and present DGI visiting case officers to identify and disrupt any increase in DGI activity;
putting in place arrangements to deal with (and capitalise on) any increase in defectors, volunteers or callers to the Service's public telephone number who might have relevant information. Experience during the Gulf War leads us to expect an increase in such contact with the public in the event of conflict;
with the police, maintaining coverage of the Palestinian community, some of whom, as during the Gulf War, may react adversely to any threat to Iraq.
6. You may recall that, at the time of the Gulf War, a number of suspected Iraqi sympathisers were detained pending deportation on grounds of national security. These included members of Iraqi support organisations, as well as individuals believed to be associated with Palestinian terrorist groups, such as the Abu Nidhal Organisation. We currently assess that the number of individuals in the UK who potentially pose sufficent threat to be subject to deportation or detnetion is small. We are currently reviewing the cases of those who could pose a threat to establish whether there might be grounds for action.
7. We believe that Middle Eastern countries would be the most likely location should Saddam order terrorist attacks on Western interests. Other locations, for instance SE Asia featured in attempted DGI co-ordinated attacks during the Gulf War and are thus also a possibility. We will, of course, continue to liaise closely with FCO colleagues to ensure they are in a position to brief missions if the situation develops.
Chemical or biological (CB) threat
8. There were media stories during the Gulf War suggesting that Iraq planned to mount CB terrorist attacks in Western countries, and a 1998 scare (arising from a tale put about by Iraqi emigres) that Saddam planned to send anthrax abroad in scent bottles. Given Iraq's documented CB capabilities, we can anticipate similar stories again.
9. Most Iraqi CB terrorist attacks have been assassination attempts against individuals, often emigres.
Iraq used chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war and also against civilian Kurds in 1988, but there is no intelligence that Iraq has hitherto planned or sought mass-casualty CB terrorist attacks. As with conventional terrorism, we assess that Saddam would only use CB against Western targets if he felt the survival of his regime was in doubt. In these circumstances, his preferred option would be to use conventional military delivery systems against targets in the region, rather than terrorism.
10. There have for some years been reports of contact between the Iraqi regime and Al Qa'ida about CB. But we have yet to see convincing intelligence that useful co-operation developed, or that Iraq provided genuine CB materials.
11. I am copying this letter to Stephen Wright, John Scarlett, Julian Miller and Tom McKane.
E L Manningham-Buller
Deputy Director General

That was March 22, 2002 that Manningham-Buller composed and sent the above. How did an illegal war start in March 2003?

David Hughes (Telegraph of London) asks, "Why did Tony Blair ignore MI5's advice?" and concludes: "It's hard to conceive of a more comprehensive foreign policy disaster yet the man responsible is now the Middle East peace envoy. It's beyond parody." Andy McSmith (Independent of London) notes various reactions to the testimony:

But the evidence presented by Lady Manningham-Buller does not just call Mr Blair's credibility into question, it also throws down a challenge to the coalition Government, warned Lord Carlile of Berriew, a Liberal Democrat peer who has acted since 2005 as the independent reviewer of anti-terror laws. He told The Independent: "It's certainly the case that the threat and number of home-grown terrorists – and 'not home-grown' terrorists coming into the UK – increased after the Iraq war.
"This makes life difficult both for the old government, who have criticisms to answer, and for the current Government. It makes their review of current terrorism law a delicate exercise because there is no evidence of any significant reduction in the threat. We are where we were."
Sir Menzies Campbell, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, added: "I should be astonished if Mr Blair were to return to give further evidence, but questions will remain as to what it was which prompted him to disregard the reservations of officials and their advice. If only Britain had been as well served by its politicians as it was by Eliza Manningham-Buller then we would never have got ourselves into the illegal mess of Iraq."
Lord West, who was counter-terrorism minister in the Home Office under Gordon Brown, told the BBC that he had "no doubt" that the Iraq war increased the threat of terrorism in the UK, which hit the government like a "bow wave" in 2003.
Ken Livingstone, who was Mayor of London at the time of the 7 July bombings, said: "Eliza Manningham-Buller's evidence is a damning indictment of a foreign policy that not only significantly enhanced the risk of terrorist attacks in London but gave al-Qa'ida the opening to operate in Iraq too."

Meanwhile Xu Yanyan, Jamal Ahmed and Mu Xuequan(Xinhua) report, "Recent series of attacks by insurgents have left hundreds of people dead and wounded in Iraq. Local analysts and some Iraqis believe the bloodshed was closely related to the ongoing U.S. troops pullout plan."

Turning to the Congress, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee notes the extension of unemployment benefits via several videos -- which you can find at the DPC video page. We'll note Senator Jack Reed.

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