Here are some of the facts and figures and opinions about the Fertiliser Bomb Plot which have worried us over the last couple of days:
MI5's Links between the 7 July Bombers and the Fertiliser Plot web page says:
To give an idea of scale, the links between the fertiliser plot bombers and Khan and Tanweer represent less than 0.1% of all the links on record in relation to the fertiliser plot investigation.
The BBC and Sky came out with figures like "55 suspects" of whom 40 were considered to be "Desirable" intelligence targets, including Khan and Tanweer, and 15 were "Essential" high priority targets, of whom only 7 were charged, and of those two were acquitted of all charges in court.
So 2 out of the 80 suspects, who were caught on surveillance at least 6 times, represent only 0.1% of the Link Analysis software links ?
Even allowing for clustering of an uneven distribution of such Links amongst the people who were arrested and put on trial, this probably means that there have been tens of thousands ofinnocent people who have been swept up in this massive investigation, and who may well have had their privacy and security put at risk by this investigation.
N.B. According to the Intelligence and Security Committee Report into the London Terrorist Attacks on 7 July 2005 (.pdf) , apparently the security services no longer use these categories "Essential" and "Desirable", they have changed them to two secret categories ! How this makes us any safer, is a mystery..
23. In order to help prioritise investigative effort, assessments are made as to what category targets fall into. Prior to July these categories were ‘Essential’, ‘Desirable’ and ‘Other’:9
Essential – an individual who is likely to be directly involved in, or have knowledge of, plans for terrorist activity, or an individual who may have knowledge of terrorist activity;
Desirable – an individual who is associated with individuals who are directly involved in, or have knowledge of, plans for terrorist activity or who is raising money for terrorism or who is in jail and would be an essential target if at large; and
Other – an individual who may be associated with individuals who are directly involved in, or have knowledge of, plans for terrorist activity.
We note that the Security Service has also revised the titles of two of its target categories to ‘***’ (in place of ‘Essential’) and ‘***’ (in place of ‘Desirable’). ‘Other’ remains unchanged.
This Crown Prosecution Service press release has some more figures on what seems to be a trial which cost several million pounds per defendant:
To give an idea of the extent of the prosecution case, there were:
- 3,644 witness statements taken from 1,335 people
- 3,070 pages of witness statements served as evidence
- 105 prosecution witnesses
3 More facts and figures:
- Six expert witnesses dealt with explosives, fingerprints, speech acoustics and mobile phone analysis
- 11,785 pages of exhibits served as evidence
- Exhibits included transcripts of the defendants' interviews with the police, photographs, transcripts of audio probes, emails, surveillance footage
- 4,400 pages in the jury bundles
The cost of the trial itself seems to gave have been vaguely guessed at in the region of £50 million. i.e. several million pounds per conviction.
Sky news had an interesting couple of interviews with Mike Granatt , the former head of the Civil Service public relations teams, the Government Information and Communication Service (i.e. the official Government spin doctors, rather than the NuLabour politicised ones) and the first head of the Cabinet Office Civil Contingencies Directorate, and with former Army Colonel and Ministry of Defence intelligence analyst Crispin Black. Both of them are now private sector intelligence consultants and media commentators.
Mike Granatt claimed that this Operation Crevice involved 7,500 MI5 agents and Police officers etc., and he said that the Security Service people he had spoken to very recently, would have taken the same decisions again today, if they had been faced with the surveillance intelligence data. He also said that the reason that MI5 were stretched in 2004 was that it takes time to recruit and train surveillance operatives etc.
Crispin Black, with more experience of intelligence analysis rather than spin, asked the pertinent questions about why the West Midlands Police were not informed of the alleged fraudsters, even if MI5 had assigned Khan and Tanweer a low priority in their terrorism investigation at that time.
The subsequent BBC revelations about the 8 page transcripts describing conversations about terrorist or jihadi activities, which only mention fundraising via fraud right at the end, casts further doubts on this MI5 decision.
Crsipin Black also made the point that there were hundreds of trained and security cleared, former British Army 14th Intelligence Company / The Detachment and former Royal Ulster Constabulary staff, who now work in the private sector e.g. for Private Military Contractors in Iraq, who could have been sub-contracted immediately to help out with such large surveillance operations.
All this effort and expense was inflicted on the public purse, by a plot which involved just over £100 worth of ammonium nitrate fertiliser (not yet actually made into a homemade explosive device) .
We are still puzzled, how the politics student Nabeell Hussain, who paid £207 per month on his credit card, in order to rent the 100 square metres of storage space from November 2003 until the arrests in March 2004, claiming that he thought that it was building sand which was being stored,was found not guilty by the jury. Does it really seem plausible that he would pay £800 to store a bag of sand for 4 months ?