London: British Intelligence Failure
MILITARY Intelligence Branch 6 and Military Intelligence Branch 5 neither forsaw nor issued the vaguest warning of the multiple bombings, planned and organized by dozens of persons. This is not a hazarded guess. Despite the G-8 Summit in Gleneagles, the threat level in London was lowered one month ago from Level 3 to Level 4. This was a disastrous failure by the British intelligence. Perhaps even worse that the series of errors of which the CIA and the FBI were accused before September 11th and no less grievous than the blunders by the Spanish after March 11th because MI6, MI5 and Scotland Yard knew that they should have been on their toes. Evidently, they had their “sensors” in the wrong location.
In the way in which British counterintelligence was nobbled, one can glipse the grammatical mistakes--the “technical” political culture—of the War on Terror conceptualized by Washington at the end of 2001. Even more egregiously, over the last 20 months the United Kingdom had revamped its strategy to defend itself against the concrete probability of suffering an “inevitable” attack.
George W. Bush was in London in November 2003, when, for the first time, British banks and diplomatic installations were targeted in Istanbul. London took the investigations very seriously. Scotland Yard –- which had never entertained fears of contagion of Muslim have-nots from the Indian subcontinent by Jihadist ideologues in exile in Londonstan from the Middle East and North Africa -- revised its operating strategy. Surveillance expands from mosques, Islamic cultural centers and openly radical groups into the quieter and less conspicuous circles of the madrassas. The tactical switch produced alarming information.
In March 2004 in the suburbs of London, a quantity of potassium nitrate ready for the manufacture of explosives was discovered. Several English youths of Pakistani origin, subjects of Her Majesty, were arrested. The discovery should have provoked doubts about certain assumptions, especially the premise that anything that goes on the in orbit of Islamic terrorism has a structural link to ideologues and Jihadists groups, or even to the “hardcore” al-Qaeda.
It should have been obvious that, as Gilles Kepel observes, these free electrons are not disturbed by placing the refugee status of Jihadists in jeopardy nor do their even consider the damage to their activities should this occur. Just the opposite. Intelligence underestimated the indifference of the “new converts” holding British passports and overestimated the reassuring balance in which they live their existence in Londonstan. Once again, the error reveals how cross-eyed the political and intelligence understanding of Islamic terrorism is. When attacks succeed like those in London, one cannot help but ask, Where the hell was Intelligence? One forgets, say those in the business, that you can attribute the failure of the intelligence sector to the political process. We should take a look at politics before assessing the miscalculations by Counterterrorism.
The interpretation deficit begins there. It is found in a few phrases which George W. Bush pronounced before the NATO Parliamentary Assembly on November 6, 2001: We will not stop, promises Bush, until all global terrorist groups are found, stopped and annihilated. This aim will not be reached until every nation on earth stops harboring and supporting these terrorists inside their borders. So terrorism is merely the effect. The cause is embedded in the policies of certain nations. This is the thinking behind the War on Terror that overlooks the chaotic asymmetry of the new terrorism, daughter of the Cold War, as observed for years by analysts and scholars of different extractions and cultures. (To name a few names: Roy Close, former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, Robert Clark, former chief of counter-terrorism for three different presidents; and Arabist scholars like Gilles Kepel).
Through this lens, Osama Bin Laden is the reincarnation of Lenin and al-Qaeda is the latest avatar of the terrorist groups of the seventies and eighties supported by the KGB. This vision of the world, dominated by the strategic thinking of the second half of the last century, is driven by influential neoconservative radicals. This has transformed the War on Terror into “World War IV” (Norman Podhoretz) and the violent clash with modern Islam into “an ideological war just like the Cold War.” (Richard Perle).
These are interpretations which drive intelligence work towards investigations linking Jihadism to rogue states, taking priority over the hunt for terrorists or for Osama Bin Laden. Time, resources and intelligence are dedicated to the forging of imagined ties linking al-Qaeda to Iraq, Iran, and Syria instead of penetrating the communities of the Islamic diaspora in the West: gather information and make plans for continuous attacks on preemptively isolated single objectives with stealthy and surgical operations, with special care taken to stop the spread of the infection. (Italian Lt. General Fabio Mini).
Intelligence, at whatever latitude, sniffs the air. They work with an “ideology” held to account for and forsee the course of history and that all data, evidence and analysis which do not conveniently fit the theory are discarded, ignored or even censured.
Wise to the ways of politico-ideological maneuvering, intelligence men call this game “Give the right answer”. If you don’t confirm the assertion that the Axis of Evil is the pillar of Islamic terrorism, then you’re out of the game; you’re benched. (The men with the most integrity and independence are sent home). With warped institutional grotesquery, of three CIA station chiefs rotated through Baghdad, the second was replaced for having drafted an objective report on the strength of the insurgency (Philip S. Golub). This is what the War on Terror has become (and Italy has become a big fan of this, too): “psychological warfare” meant more for “internal political consumption”, to orient national public opinon on the necessity of invading Iraq, rather than to prevent Jihadist terrorism at home—in Londonstan, in Chicago’s South Side, in Jersey City’s Little Egypt, in Berlin’s Kleine Instambul or in Madrid’s barrios.
So where the hell was Intelligence? It was were the politicians had sent it--in Iraq.