Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Malcolm didn't read Monday's New York Times ...

Monday's New York Times was not distributed in Britain, nor was the web-feed available for one key story. This referred to the continuing kerfuffle over the arrested suspects for the aircraft bomb plot. Malcolm feels a bit frustrated: if he had known he could have acquired a copy at Dublin Airport.

The story is summarised in Andrew Rice's Monday press review on

In essence, the NYT seems to add little to the sum of human knowledge, as far as it is already perceived in the UK: the plot was by no means fully-developed; the Police and security types seem to have intervened well before things turned nasty; and "In retrospect, there may have been too much hyperventilating going on" (the view quoted from an unnamed US "counterterrorism expert"). If it is all huff, puff and "hyperventilating", this further annoys Malcolm: the newly-introduced shoe-shedding thing really bates him.

The entry continues:
On Aug. 9, the day before police moved in, two of the suspects recorded tapes in which they justified their planned actions, saying, in the words of one: "As you bomb, you will be bombed." One of the suspects kept "a handwritten diary that appears to sketch out elements of a plot," which contained "a reminder to select a date." In one of the apartments they raided, police found "a plastic bin filled with liquid, batteries, nearly a dozen empty drink bottles, rubber gloves, digital scales and a disposable camera that was leaking liquid" that "might have been a prototype for a device to smuggle chemicals on the plane."

On the other hand, the story notes, the suspects hadn't bought tickets for any flights, and two of them didn't even have passports, though they "had applied for expedited approval." British investigators have evidence that some of the suspects had attempted to make a hydrogen peroxide-based explosive, but it is unclear, in the words of one chemist who is part of the inquiry, whether they "had the brights to pull it off." Also, MI5 was apparently monitoring the apartment that served as the headquarters of the alleged terrorist cell with "hidden video and audioequipment."

That all seems somewhat less than the froth in the dailies. It may be marginally helpful to the Government and save the Met Police's blushes not to have this available immediately in the UK. It will not stop the conspiracy-nuts having their say. We have already heard lawyers assuring us that things said now are not going to prejudice a trial in a year or more.

Two days on, the Great British Press has found it in itself to report the NYT censorship, while continuing to suppress the subject matter.

It reminds Malcolm of two things:

1. In the Falklands campaign, events consistently were disclosed on the BBC World Service (which then needed some serious knob-twiddling to be readily heard throughout Britain itself) in advance of domestic bulletins. This was part of a very serious (and pretty successful) attempt at news management by the Thatcher Government. Tout change parce que rien ne change.

2. Hilaire Belloc got it right:
You cannot bribe or twist
Thank God! the British journalist.
But seeing what the man will do
Unbribed, there's no occasion to.

In passing, how does one get the piece of paper to prove one is a fully-qualified "counterterrorism expert"? And how is such a guru significantly different from his opposite number, the "terrorism expert"? Is it an Arts or a Science degree? Is one styled as "Batson D. Belfrye, B.A.(T.)"? Sphere: Related Content

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