Liquid Explosives on Planes? – ain’t necessarily so


Richard Moore

      The conspiracy, which British officials said had been under
      surveillance for months, again raised the question of how
      closely British-born terrorists were linked to Al Qaeda.

Is that so? My thoughts go down a different line: "under surveillance for 
months" again raises the questions: Why is this being brought out right now? 
What does 'under surveillance' mean. Typically it means that an undercover agent
is participating in the plot, or making up stories about a plot, or instigating 
the plot (an 'agent provocateur'). Who gains from such a plot, whether or not 
carried out? Clearly not any Muslim organization. This incident serves three 
clear purposes: (1) distraction from Israeli atrocities, (2) preparation for 
Iran invasion, (3) further sheep-conditioning of populous.


Original source URL:

August 11, 2006
Plan Was to Sneak Liquid Explosives on Planes

LONDON, Aug. 10 ‹ The British authorities said Thursday that they had thwarted 
an advanced terrorist plot to blow up airplanes flying from Britain to the 
United States using liquid explosives that would have escaped airport security.

The officials said they had arrested 24 men, all British-born Muslims, who 
planned to carry the liquids in drink bottles and combine them into explosive 
cocktails to commit mass murder aboard as many as 10 flights high over the 

Intelligence officials said they believed that some plotters were probably still
at large, requiring increased airport security.

Airports, which faced chaotic delays and cancellations, instantly changed rules 
on what passengers could carry on board. In the United States, liquids, gels and
creams were banned from carry-on luggage. In Britain, all carry-on items were 
barred except objects like wallets and eyeglasses without their cases.

Officials said the plot ‹ of which few concrete details were made known ‹ bore 
the hallmarks of Al Qaeda and involved links to plotters in Pakistan.

Late Thursday, the authorities in Pakistan said an unspecified number of arrests
had been made there, too.

An American counterterrorism official, who spoke in return for anonymity because
of the sensitivity of the case, said several of the plotters had traveled to 
Pakistan in the last few weeks and might have met there with at least one person
affiliated with Al Qaeda. The official said it was after that person¹s arrest by
Pakistani authorities that the British, fearing that word of the detainment 
would send the plotters into hiding, decided to move in.

This is the latest in a series of conspiracies apparently rooted in the 
disaffection of young, British-born Muslims, many of Pakistani descent, who cast
themselves as part of a jihadist struggle against Britain, which they see as an 
outrider of the United States in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Lebanon.

It also mimicked a failed plot in the Philippines in 1995 financed by Osama bin 
Laden to blow up airplanes over the Pacific. That ended when the chemicals 
exploded at an apartment in Manila.

On Thursday, Britain raised its terror threat assessment by one notch to its 
highest level, ³critical,² meaning an attack was imminent.

The American official said the plotters were planning a ³dry run² of the 
operation in the next few days when they planned to test whether they could 
board flights simultaneously. If this had worked, a full-scale attack would have
been carried out within days, the official said.

British police officials, who spoke in return for anonymity because of their 
customary procedures, said the attacks had not been planned for Thursday.

One American official said the attack was not imminent. ³I would caution about 
how close it was,² he said. ³They had materials, but it wasn¹t like they were 
driving out to the airport the next day. They identified a number of flights.²

Peter Clarke, London¹s top counterterrorism police officer, said, ³The 
intelligence suggested that the devices were to be constructed in the United 
Kingdom and taken through British airports.² But he also said that some 
unspecified event or development late Wednesday convinced British 
counterterrorism operatives that they must move quickly to thwart a conspiracy 
with what he called ³global dimensions.²

In recent days, the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent hundreds of agents 
around the United States to chase down possible leads from British intelligence 

³There is no indication as of now that anyone in the U.S. was tied to this,² a 
senior Justice Department official said.

About 8:30 Wednesday night, federal officials called security officers at the 
major airlines and told generally of what was happening as well as the security 
measures that would begin on Thursday. Among the airlines believed to be targets
were United, American and Continental, according to officials from the 
Department of Homeland Security, although it was unclear whether the plotters 
had bought tickets.

Mr. Chertoff said the attackers planned to carry explosive material and 
detonation components ³disguised as beverages, electronic devices and other 
common objects² onto the planes.

A bulletin issued Thursday by the F.B.I. about the plot gave details of some of 
the properties of liquid-peroxide-based explosives. It noted that they are 
sensitive to ³heat, shock and friction² and can be detonated with heat or an 
electric charge.

In some ways, news of a plot that could have killed thousands of people 
reinforced the sense among Americans after Sept. 11, 2001, and the British after
July 7, 2005, that their world had changed irrevocably in a way few would have 
wished. ³This is the new way of life,² said Arleen Malec, 60, a homemaker from 
Chicago who arrived in London from the United States.

But news of the plot also played into the fractured politics on both sides of 
the Atlantic, bolstering the arguments of those in London and Washington who 
argue, like Prime Minister Tony Blair, that the West is locked in an ³elemental 
battle² with radical Islam. In the United States, President Bush said the plot 
showed that the United States was ³at war with Islamic fascists who will use any
means to destroy those of us who love freedom.²

At the same time, both American and British officials were left to contemplate 
what seems a remarkable robustness among British jihadists who, since shortly 
after the Sept. 11 attacks, have been embroiled in five or six known 
conspiracies. Some have been unsuccessful, some unproven and one ‹ on July 7, 
2005 ‹ terrifyingly effective when four bombers killed themselves and 52 
commuters on the London transportation system.

But all of them have defied official British efforts to forestall new attempts, 
either through ever-more stringent security arrangements that have angered civil
rights groups or through efforts to embrace what are seen as moderate Muslim 
leaders. The latest conspiracy came despite the jailing or forced exile of 
prominent radical clerics like Sheik Abu Hamza al-Masri and Sheik Omar Bakri 

For the first time in the United States, the threat assessment level on 
transatlantic flights was raised to its highest ‹ ³red² ‹ and stringent new 
security measures were enforced, as was the case in Britain.

The suspects were arrested in nighttime police raids on modest-seeming homes as 
far apart as East London¹s Walthamstow District; High Wycombe, west of the 
capital; and Birmingham, in the Midlands. Some 24 hours later, none had been 
identified by name.

[Early Friday, the Bank of England announced that it had moved to freeze the 
funds of 19 of the suspects, and it released their names, ages and hometowns. 
The youngest two were 17 and 19, the oldest was 35, and the rest were in their 

[Scotland Yard had no immediate comment on the bank¹s statement, The Associated 
Press reported.]

The conspiracy, which British officials said had been under surveillance for 
months, again raised the question of how closely British-born terrorists were 
linked to Al Qaeda.

Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, said the plot had ³all the earmarks 
of an Al Qaeda plot² but added that there was no direct evidence of this.

Also in the United States, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said new
restrictions imposed on travelers reflected a belief that the plotters planned 
to use liquids, ³each one of which would be benign, but mixed together could be 
used to create a bomb.²

He added, ³It was not a handful of people sitting around and dreaming.²

Referring to the 24 people arrested under counterterrorism laws, John Reid, the 
British Home Secretary, told reporters that the police were ³confident that the 
main players have been accounted for.²

He acknowledged similarities to the plot in the Philippines 11 years ago. The 
conspirators in that plot were Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was starting his 
climb to become a top Qaeda operative, and Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who was the 
mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. After the Sept. 11, 
attacks, another plot involving airplanes related to Richard C. Reid, the 
so-called shoe bomber, a British-born Muslim who tried to blow up an 
America-bound flight from Paris with explosives hidden in a sneaker.

The scale of the British raids and arrests was particularly remarkable since, 
only weeks ago, the police drew criticism from British Muslims for arresting two
brothers in East London whom they later had to release for lack of evidence. At 
the time, the police indicated that they were looking for a chemical bomb.

At Britain¹s airports, chaos spread rapidly as airlines closed down flights. For
much of the day, British Airways canceled short flights to Europe, and many 
European airlines canceled flights to London.

Travelers on the Heathrow Express train from London¹s Paddington Station heard a
recorded female voice announcing: ³You can take tissues on the plane, but only 
if they are unboxed. You can also take baby food and milk on board, but the 
contents of the bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger.²

At Terminal 3 in Heathrow Airport, hundreds of passengers jammed into the 
terminal building, and airline officials handed out clear plastic bags to 
passengers for their limited carry-on items. Many passengers said airline 
officials refused to tell them what was going on.

In Paris, after an emergency cabinet meeting, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy 
said France had increased its security alert to ³red² ‹ one degree below maximum
level. He said France had stepped up airline security measures and was 
introducing new steps for flights bound for Britain and Israel, including 
thorough searches of all hand baggage.

French airports were nonetheless crowded with thousands of stranded passengers. 
Flights to Britain were canceled during most of the day, but air traffic bound 
for the United States was close to normal, spokesmen for different airlines 

Many passengers deprived of their connections from London flocked to the 
Eurostar train under the Channel, to reach the European continent and to 
continue their travel via Paris. At train stations and airports, uniformed 
members of the police and military increased their patrols.

In Spain, only about 10 percent of 800 flights to London took off, leaving 
thousands of vacationers stranded, according to Aena, the main operator of 
Spanish airports. The Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, told 
reporters that the Spanish authorities had ³ordered the tightening and 
strengthening of all the controls that affect the security of the airports in 
our country.²

Prime Minister Blair had left for a Caribbean vacation last weekend after 
delaying his plans because of the Lebanon crisis. His office said that he had 
briefed President Bush on the situation. British politicians in general refused 
to be drawn into what has become a familiar public debate about whether Britain 
is a target for terrorists because of its alliance with the United States.

In High Wycombe, west of London, residents said the police seemed to have raided
two places and a wooded area. ³It¹s shocking when it¹s so close to us, on our 
doorstep, not on the other side of the country,² said Sue Needham, a 36-year-old
homemaker near the wooded area.

In Walthamstow, East London, John Weir, 50, said he lived opposite one of the 
houses raided in London. ³It was sold overnight,² he said. ³One day it was up 
for sale, and the next it was gone.² He said two men moved in the next weekend, 
but the house often seemed empty.

Reporting for this article was contributed by Stephen Grey and Pamela Kent in 
London; Karla Adam in High Wycombe, England; Katrin Bennhold and Marlise Simons 
in Paris; Raymond Bonner in Jakarta, Indonesia; Carlotta Gall in Kabul, 
Afghanistan; Eric Lichtblau and Mark Mazzetti in Washington; Renwick McLean in 
Madrid; and David Rohde in New York.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Escaping the Matrix website
cyberjournal website  
subscribe cyberjournal list     mailto:•••@••.•••
Posting archives      
  cyberjournal forum  
  Achieving real democracy
  for readers of ETM  
  Community Empowerment
  Blogger made easy