Thursday, July 28, 2005

Could the London attacks have been prevented?

It turns out that a month ago, the United States tried to apprehend Haroon Rashid Aswat, the terrorist suspected of involvement in the London bombings and just arrested in Zambia, only to have the British Government say no.

No word yet on why the British Government turned down our request to arrest Aswat, who was also an unindicted co-conspirator in a US terror prosecution, although this story says it was because Aswat was a British citizen... which I find hard to believe is really the reason.

But I am sure it won't take long for the Lost Kosites to say it was really our fault, that but for Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib or our having capital punishment or Bush's bad manners or whatever, the British Government would have been more than willing to help.

Well, if that turns out to be the case, which is now only speculation in my cynical little head, it would serve the British right. Tis far better to worry about how detainees are being treated than to actually take steps to catch terrorists before they strike. Maybe this is what Tony Blair was referring to when he said that much of the world had dropped its guard to the threat of terrorism after the "wake-up call" of the 9/11 attacks of 2001.

Just wondering...

UPDATE: FoxNews reports that a "U.S. official insisted that a formal request was never made to the South African government or the British government" for Aswat to be detained. This, if true, just stuns me. The guy was wanted for questioning, why wouldn't we ask for him to be taken into custody?

UPDATE II: According to Scotland Yard, Aswat showed up in Britain "a fortnight before the bombings to orchestrate final planning for the attack"... just after he was not arrested while in South Africa.

UPDATE III (11PM EST): The NYT reports "British officials were reluctant to approve a plan by United States authorities to seize an Indian-born British citizen who is now wanted for questioning in the attacks" and that "during discussions between the three nations (US, Great Britain and South Africa) about how to proceed against Mr. Aswat..he eluded investigators and disappeared".

This is incredible and reminds me of the Clinton Administration's screwing up their opportunity to get Bin Laden; bureaucrats worried about diplomatic niceties end up doing nothing but talk while guys like this are allowed to carry out their attacks.

And how does Aswat then gain entry into Great Britain? He's wanted in NYC on terrorism-related charges, the British Government has just been discussing what to do with him... and they not only let him into the country, but then let him roam around unwatched? I know he is a British citizen, but his name wasn't flagged at entry points?

People need to be fired.... on both sides of the Atlantic.

FURTHER THOUGHTS: I'm on the record as favoring the use of torture as part of our efforts in the GWOT. Given what is known so far, this sure seems like one of the times that torture could have been used to stop the ticking bomb. Had Aswat been picked up a month ago and subjected to, ahem, special interrogations, who would bet against him giving up some details of what was in the works for London? And, given that the London Police are concerned about additional attacks, this terrorist is the poster boy for the ticking time bomb that oh-so-many opponents of torture suggest doesn't exist...