Unabashed Heterophobe (paulnolan) wrote in ontd_political,
Unabashed Heterophobe

7/7: 5 Years On

People gather at memorial to 52 victims of London underground and bus bombings to pay their respects

At 8.50am on the 7 July 2005, three bombs exploded on underground trains in central London. The explosions were followed, within an hour, by another on a London bus.

At 8.50am today, under a grey sky, a handful of people gathered quietly at the eastern side of Hyde Park, where 52 steel pillars represent those killed in the bombings.

They came to pay their respects, to remember loved ones, to be quiet for a few moments as the traffic rumbled past in the background.

A young couple held each other, looking at the memorial as a few spots of rain began to fall. Another man walked silently in the memorial, weaving his way between the pillars.

Smartly dressed in a suit and tie, 32-year-old Andrew Robinson, an analyst in the City, said he had been on the tube between Liverpool Street and Aldgate stations when the bomb detonated by Shehzad Tanweer killed seven people and injured 171.

When the train was evacuated, he said, passengers were forced to walk past scenes of devastation.

"I was in physical danger, and I think if I had not seen those things I would have had a very different memory of the day," he added.

He spent a few moments today remembering that day, and said the simplicity of the memorial was a fitting tribute to the victims of the attack. "It's fantastic, I find it very moving," he said.

Hazel Webb, whose daughter, Laura, died in the Edgware Road bombing, was also there. While some survivors and the families of victims have expressed disappointment that no official ceremony was been staged to mark the fifth anniversary of the bombings, Webb said: "Last year's ceremony was fantastic – we wouldn't expect anything on that scale this year. It's now moving in to the private sphere."

Peter Hendy, the commissioner of TFL, was also at the memorial. He said he still found talking about the day difficult. "Those people were our passengers," he said. "We were in charge and we should be here."

He said that three things struck him about 7 July – how terrible it was to realise that people had been killed and injured as they were going to work, how proud he was of the staff that offered help and how the city came together.

"The world went on and we didn't let those people beat us," he added. "Those memories are as vivid to me today as they were five years ago."

Rev Julie Nicholson, whose 24-year-old daughter, Jenny, was among those who died, laid a wreath from the government alongside a official from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

She said she was also happy there was no official ceremony. Laying the government wreath had been emotional, but not as emotional as leaving her "own little bunch of flowers", she said.

The large bouquet of 52 red and white roses from the government was accompanied by a handwritten note from the prime minister, David Cameron.

"In memory of the victims of terrorism in London on 7th July 2005," the card read. "They will never be forgotten." The word "never" was heavily underlined.

Source: The Guardian

On 6 July 2005, Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5, met a group of MPs from the Labour whips' office to discuss the threat to the nation. There was, she assured them, no reason to believe that an attack was imminent. The following morning, Sir Ian Blair, then commissioner of the Metropolitan police, told the BBC that his force was "the envy of the policing world in relation to conterterrorism".

Shortly after that statement the first of the bombs went off.

Two weeks later, just as the country was beginning to overcome the initial shock of four suicide bombings that caused the deaths of 52 people and injured more than 950, many seriously, came the attempted bombings of 21 July. For the public, the bombs that failed to explode triggered almost as much alarm as those that did, with the second attempt bringing home the realisation that they could be vulnerable to a series of onslaughts by al-Qaida-inspired jihadists. Within government and law-enforcement circles, the shock caused by the two incidents can only have been exacerbated by the institutional belief, widely held during the early summer of 2005, that the threat of a terrorist attack had subsided.

Two weeks later the then prime minister, Tony Blair, called a press conference at which he warned: "Let no one be in doubt. The rules of the game have changed."

He outlined 12 new measures that aimed to transform the landscape of British counterterrorism. Together, they were intended to offer a greater degree of collective security; each came at considerable cost to the liberties of both individuals and groups of people.

It was a polarising moment. Sir Ian Blair could have been speaking for all those tasked with guaranteeing that collective security when he declared himself to be "very pleased" with the proposed measures. Even as he spoke, his officers were selecting suspects to be targeted. Gareth Peirce, the leading defence lawyer and a veteran campaigner against the excesses of the British state at times of crisis, condemned Tony Blair's proposals as "a statement of dangerous self-delusion, deliberately ignoring history, legality, principle and justice".

In the event, some of the proposed new powers, such as those that would allow the government to order the closure of places of worship, were quietly shelved. Others, such as the power to ban British Islamist organisations like al-Muhajiroun, had little impact, as groups simply reorganised under a new name. The plan to allow 90 days detention without charge was defeated when 49 Labour MPs rebelled against the government.

Some of the new measures, on the other hand, such as those criminalising the glorification or encouragement of terrorism, proved to be a useful tool for investigators and prosecutors. One of the most successful new measures – albeit one already under consideration before the bombings – was the prohibition of the preparation of terrorist acts, which allowed police to intervene, and possibly prevent, mass-casualty attacks before the details of any plot had become clear.

Most controversially, the Terrorism Act 2006, a direct consequence of the attacks, provided for terrorism suspects to be held without charge for 28 days, an increase of 14. That legislation was followed by measures that allowed the Bank of England to freeze the assets of terrorism suspects. The Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, passed after the government failed in its attempt to increase detention periods to 42 days, allowed police to continue questioning suspects after they had been charged, required convicted terrorist to notify the police of their whereabouts, extended the jurisdiction of courts to overseas terrorism offences, increased some sentences, and has been interpreted as banning photographs of the police in public places.

The number of arrests for terrorism offences duly increased after the summer of 2005. There were about 280 arrests for alleged terrorism offences in 2005/6, and although around 190 of those people were released without charge, the numbers of people charged and convicted also rose. After the bombings, dozens of terrorism charges were brought every year, usually against men in their 20s. Many of the charges were brought under counterterrorism laws that existed long before July 2005, including the 1883 Explosive Substances Act. Conviction rates on terrorism charges soared briefly after the bombings, according to Home Office figures, before settling down at around 60%.

The measures announced by the prime minister had not been intended to introduce a new counterterrorism strategy. That strategy, known as Contest, had been in existence since 2003. One of its key elements, the Prevent element, was intended to address the so-called root causes of terrorism, and there was a reluctance within government, in the aftermath of the bombings, to admit that the suicide bombers had been motivated by anger over the UK's involvement in the invasion of Iraq, even once two of the bombers stated this in suicide videos released by al-Qaida.

But nor did Blair's comments about the "rules of the game" refer only to the legislative framework governing counterterrorism. The whole atmosphere in which the police, MI5 and MI6 operated was about to change. Police stop-and-searches increased dramatically. There was talk of armed "marshals" being deployed on trains. One man, Jean Charles de Menezes, was mistakenly shot dead by officers who followed him on to a tube train at Stockwell station in London the day after the failed attacks of 21 July 2005 after he was confused with one of the suspects. Another man was shot and injured during a counterterrorism raid on his home in east London.

It is now becoming apparent that in the aftermath of 7 July there was also an increase in the number of British nationals being detained and tortured overseas. The victims included Tahir Shah, the film-making son of the Sufi writer Idries Shah, who was detained in Pakistan a week after the suicide bombings, hooded, forced into stress positions, then questioned about the attacks in what he describes as a "fully-equipped torture room". At the same time, Alam Ghafoor was being tortured in Dubai, where he had been detained while on a business trip, apparently because he hailed from Yorkshire and resembled one of the bombers. Both men were told that they had been detained at the request of British authorities, who had been well aware how they would be treated. Neither men knew anything about the bomb plot, and both were released without charge.

After the allegations of British collusion in torture began to emerge, in 2008, there were fresh complaints from a number of young British Muslims, particularly Londoners of Somali origin, who said they had been approached by MI5 officers who threatened them with dire consequences whenever they travelled overseas unless they agreed to become informers.

While this was happening, police and MI5 officers were continuing the hunt for those individuals who had aided the July bombers. A small team of Scotland Yard detectives moved to Leeds. During the year that followed the attacks, police compiled 13,300 witness statements and viewed 6,000 hours of CCTV footage.

In March 2007 they made their first arrests, and two months later detained four more people. At that time, police indicated that they believed up to 30 people had been involved in the bombings. Peter Clarke, the head of the Yard's counterterrorism command, said: "I firmly believe that there are other people who have knowledge of what lay behind the attacks in July 2005, knowledge that they have not shared with us. I don't only believe it, I know it for a fact."

One of those arrested admitted possessing an al-Qaida training manual, and two others were jailed after being convicted of attending terrorism training camps, but nobody has ever been convicted of conspiring to cause the 7 July explosions.

Source: The Guardian
Posting these two articles together as, although the first one makes much of how we didn't let the tube bombers beat us, the draconian legislation brought in afterwards kind of proves we did, in a way.

ETA: Changed the title to something more general (this was originally just the second article and I forgot to change it when I merged the two posts)
Tags: terrorism, uk
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