Friday, May 26, 2017

Betraying Confidence

"If that's something that we did [U.S. Intelligence leaking classified British intelligence on the latest jihadist atrocity in Manchester], I think that's a real problem."
"If we gave up information that has interfered in any way with their investigation because it tipped off people in Britain -- perhaps associates of this person that we identified as the bomber -- then that's a real problem and they have every right to be furious."
Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat, House Intelligence Committee, U.S.

"Historically, and nearly philosophically, the U.S. and U.K. intel services follow different paths."
"The U.S. have adopted a 'zero-risk' approach meaning that the U.S. services have a much shorter trigger when it comes to stop an ongoing operation. The U.K. services play it totally differently."
"Having a U.S. leak when the situation has developed in the U.K. is nothing new."
European security official
How differently?
"The bomber had been reported to intelligence services two years ago] because [it was] thought he was involved in extremism and terrorism."
"People in the [Manchester Libyan community] community expressed concerns about the way this man [Salman Abedi, jihadi suicide bomber] was behaving and reported it in the right way using the right channels."
"They did not hear anything since [from police or intelligence services]."
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive, Ramadhan Foundation
Police seal off Lindy Road in Manchester, England, on Thursday as the investigation into Monday night's attack continues. Greater Manchester Police are treating the explosion at an Ariana Grande concert as a terrorist attack and have confirmed at least 22 fatalities.  Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

U.S. authorities have stated that Manchester resident Abedi had been known to them. French and British intelligence services both were in possession of information that the man had been in Syria, and France's interior minister said also that Abedi had "proven" links with ISIL. The man's behaviour and his subsequent leap into history as the perpetrator of a heinous atrocity that took the lives of twenty-two innocents, and wounding up to one hundred more attending a concert in Manchester didn't spring out of the blue.

This man was known for erratic, problematic, worrying behaviour. Authorities received repeated warnings from concerned citizens, among them fellow Muslims, people from the Manchester Libyan community, Muslims who worshipped in the same mosque his father and the entire Abedi family attended, that there was a great deal not quite right with this man with his extremist mind-set and disturbing pronouncements.

On at least five occasions, it is now known, authorities had been informed that Abedi posed a danger, well before the Monday night attack in Manchester. Authorities, in fact, would have had records going back  five years previous to that infamous attack. Which would indicate that from the age of 17 forward, first as a youth embroiled in fundamentalist Islamism, then as a 22-year-old, the trajectory took this individual from troubling community member to jihadi-inspired mass murderer.

Counter-terrorism agencies were in possession of information that Salman Abedi had informed friends that "being a suicide bomber was OK", leading them to contact the anti-terrorism hotline operated by the government. So much for no one noticing among close acquaintances, nor caring about what they heard and doing nothing to deter the man from his ultimate goal. They did their part as concerned and loyal British citizens; the professional intelligence agents opted on their part, to do nothing, it would appear.

Granted, there are thousands of similar-appearing Muslims who have subscribed to the lethal brand of Islam that Islamic State now exemplifies. Granted, police pick up an average of one individual daily on suspicion of links to terrorism. Granted, it takes dozens of personnel to adequately track one suspect and there simply are not enough bodies to go around to do the job. And the British can be rather squeamish about hindering people from going about their lives without firm evidence that an attack is imminent.

But that number of concerned contacts about aberrant behaviour, and no forestalling reaction? Particularly if all those other intelligence services had similar intelligence pointing to the potential of this individual creating a danger for the public? Reassure the public by all means that such attacks are rare and unlikely and that life should go on as normal; not to relinquish the freedom to enjoy oneself and attend such events with its mass attendees creating a perfect opportunity for a determined jihadist to plan a successful mass atrocity.

The burden on the economy and on the overall social contract would be too much to bear, obviously. To exercise extreme caution at all times would be to submit to the sinister plans of the jihadists to inspire fear through causing worry about terrorist atrocities, not all of which authorities are capable of disarming before they occur. Yet the general apprehension that simmers on low burn in the subconscious of people who go about their daily lives is indeed a surrender to terrorism's dreadful impact.
Manchester Evening News -- We Stand Together

And it isn't helped one iota to know that this terrorist was well known to intelligence services. Not only known and perhaps covertly tracked, but reported repeatedly by members of the public who had some manner of social contact with the man and who were disturbed enough by his behaviour to do what once might have been unthinkable in a close-knit community; reveal the extent of their concerns to authority figures. Which discloses two things: most of that community has invested its future in Britain; and they have now good reason to doubt how seriously threats are taken.

Two personal friends of this man were so concerned they individually contacted the police counter-terrorism hotline five years earlier -- and once again last year. "They had been worried that 'he was supporting terrorism' and had said that 'being a suicide bomber was OK'," a source communicated to the BBC. Abedi had been banned from Didsbury mosque after confronting its Imam who had delivered an anti-extremist sermon, recounted 49-year-old Akram Ramadan of the Libyan community.

Mr. Ramadan understood that Abedi's name had been on a "watch list", as a result of the mosque reporting him for his extremist views to the authorities. The Didsbury mosque contacted the Home Office's Prevent anti-radicalization program. Even members of Abedi's own family had contacted British police to inform them he was 'dangerous', according to a U.S. official who felt the information hadn't been acted on.

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