Congratulations to the intelligence services & police

If it turns out that the intelligence services and the police have indeed foiled a plot to commit mass murder on a scale never before seen in the UK – and I have no reason to believe that it won't – then we owe them our thanks and gratitude.

We are quick to criticize when things go wrong, such as the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes and the shooting of  Mohammed Abdul Kahar in Forest Gate in June.  Perhaps I am reading a biased sample blogs, but I have not seen a corresponding flurry of recognition of the success of intelligence gathering, investigation and international cooperation that has prevented the destruction in mid-air of nine passenger aircraft.

Similarly, in today's FT, there is a grudging editorial, complaining about the disruption at the airports and recalling past errors: there is no hint of congratulations for the success that the law enforcement agencies have achieved.  Nor does today's Guardian leader offer any thanks.

Well I think that is humbug.  Well done, men and women of the law enforcement agencies.  We owe you. 

5 thoughts on “Congratulations to the intelligence services & police”

  1. I entirely agree with that.  Anticipating a terrorist attack of this kind demands a kind of intelligence that is exceptionally difficult to procure, since it depends extensively on information from secret informers who must be similar by culture, religion, ethnic background and life-style to those on whom they inform.  Such people take hair-raising risks in providing information to the police or security services on the activities of fellow-members of their community.  Recruiting such informers is a mammoth task, especially in the present atmosphere.  Assessing the authenticity and reliability of the information they supply is also a challenging task:  it’s necessary to eliminate baseless gossip and malicious invention, and in the case of information that appears to be genuine, the security services have to seek corroboration from other sources (telephone taps, electronic and physical surveillance, etc.) since to take pre-emptive action on the sole basis of an informer’s report risks betraying the identity of the informer, with potentially horrific consequences for him or her.

    It’s no wonder that mistakes are sometimes made, especially when the consequences of doing nothing because a warning can’t be corroborated may include the deaths of innocent people.  It’s also worth remembering that just because terrorist suspects who are arrested and questioned but not eventually charged with any offence are not necessarily evidence of security service or police blunders, as often asserted:  the questioning may result in new leads, it may permit recruitment of an informer, or it may confirm the likely guilt of the suspect but without sufficient admissible evidence for a conviction in court, especially if deployment of the evidence may reveal the identity of an informer. 

    The security people sometimes have to make split-second, life-or-death decisions on inadequate information that puts them in a no-win situation:  if they decide not to act, innocent people may die as a result in some new terrorist attack:  if they act but turn out to have mistaken their suspect, as in the Menezes case, they are vilified for their apparent negligence, for being trigger-happy, and for acting on faulty intelligence;  they may even be put on trial for murder.   Few of us would be willing to take the risks that are an every-day feature of their jobs.  We ask an awful lot of them and, as you rightly say, they get precious few thanks even when they get it right.


  2. Remember when J.C. de Menezes was shot dead by the Met (or more likely some hard lads with military training) at Stockwell Tube Station? "One down three to go" screamed the tabloid headlines. Guess they don’t do remorse. Not sure which was worse; that the police would conspire to murder and lie through their teeth, or that they were caught out so easily. With that track record, isn’t a little skepticism in order? Or to put it another way, do you actually buy that liquid bomb cock and bull story? Media whores and useful idiots* The perfect marriage.

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