Terrorism is therefore defined by motive, and not method. Any act of violence, however small, could be a terrorist act if the motives of the attacker are political or ideological. Conversely, a large attack with purely criminal motivations is not terrorism.Read More
Ken Livingstone's idea that the lead 7/7 bomber, Mohammed Siddique Khan, was so upset by government policy that he felt the need to murder people is absurd.
We are talking about a mass murderer akin to Fred West, Dennis Nilsen and Charles Manson - a psychopathic lunatic. Does anyone talk about what political decisions might have motivated those people to kill and murder scores of victims?Read More
In late August 2015, a man armed with an assault rifle, a handgun and enough ammunition to slaughter more than two hundred people was overpowered when his gun jammed on a train from Amsterdam to Paris. News reports suggested that the man had links to a fundamentalist Islamic terror cell. On arrest however, he claimed his intent was simply to rob those on the train.
There has been much debate about why airport-style security does not exist at international train terminals. Why are rail passengers not having their luggage searched and passing through metal-arches before boarding their train?
Part of the problem for Europe’s cross-border rail companies is the Schengen Agreement. In place since 1985, Europe's Schengen Area currently consists of 26 European countries with no internal borders, covering a population of over 400 million people. It mostly functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. Allowing free movement and abolishing passport control at common borders however, makes it relatively simple for organised criminals and terrorists to transport people, money and weapons around.
The creation of airport-style security for cross-border train travel could potentially limit the use of the European railway network for organised crime. Criminals would have to supply passports, tickets and be subject to strict searches. This would create an obstacle which doesn't currently exist and would have to be navigated by them. But will this honestly stop them moving around?
When we target harden one area - it merely displaces criminal activity from one place across to the next weakest link in the chain. This is true of all crimes, including terrorism.
In April 1992, the IRA detonated a truck bomb at the Baltic Exchange in the City of London. The following spring, explosive devices planted in litter bins killed two children in Warrington. Just a month later, in April 1993, another huge lorry bomb detonated - this time at Bishopsgate in the City. Collectively, these three acts killed five people, injured one hundred and thirty-three and caused more than one billion pounds worth of damage.
The City of London responded to this with the creation of the ‘Ring of Steel’ - a series of vehicle checkpoints manned by police officers and backed up by hundreds of CCTV cameras. Vehicular access to the City was severely restricted and all two thousand litter bins were removed from the Square Mile.
Following this, there was a brief lull in IRA activity. But then, in 1996, the IRA detonated a large lorry bomb at Docklands in London - three miles from the ‘Ring of Steel’. The attack killed two people and caused a hundred million pounds worth of damage. Nine days later, an IRA terrorist accidentally blew himself up while transporting an explosive device on a London bus travelling along Wellington Street in Aldwych. Buses were not subject to searches as they passed through the ‘Ring of Steel’.
Rather than stop the attacks, the new security measures simply caused the terrorists to change tactics and target different locations.
Fundamentalist Islamic terrorism is no different…
In 2006, Police and Security Services intervened in what has commonly become known as the Transatlantic Airline Plot. Islamic fundamentalists wanted to smuggle hydrogen-peroxide-based liquid explosives onto planes and detonate them mid flight. This led to a change in policy; liquids were banned from aircraft and search procedures were radically changed. The result was that air travel became less vulnerable to the would-be passenger-based terrorists. However, just ten months later, in 2007, a terrorist attempted to drive a car laden with propane gas cylinders into a plane terminal at Glasgow airport.
Will more thorough check-in measures and airport-style searches at international train stations lessen the chances of terror attacks on those trains? Yes, of course they will. Will it prevent terror attacks on international train travelers? No - the terrorists and criminals will simply change tactics and attack the next weakest link, perhaps derailing high speed trains or targeting train travelers as they enter the train terminal.
It is doubtless that there will be some changes both here and abroad to international train travel, and, I think this is long overdue. However the issue is how we stop people wanting to attack others or getting their hands on the weapons and materials to do so - not hardening potential targets and simply displacing the problem somewhere else.
When a criminal commits a crime, they try to do so without getting caught.
When that crime is a simple one like shoplifting at Marks and Spencer, whereby they run in, grab a handful of dresses and run out of the store; that’s a fairly easy risk for the would-be criminal to calculate, in terms of getting caught.
All they have to worry about is a few CCTV cameras and an overweight security guard – all risks that they can see in advance.
Yes, the police will come and report the crime. They will take some stills off the CCTV and hopefully, all being well, some eagle-eyed police officer will recognise the thief and they will get arrested.
The police catch criminals by their ‘footprint’- the things they leave behind by which they can be traced and found. Every single crime ever committed is solvable, every one, without question. It’s just a matter of having the time, money, resources and crucially…knowing where to look for the clues.
Now obviously criminals don’t want to get caught – so they employ methods to avoid this happening. In the case of the dress shoplifter, he or she might wear a baseball cap so the CCTV camera doesn’t get a clear look at their face, and they might have a car waiting outside with the number plates removed.
The police don’t put many resources into catching shoplifters so the counter measures to avoid getting caught can be crude and simple. As the crime becomes more violent, the loss is bigger – such as that involved in a murder or in a terrorist act – then the resources used to catch the criminal increases.
For the criminal, the counter measures to avoid getting caught then have to be more considered and complex.
So, clever criminals – when they’re considering planting a bomb or cutting off the head of a soldier – know that to avoid being caught they need to put a great deal of thought into how they’re not going to leave a big footprint behind. If you’re communicating with others you need to talk in code; you need to use unregistered pre-pay mobile phones; you need anonymous e-mail accounts; you need to talk in open spaces because your car or house might have listening devices in them; you need to turn your phone off and remove the battery when you are talking ‘dirty’ because the Security Services can turn your phone into a bugging device remotely without you even knowing; you need to use chat rooms in internet cafés.
And all that is before you’ve even committed the crime.
How do you think these people are located? I mean before they’ve actually planted a bomb, or cut someone’s head off? It’s simple – the criminals have made a mistake in their planning in the run up to the actual crime – and that mistake probably involved the internet or mobile communication of some type.
So when I read: “Thank you Edward Snowden – you’ve helped us win back the internet,” or when I see people complaining about the Security Services’ and Counter Terrorist Police’s “outrageous use of RIPA” (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) to monitor us all for no reason – I wonder what these people think actually goes on in the background? Do they really think we care what porn sites they visit? How many phone calls they made to the premium rate sex chat line? What their mum had for dinner last night? That they are secretly gay?
None of that matters. We all have secrets. But when that secret is that you want to bomb an airliner, or a Tube train – lets hope that someone finds that before it happens, shall we?
You’ve not helped anyone that I care about Edward Snowden, you’ve just helped the criminals understand how things are done, and, now, you’ve put us all at greater risk.
Thanks for nothing, Edward Snowden.