Intelligent Gathering

Saw this article about how the security services used IMEI tracking on Hamdi Isaac’s (previously Hussain Osman) mobile to trace his movements across Europe and, ultimately, track him down. What was disappointing however was the Italian Carlo de Stefano’s decision to post this information which will now mean that future criminals will know to switch handsets and SIM cards.

This has called me to reconsider another couple of issues that have bothered me in recent days regarding the international efforts to track down the people behind the terror attacks. Leaving aside the issue of whether the security services identified meaningful chatter amongst the communities responsible for the attack before the event (and thereby inferring something about their efficacy) we should be looking at some idiotic press releases in the aftermath.

First there is the US intelligence agency leaking classified images of bomb equipment to the TV networks. A gross misjudgement and indicative of the ineptitude of certain people involved in the relevant agencies. This sort of imagery does nothing other than spread the design plans of such devices and produce poster artwork for every budding martyr to display on their wall.

Second there is the Italian legal system happily leaking all manner of details of what has been said in custody awaiting extradition. In our country, for all its failings, the defendant – once in custody – is protected from further speculation in order to avoid prejudicing their right to a fair trial. By publishing this information (which I accept the British Press are guilty of) they add fuel to the defence lawyers claim in Italy that in extraditing this man to the UK they would prevent him receiving. All the information that Antonietta Sonnessa [above right] has revealed in an unnecessarily extrovert way (we saw pictures of her in a spaghetti-strap camisole outside court, highly sensitive to her Islamic client…) could have been effectively reported at trial. On the BBC 10 o’clock news tonight we rather pointlessly saw her inside the self publicising lawyer’s glamorous gilded office during an interview with Jeremy Bowen.

Thirdly our ‘cycling correspondent’ writes in reference to French passport control (which reputedly failed to check any relevant documents for ) “I passed through 4 times (i.e. 2 return trips) with an 8 month out of date passport, and nobody said a thing until the very last one, who took a scan of it and then let me through anyway.” First there was Sangatte and now there is this, why are the French so cavalier about their borders? Of course there’s some argument that the British should check passports at London but my understanding is that from the gates at Waterloo, security and immigration is in French hands? The Evening Standard tonight has suggested that Labour cuts in 1998 led to the removal of outbound border checks in cost cutting exercise.

The British police – and in particular the oft-maligned Metropolitan Police – have done an amazing job. The Spaniards did well to secure their suspects but the British have worked on two separate events with (to begin with) less forensic material and have detained numerous suspects including all of the attempted bombers from the 21st, alive and unharmed. Our terrorist correspondent writes: “the police have done fantastically well. I’d love to be at the centre of the investigation and see the true power of the police and intelligence services full resources thrown at a problem.” He continues (somewhat optimistically) that once nations work together on tracking down a suspect you can’t: “communicate, purchase anything unless with cash, withdraw cash, travel through ports or even use public transport. … unless you have suitcase full of cash and the French are manning the immigration controls for Eurostar.”

Whilst the vast majority of us abhor the tragic events of 7th July and the ‘near miss’ of 21st, many of us simply wish that we demonstrate an effective, moral and ethical process in bringing the perpetrators to justice. That, in the strongest terms, sends the signal to the extremists that they will be defeated by fair and due process. That democracy and justice is alive and well.

In other news..

Oh, and maybe bloggers will be interested in this article. And for those of you reading this where I work this piece on Boardroom Bloggers might seem relevant if unduly cynical.

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