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December 15, 2006

The War on Shampoo

Google "Rashid Rauf - mastermind". On the first page of results you will find
CBS, the BBC, the Times, Guardian and Mail all describing Rauf last summer,
on security service or police briefing, as the "Mastermind" behind
the "Liquid terror bomb plot". So the fact that a Pakistani court has found
there is no evidence of terrorism against him cannot be lightly dismissed by
the cheerleaders of the plot story.

Rashid Rauf still faces other charges, including forgery, and what is touted
as possession of explosives, although what he actually possessed was hydrogen
peroxide, which is not explosive. As hydrogen peroxide is readily obtainable
without limitation from any chemist or hardware store in the UK, why you
would source it in Pakistan to blow up jets in Britain was never very
convincing. The Pakistani court perhaps felt so too.

Rashid Rauf has much to answer. He is still wanted in the UK over the murder
of his uncle some years ago - a crime which, like the alleged forgery, had no
apparent terrorist link. None of which adds to the credibility of the
evidence he allegedly gave the Pakistani intelligence services about the
liquid bomb plot in the UK.

A second and simultaneous development is even more compelling evidence that
this massive scare was, as I said at the time, "More propaganda than plot".
Thames Valley police have given up after five months scouring the woods near
High Wycombe where the bomb materials were allegedly hidden. They told the
Home Office on 12 December that they would only continue if the government
were prepared to meet the costs; they wished to get back to devoting their
resources to real crimes, like armed robbery and burglary.

Remember this was a plot described by the authorities as "Mass murder on an
unimaginable scale" and "Bigger than 9/11". There have been instances in the
UK of hundreds of police officers deployed for years to find an individual
murderer. If the police really believed they were dealing with an effort
at "Mass murder on an unimaginable scale", would they be calling off the
search after five months? No.

Which brings us to the lies that have been told - one of which concerns this
search. An anonymous police source tipped off the media early on that they
had discovered a "Suitcase" containing "bomb-making materials". This has
recently been described to me by a security service source as "A lot of
rubbish from someone's garage dumped in the woods". You could indeed
cannibalise bits of old wire, clocks and car parts to form part of a bomb -
perhaps you could enclose it in the old suitcase. But have they found stuff
that is exclusively concerned with causing explosions, like detonators,
explosives or those famous liquid chemicals? No, they haven't found any.

Wycombe Woods, like the sands of Iraq, have failed to yield up the advertised

The other "evidence" that the police announced they had found consisted of
wills (with the implication they were made by suicide bombers) and a map of
Afghanistan. It turns out that the wills were made in the early 90s by
volunteers going off to fight the Serbs in Bosnia - they had been left with
the now deceased uncle of one of those arrested. The map of Afghanistan had
been copied out by an eleven year old boy. All of which is well known to the
UK media, but none of which has been reported for fear of prejudicing the
trial. I am at a complete loss to understand why it does not prejudice the
trial for police to announce in a blaze of worldwide front page publicity
that they have found bomb-making materials, wills and maps. Only if you
contradict the police is that prejudicial. Can anyone explain why?

While the arrest of 26 people in connection with the plot was also massively
publicised, the gradual release of many of them has again gone virtually
unreported. For example on 31 October a judge released two brothers from
Chingford commenting that the police had produced no credible evidence
against them. Charges against others have been downgraded, so that those now
accused of plotting to commit explosions are less than the ten planes the
police claimed they planned to blow up in suicide attacks.

Five British newspapers had to pay damages to a Birmingham man they accused,
on security service briefing, of being part of the plot. Only the Guardian
had the grace to publish the fact and print a retraction.

A final fact to ponder. Despite naming him as the "mastermind" behind
somethng "bigger than 9/11", the British government made no attempt to
extradite Rashid Rauf on charges of terrorism. That is not difficult to do -
the Pakistani authorities have handed over scores of terrorist suspects to
the US, many into the extraordinary rendition process, and on average the
procedure is astonishingly quick - less than a week and they are out of the
country. But the British security services, who placed so much weight on
intelligence from Rashid Rauf, were extraordinarily coy about getting him
here where his evidence could be properly scrutinised by a British court.
However MI5 were greatly embarassed by Birmingham police, who insisted on
pointing out that Rauf was wanted in the UK over the alleged murder of his
uncle in Birmingham. Now he was in custody in Pakistan, shouldn't we
extradite him? So eventually an extradition request over that murder was
formally submitted - but not pursued with real energy or effort. There
remains no sign that we will see Rauf in the UK.

I still do not rule out that there was a germ of a terror plot at the heart of
this investigation. We can speculate about agents provocateurs and security
service penetration, both British and Pakistani, but still there might have
been genuine terrorists involved. But the incredible disruption to the
travelling public, the War on Shampoo, and the "Bigger than 9/11" hype is

You won't read that in the newspapers.

Craig Murray