Parliamentary Group Clears British Intelligence of Failing to Prevent London Bombings

19 May 2009

Britain's Intelligence and Security Committee has released its findings into what the country's domestic intelligence service knew about the suicide bombers before they struck in London on the 7th of July 2005, killing 52 people. Many families of what is known as the 7/7 victims want to know why the security services did not move in and prevent the deadly attacks from taking place.

A report by a group of British politicians has cleared the country's domestic intelligence service and police of failings over the London suicide attacks that took place nearly four years ago.

But the findings of the parliamentary committee will satisfy few of the critics who point out that the ringleader of the suicide cell, Mohammad Sidique Khan, had been photographed by British intelligence four years before he struck.

Pakistan immigration department photo shows Mohammad Sidique Khan, one of the four London suicide bomber suspects, standing at the immigration counter at the Karachi airport in Pakistan, 19 Nov 2004
Mohammad Sidique Khan, one of the four London suicide bomber suspects, standing at the immigration counter at the Karachi airport in Pakistan, 19 Nov 2004
In its report, the lawmakers also say Kahn and one of the members in his cell Shehzad Tanweer were watched, photographed and recorded by intelligence in 2004, just a year before the deadly attacks took place.

Graham Foulkes is the father of one of the victims who died in the coordinated blasts in what was the worst- ever peacetime attack in the capital.

"This report today is written by the same people who wrote the first one which was widely discredited so how they think they can then come back with any credibility to write a second report is beyond belief," he said.

One of the lawmakers on the parliamentary committee, Michael Mates, says despite intelligence operatives having observed two of the four bombers, he says he believes the attacks on three subway cars and a bus could not be prevented.

"We do not believe it could have been prevented given the resources we had and given the intelligence that the security services had available to them," said Mates.

The report concludes Khan and Tanweer were not considered by British intelligence to be essential targets to follow more closely at the time as they were thought to have been peripheral players in a different plot being studied, namely a possible fertilizer bombing attack against a shopping center and nightclub. Mates says the security service simply lacked the manpower to follow up every lead.

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Those judgments were taken at the time and having gone into all the details we cannot find any reason to criticize the judgment they took at that time about those two," he added.

Campaigners want nothing less than a full independent public inquiry into why the security service and police acted as they did.

The Labor government first under Tony Blair and now under Gordon Brown has repeated ruled out such a probe. The government line is it would sidetrack intelligence gathering at a time when Britain is at serious risk of a terrorist attack.