J7: The July 7th Truth Campaign
The July 7th Inquests got underway last week and have so far provided a pantomime of disinformation and farcical arguments. Just as with the 2009 Intelligence and Security Committee report and the BBC Conspiracy Files episode on the London bombings of the same year, one of the primary concerns of the inquests has been to debunk and oppose 'conspiracy theories'. Hence, it is time for a new installment of the popular 'debunking 7/7 debunking' series, dealing with the fatuous and misleading arguments used in opposition to such 'conspiracy theories'. Those readers looking for a comparatively dispassionate analysis of the inquests should check out the dedicated blog from the July 7th Truth Campaign. Those looking for intelligent outrage at the pure codswallop we are expected to keep swallowing regarding 7/7 should take a look at Famous for 15 Megapixels. Both have provided far more sincere and earnest coverage of the inquests than anyone working in the mainstream media.
The 7/7 Inquests are taking place under the Coroners and Justice Act of 2009, which outlines exactly what are the purposes of such an investigation:
Purpose of Investigation
Matters to be ascertained
The purpose of an investigation under this Part into a person's death is to ascertain-
(a) who the deceased was;
(b) how, when and where the deceased came by his or her death;
(c) the particulars (if any) required by the 1953 Act to be registered concerning the death. - Coroners and Justice Act 2009
However, the 7/7 Inquests have systematically failed from the very opening day to fulfill these requirements. In the morning of 11th October the hearing opened with a statement by Lady Justice Hallet referring to "the deaths of the 52 innocent people who were killed as a result of the bombs in London on 7 July 2005." Before any investigation had taken place, a conclusive verdict on the cause of death of all 52 victims had been presented. Given that one of the questions the inquest is meant to be objectively examining is whether the emergency services could have responded more quickly and effectively, this opening statement is misleading at best. Even if we presume that the official version of events is true, there remains the possibility of some of the victims having died due to the delay in getting them emergency medical treatment. This would mean that they did not die just as a result of bombs going off, but also as a result of not being attended to sufficiently quickly. Beyond that, there is the issue of the inquests into the deaths of the four alleged bombers having been postponed until after the present inquests into the other 52 deaths. There is only a slim possibility of this happening, but if the inquests into the alleged bombers' deaths concludes anything other than that they died in intentional self-inflicted suicide bombings, the present inquests would prove to be a load of nonsense.
The inquests continued with a re-affirmation of the official version of events, namely that four British Muslims travelled to London and intentionally blew themselves up using homemade explosives. This re-affirmation was done using the sort of editorialised language more appropriate for a tabloid newspaper than a legal proceeding. Again, from the opening morning of the inquests, the counsel for the inquests (i.e. the government's lawyer) Hugo Keith QC, said:
The slaughter caused by the bombs caused not only
death, devastation and mutilation, but unleashed an
unimaginable tidal wave of shock, misery and horror for
their families and loved ones. Just as the lives of the
52 victims were callously and brutally ended, the lives
of many others have been, and continue to be, tortured
and wrecked. The bombs could only have had one purpose.
They were intended to kill and to injure. They were
acts of merciless savagery and one can only imagine at
the sheer inhumanity of the perpetrators. - July 7th Inquests, 11th Oct
While it is true that the death of loved ones is immensely painful for the bereaved, and they are more than worthy of our sympathy, this sort of language is not about expressing common human empathy and consideration. It is about writing the mainstream media's headlines for them, as demonstrated by this Telegraph story titled '7/7 inquest: London bombings were 'unimaginable wave of horror' and this Guardian story titled '7/7 inquest: victims killed by 'merciless savagery'. The use of words like 'carnage', 'horror' and 'merciless savagery' is designed to encourage those following the inquests to become lost in psychological disgust and not to engage their critical faculties and question what they are being told. Philosopher David Hume claimed that "reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions." While the truth of this may be disputed, what is clear is that passions can be manipulated to cloud or even prevent reason from having an influence on what people end up believing.
This editorial rhetoric continued as the inquests progressed. On the second day of hearings, new footage was released on the inquests' website, and can be watched here. The video clips are taken from film shot in the hours and days immediately following the bombings, by emergency service workers, and show the aftermath of the explosions on the trains and bus. The videos have been reproduced by media outlets, capitalising on Keith's characterisation of the footage as 'distressing' and even going further, this ITN article describing it as a 'shocking video of carnage'. In reality the videos show very little and for a public who've experienced such horrific cinematic products as the Saw film franchise and recent gore fest The Human Centipede the images are relatively tame. For those who were on the trains and bus, or lost loved one, any such pictures would be distressing, regardless of what they actually showed or didn't show. Furthermore, Keith admitted that the clips had been 'edited and re-edited' to ensure none of the deceased can be seen, sharply contradicting the portrayal of this footage in the major media as 'horrific' and 'shocking'. Not only is this manipulative to the point of outright deception, it is also potentially illegal. The Coroners and Justice Act says explicitly that:
Neither the senior coroner conducting an investigation under this Part into a person's death nor the jury (if there is one) may express any opinion on any matter other than-
(a) the questions mentioned in subsection (1)(a) and (b) (read with subsection (2) where applicable);
(b) the particulars mentioned in subsection (1)(c). - Coroners and Justice Act 2009
While this provision only prohibits the coroner and jury from expressing such opinions, the spirit of the law means that it also covers the legal team advising the coroner. The sorts of comments made by Hugo Keith clearly involve expressing opinions on far more than just the issues of who died, when, where and how, in that they seek to describe the emotional reactions of the survivors and bereaved. One might even say that such inflammatory language glorifies terrorism, turning it from acts of violence motivated by desperation or prejudice or stupidity into acts that define our politics, our emotions and our way of life. Glorification of terrorism is contrary to the 2006 Terrorism Act, though I wouldn't recommend holding your breath and waiting for Keith to be charged. If, as then Prime Minister Tony Blair said on the afternoon of 7/7, the purpose of terrorism is to terrorise people, then Hugo Keith is doing the terrorists work for them.
Another bizarre story emanating from the opening week of the Inquests was that the alleged 7/7 ringleader Mohammed Siddique Khan sent a text message to his supposed co-conspirators on the 6th of July. This allegedly delayed the attacks by a day because Khan's wife was having complications with her pregnancy:
Examination of Khan's mobile telephone
which was recovered from the tunnel between Kings Cross
and Russell Square showed that he sent a text message at
04.35 in the morning of 6 July saying:
"Having major problem. Can't make time. Will ring
you when I get it sorted. Wait at home."
So it may have been that the attack was originally
planned for a different day. - July 7th Inquests, 11th October
As with so many stories floated as part of the War on Terror, there is much about this that doesn't ring true, or at least doesn't support what officials have advanced. For one, why was Khan's phone found in the tunnel between Kings' Cross and Russell Square tube stations when he is meant to have been responsible for a different explosion, miles away at Edgware Road? Just as his property and ID were found at three of the blast locations, this will appear to many people to smack of planted evidence. For another, why would a man supposedly following a jihadi ideology to the extent of killing himself and others care so much about his pregnant wife and unborn child? If the original plan was to carry out a 'martyrdom operation' on the 6th of July then why delay it for the sake of a wife he was never going to see again, and a child he would never see? Looked at the other way, if he was so concerned about his wife and unborn child that he delayed the mission then why did he kill himself? It doesn't add up. Just as it doesn't add up that Khan, a British Pakistani and alleged Islamic fundamentalist, would have married a Westernised woman of Indian descent. Given the animosity felt by both Pakistanis and Indians over the disputed region of Kashmir, this appears a highly unlikely union if Khan was what the police and government have told us he was.
Rather than acknowledge these problems, let alone discuss them, Hugo Keith preferred to adopt a strategy utilised by the 9/11 Commission. The opening day of the Inquests provided ample evidence that debunking 'conspiracy theories' was a crucial aim of the proceedings.
Thus it is
to be hoped that these inquests, however unpleasant and
distressing, as they will be, will assist in answering
the families' questions in allaying some of the rumours
and suspicion generated by conspiracy theorists...
..My Lady, I have mentioned this evidence because
a number of unlikely conspiracy theories have been aired
in the press and on the internet...
...We consider it important that such claims are
identified and addressed...
...Where such claims do not appear to be supported by
the evidence that has been gathered, there is, we feel,
a danger that the continuation of such claims might
needlessly distress the bereaved families as well as
detracting attention away from the issues that you have
identified as being worthy of further investigation. - July 7th Inquests, October 11th
While it may be true that unfounded speculation by 'conspiracy theorists' has caused distress to the survivors and bereaved, this pales in comparison to the distress caused by the unfounded speculation of the official versions of events; the fact that the government, police and MI5 have consistently failed to release evidence proving the truth or falsehood of the official version; the fact that every key element of the official story has been revised (except that Khan et al were responsible); the fact that it has taken over five years for inquests to be held; and the fact that every request and demand for a proper inquiry has been refused and ridiculed. A few 'conspiracy theorists on the internet' simply cannot have caused anything close to the degree of frustration and confusion caused by the actions of the authorities of the state, no matter how whacky or speculative their claims might be.
Despite this, the above comments show that debunking 'conspiracy theories/theorists' is very much what the Inquests are hoping to achieve, certainly more so than their legally mandated duties outlined above. Keith even admitted that:
It is not a proper
function of an inquest to attribute blame or apportion
guilt, or a proper function of mine to express opinions
on impermissible areas. - July 7th Inquests, 11th October
This did not stop him from devoting a large proportion of his opening day statement to apportioning blame, to reaffirming the official narrative, and in general to using a supposedly unbiased judicial process for the political purpose of opposing and criticising 'conspiracy theories'. This perception of such theories, or even just the well-founded questioning and analysis offered by those such as the July 7th Truth Campaign, is entirely in keeping with the work of Cass Sunstein, and the more recent report published by the DEMOS thinktank. Both view 'conspiracy theories' as a political problem, a threat to public confidence in the powerful institutions of the state (and presumably their bosom buddies in the corporate world). Both advocate covert and overt opposition to such theories as a means of restoring such confidence. In Sunstein's list of possible government activites against 'conspiracy theories' he wrote:
(3) Government might itself engage in counterspeech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy theories. (4) Government might formally hire credible private parties to engage in counterspeech. (5) Government might engage in informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to help. - Sunstein, 2008Likewise, DEMOS also put forth a policy of infiltration:
Government agents or their allies should openly infiltrate the
Internet sites or spaces to plant doubts about conspiracy theories,
introducing alternative information. - DEMOS, The Power of Unreason
If Hugo Keith QC has been officially or unofficially tasked with infiltrating the space that is the July 7th Inquests with the specific mission of trying to debunk 'conspiracy theories' about 7/7, it would not be much of a surprise. As noted on the July 7th Truth Campaign's Inquest blog, Keith's background is very much one of a state-sponsored legal hatchet man. A quick glance at his background, detailed here, shows that he defended the Queen at the inquests into the deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed, perhaps the highest profile effort by the British state to debunk the 'conspiracy theory' that they were killed by MI6 at the behest of the Royal family. Keith also represented David Mills and Silvio Berlusconi in a major money laundering and tax fraud case in Italy. Among his other work was helping the Secretary of State extradite Gary McKinnon, who hacked into the Pentagon looking for evidence of UFOs and extraterrestrials. Keith also helped the Director of Public Prosecutions resist prosecuting anyone in the police for the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes. He also helped the Serious Fraud Office defend the decision to end the investigation into corruption in deals between the major British arms manufacturer BAE Systems and one of their major clients, the state of Saudi Arabia. Most recently, Keith's skills were put to helping the police justify shooting barrister Mark Saunders five times, a decision the inquest into Saunders' death judged to be 'self defence'. When it comes to defending the violence and corruption of the state, Keith is more than happy to take public money and use his status and education to further that aim. As such, if there was state involvement in the bombings of 7/7 then it is no surprise to see Keith once again turn up and perform his 'duty'.
The QC's pièce de résistance in the July 7th Inquests, at least so far, came in his efforts to oppose the idea that the four alleged bombers may have been set up as patsies - a possibility considered in the recent film 7/7: Seeds of Deconstruction, which was submitted to the counsel for the Inquests and all the lawyers representing survivors and the bereaved. Keith said:
There is no evidence at all that we have seen to
suggest that the bombers were duped in some way so that
they did not know that they were going to die or, even
more absurdly, that they did not know that they were
carrying explosives at all. Indeed, such claims run
entirely contrary to all the evidence that I have
summarised so far.
It is right to say that the bombers were
surprisingly effective, it would seem, in concealing
their intentions from those around them. Tanweer played
cricket in the evening before putting the terrible plot
into effect and seemed more concerned, according to his
family, by the loss of his mobile phone. - July 7th Inquests, 11th October
Again pinching his lines from the 9/11 Commission, Keith claimed there 'is no evidence at all that we have seen' indicating that the alleged bombers were unintentional victims of the bombings. Employing a truly remarkable degree of doublethink, he then cited just the sort of evidence that does indicate this, i.e. that Shehzad Tanweer played cricket on the evening before 7/7. By contrast, one might expect a jihadi fundamentalist on the verge of a suicide mission to be spending that time making last minute checks and preparations, or praying. This is the same Tanweer who in the supposed 'dummy run' CCTV footage showing only three of the alleged bombers going to London a few days before 7/7 is seen wearing a t-shirt branded by the Western sportswear firm Puma.
However, even though Keith says they have seen no such evidence he tacitly admits that Tanweer playing cricket is such evidence, by describing this and other indications as part of an effort at 'concealing their intentions'. This is purely circular, and complete balderdash. Evidence that the men weren't knowing suicide bombers isn't actually evidence they weren't knowing suicide bombers, but evidence that they were concealing the fact that they were suicide bombers. The notion that they were suicide bombers is both a premise of the argument, and the argument's conclusion. It is only if you believe they were guilty that you could possibly interpret Tanweer's behaviour in this light, and claiming it as evidence of their guilt is a remarkable feat of twisted logic. This was not the only self-contradictory argument employed. The less than integral QC also cited as evidence of the alleged bombers intent videos that appeared at highly convenient times for the official narrative:
If there were any residual doubts, these are further
answered by two other pieces of evidence: Tanweer's
so-called last will and testament, which appeared a year
later on the internet, in which he seeks to justify
attacks, and the footage of Khan which appeared on
Al Jazeera, on 1 September 2005, to similar effect.
Those parts of the videos that showed them at any
rate must of course have been prepared prior to 7 July,
and thus, on account of their content, demonstrate that
their views had been held for some time. Indeed, the
release of the videos reinforces the terrorist dimension
of the attacks. They were made to be released following
the attacks themselves. - July 7th Inquests, 11th October
The two videos referred to are so-called 'martyrdom tapes', the first of which appeared at the beginning of September 2005, just as questions began circulating in the major media about whether the bombings were in fact suicide attacks. The second appeared on the day before the first anniversary of the attacks, on the 6th of July 2006. Though Keith went to great lengths to cast doubt on 'conspiracy theorists on the internet', he evidently had no qualms at all about citing videos of unknown provenance that appeared on the internet and used to help advance the official conspiracy theory. In this context, his comment that 'the release of the videos reinforces the terrorist dimension of the attacks' is perhaps an ironic confession. Though the authenticity of both videos has been questioned, let us assume for the sake of argument that they are genuine.
Neither video contains any mention of attacking the London public transport system, suicide bombings, or indeed any terrorist attack of any kind. As the above clips show, the mainstream media instantly seized upon the videos as evidence of the four alleged bombers guilt, even though they are at best evidence of only two of the four having vaguely jihadish beliefs. Not a single mainstream outlet has bothered to ask 'where are the equivalent videos for Hasib Hussein and Germaine Lindsay?' Put another way, Khan and Tanweer making such videos is not evidence of the guilt of others who knew them, yet this is exactly the argument the rogue QC has employed. What is particularly strange about the second item above, courtesy of the BBC, is that they interviewed Azzam Tamimi, an 'Islamic academic'. Tamimi trotted out the BBC's desired script about the videos, but he himself is an open supporter of Hamas, and has praised suicide bombers. He did this both before 7/7, in a 2004 interview for the BBC show Hardtalk, and after 7/7, in a speech where he said:
The greatest act of martyrdom is standing up for what is true and just. - Daily Mail, 2006
As such, Tamimi has made far more incriminating statements (however true or untrue they may be) than either Khan or Tanweer made in their 'martyrdom videos', and yet the BBC are happy to continue using Tamimi as a pundit, all the while reporting on the Khan/Tanweer tapes as proof of their guilt. This goes beyond mere doublethink and double standards. It is the height of journalistic hypocrisy and propaganda.
So, given that the opening of the July 7th Inquests has proven to be a huge disappointment for anyone seeking the truth about what happened, what are we to expect from the next few months of proceedings? The Provisional Index of Factual Issues and the timeline for what the Inquests will cover in the next four or five months are both weighted heavily on the question of 'preventability', i.e. the title of the 2009 ISC report 'Could 7/7 Have Been Prevented?' Having presumed what happened and who was responsible, this final part of the Inquests will examine whether or not the police and MI5 had enough information to have interdicted the bombing plot, and will serve to determine the boundaries of future discussions about 7/7 in the same way as the opening statements analysed above. In all likelihood, the Inquests will conclude that MI5 and the police were not sufficiently vigilant in their battle against the great terrorism menace. The upshot of asking the questions in this way is that MI5 in particular will be portrayed as not being paranoid enough to confront the 'real and serious' threat that we are facing. Even though their investigations have led to such ridiculous and corrupt convictions as that of paintballer Mohammed Hamid, they will be encouraged to become ever more suspicious of British Muslims in the name of stopping another attack from happening. The likely outcome is that this will then be exploited by our political masters to justify increasingly vicious counterterrorism policy and legislation, as has consistently been the case over the five years since the London bombings.