Tuesday, August 30, 2005

John Loftus: Anti-Terrorist Hero or Irresponsible Bullshitter?

Some weeks ago, I took issue with this post over at Soj's, which discussed various apparent irregularities in the London bombings investigation (or at least the impression of it that appeared in the media) and drew some quite hefty conclusions based on the statements of one John Loftus, a "former Justice Department prosecutor" who regularly appears on Fox News.

Now, the thing that struck me about Loftus's opinions as transcribed was that for someone who purports to be an expert on Islamist terrorism he appeared to think that Abu Hamza (the now-jailed chap from Finsbury Park Mosque with the hook) and Omar Bakri Mohammed, the now-deported founder of al-Muhajiroun, were one and the same man, despite the discrepancy in the number of hands. He also described al-Muj as "al-Qa'ida's recruiting arm in Europe", which is pushing it some, given that the organisation was never more than a couple of dozen British student fanatics and has never been (for example) the subject of charges as a conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism etc. Certainly they were an unpleasant and potentially dangerous lot, but this is pushing well beyond the bounds of the available evidence. Not only that, but he described the members of al-Muhajiroun as "Somali, Eritrean, the first group was primarily Pakistani" - although Hamza is an Egyptian who became a British citizen and Omar Bakri is a Syrian/Lebanese dual national living as a refugee in the UK before his, ahem, extended holiday in Beirut.

Clearly, Loftus's knowlege of the subject is a tad rusty. Which would throw the various other statements he tossed out in that Fox interview in a very different light. He claimed that a) al-Muj was an MI6 front, b) that Omar Abu Bakri Hamza-Mohammed was being protected by the British secret services as a reward for services rendered in Bosnia, c) that Haroon Rashid Aswat was an MI6 agent and also an al-Qa'ida "Master Mind" behind both lots of tubombers, and much more besides. (He couldn't explain why, or quite possibly didn't know, that one half of his jihadi pushmepullyou was exploring prison halal food at the time of the attack.)

Who better than Mr. Loftus himself to vouch for his abilities? From his self-description:
"It is possible that John Loftus may know more intelligence secrets than anyone alive. As a former Justice Department prosecutor, Loftus once held some of the highest security clearances in the world, with special access to NATO Cosmic, CIA codeword, and Top Secret Nuclear files. As a private attorney, he works without charge to help hundreds of intelligence agents obtain lawful permission to declassify and publish the hidden secrets of our times.
Well, a lack of self-confidence is clearly not among his flaws. NATO COSMIC, eh? That must be something pretty superspook? I happen to know someone who held a COSMIC, but he certainly doesn't think it makes him a terrorism expert. Just as well, because it's (or it was) the one required by anyone who may be in a position to use a NATO nuclear weapon. That sounds terribly impressive, but it did include people down to the level of artillery troop commanders (i.e. lieutenants) in units that held the nuclear artillery rounds, individual air force pilots, and quite a lot of fairly junior naval officers. My own tame COSMIC, for example, was the anti-submarine warfare officer on a Leander Class frigate in the late 70s. He needed the clearance because the ship often carried a couple of Nuclear Depth Bombs against the possibility they stumbled on a Soviet ballistic-missile submarine and needed to finish it before it could launch. As the release authority could come only from NATO SACLANT or one of his deputies, a NATO clearance was needed.

Now, if Loftus really did have that clearance, I'll take a wild guess and say the US Top Secret Nuclear referred to the same job but in the US National chain of command as opposed to the NATO one. According to his site again, he mentions having been an officer in the US Army before becoming a prosecutor, via a rather odd journalistic career that swerves from Nazi-hunting to investigating dealings between the Bush family and Nazi Germany to super-neocon war cheerleading. The reference is to "a covert operation that changed the course of the Yom Kippur war". Now, there was indeed one such, which was the airlift of US equipment to Israel. Rather, it was meant to be covert, but as the kit eventually went by USAF C-5 and C-141 aircraft and arrived in daylight, it didn't stay that way. I would have thought, if I was a superspook terrorism expert who knew not just that Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri were different men but also what they had for breakfast, I wouldn't need to big-time myself by boasting about irrelevant stuff.

Why this rant, and why now? Well, Lofty has gone and done it again, by broadcasting the address of someone he thought might be The London Bombings Mastermind. Not that the chap had lived there for three years, but hey, a terr's a terr. Even one who quit The Movement back in '97 because he thought Omar Bakri was a dangerous nut, and has now shuttered his corner shop and gone into hiding for fear of the mob. And Loftus's source for the charge that the poor sod was The Leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the US?

(wait for it)

......Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed himself! (Note - link may need Bugmenot.com login, scroll down once you're there.)

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