Magazine article The Spectator

Speaking Out

Magazine article The Spectator

Speaking Out

Article excerpt

Now that the law lords appear to care more about the rights of alleged terrorists than they do about protecting the public I suppose we'll just have to hang around and wait until someone commits a terrorist outrage. It's difficult to know what to make of these judges: are they in a constant feud with the Home Secretary of the day - it doesn't matter who it is - or are they genuinely fixated by the disastrous Human Rights Act this government foolishly signed up to?

Perhaps it's old-fashioned complacency of the kind that affected the FBI before 9/11, as we heard in last week's Taking a Stand, Fergal Keane's series about people who speak out, on Radio Four (Tuesday). Coleen Rowley is an FBI lawyer who was told by a colleague that a Moroccan man had just been arrested after asking a flying school in Minnesota to teach him how to fly a jumbo jet even though he couldn't even pilot a light aircraft. She thought this merited a search of his home and laptop, but her FBI bosses chose not to pursue the matter. Then came 9/11. The Moroccan's name was Zacharia Moussaoui, and he was found to have links with the leader of the hijackers, Mohammed Atta.

It's easy, of course, to use hindsight, but it's also clear that 9/11 could have been prevented. Rowley thinks that, had Moussaoui been properly investigated, the trail would have led to the other hijackers. So why wasn't he? She thought it was because the authorities refused to believe that the United States could be attacked on its own soil. One of her superiors, she said, had actually imagined that the Moroccan was the type of man who could fly an aircraft into the World Trade Center, but had been told that 'that ain't gonna happen'. When she saw 9/11 on television, she thought it must be related to Moussaoui. Then she heard the FBI director denying any knowledge of people being trained at flight schools.

Eventually, she contacted senators, the memo was leaked and it was out in the open. Despite hostility from within the FBI, she wasn't fired as whistleblowers in Brussels are. She kept her job. 'If you see the weapons out there right now the potential for something on a greater scale than 9/11 is there, and I think you'd be delusional if you didn't think it could happen.' Perhaps she should address the law lords.

Following on from what I wrote last week about American talk radio, I suppose the nearest thing we have to it here is talkSPORT on medium wave. …

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