With typical reasoned calm, the Sun reports today on an apparent terror plot:
You'll recall that when a British man 'of Somali origin' was arrested in Amsterdam recently, the Sun called him a 'Terrorist Brit' but didn't report quite so fulsomely on the fact that he was later released without charge and allowed to continue on his way. So what evidence is there for this new 'Mumbai' plot?
Police fear the attack will be as horrific as when a Pakistan-based al-Qaeda group killed 165 people in Mumbai in 2008.
Prime Minister Cameron has been told that US spies picked up "internet chatter" suggesting another headline-grabbing outrage.
A senior British intelligence source said last night: "The PM has been made aware of a possible Mumbai-style strike against the country. But it was unclear at this stage whether the terrorists would definitely hit Britain - or launch attacks in France or Germany.
"The PM held top-level talks with senior police officers, special forces commanders and the intelligence services on how best to counter such a threat."
Police fear it could be as bad... internet chatter... intelligence source... Now, I don't know if it's just a coincidence, but there's another report being kicked around today about a 'Mumbai-style' terror plot. Here's CNN with the story:
A German citizen of Afghan descent was the source of much of the information on a potential "Mumbai-style" terror plot in Europe, a German counterterrorism official said Wednesday.
The man, Ahmed Sidiqi, was detained in Kabul in July and transferred to U.S. custody where he has "revealed details about the terror plot," said the official, who did not want to be named because he is not authorized to talk to the media.
The man and several other Germans traveled from Hamburg to the Afghan-Pakistan border area in 2009, where he joined the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an extremist group allied with al Qaeda, German intelligence officials said.
Sidiqi, once captured, "started to talk a lot," and detailed a "Mumbai-style" attack in Europe, the German official said.
So which is it? Is it 'internet chatter' or is it this German man 'of Afghan descent' (we have to get the fact that he's one of them in the story, to put it into context, obviously) providing the source of this 'Mumbai-style' terror attack in Europe? Is it both? Is it neither? Is the attack likely, or has it, as the Telegraph says, been thwarted?
British Muslims training with al-Qaeda were planning an armed rampage through London as part of a terrorist spectacular aimed at European capitals, sources told the Daily Telegraph.
A senior al-Qaeda commander from Egypt, was killed in North Waziristan, disrupting the planned attacks.
It is thought that the group was in the final stages of its preparations for co-ordinated attacks, thought to be on the capital cities of Britain, France and Germany.
The plot was foiled after Western intelligence agencies, including MI6 and GCHQ, uncovered the plans by senior al-Qaeda operatives in the lawless tribal areas.
The CIA launched a series of attacks against militants in the area using unmanned Predator drones armed with Hellfire missiles.
That article, by Duncan Gardham, who wrote all about how Al-Qaeda were expanding into Africa off the back of the arrest of that British man at Schiphol (you know, the one who was released without charge, though Mr Gardham was too busy to tell his readers about that fact when it happened), does a few things. It weaves a lot of threads together: the idea that British Muslims are to be involved in terror, that the plot is real, that drone attacks in Afghanistan can thwart terror attacks in Europe. Quite a lot of stuff. Where's the evidence for it, though? Well, there is none. There is just 'intelligence sources'.
The overriding news message, though, is this: the terror threat exists. There might be (or could have been) a Mumbai-style atrocity in Britain, or France, or Germany, or all of them. And the other strand is this: that firing missiles into Pakistan is working, because it prevents crimes like this from happening.We have no way of knowing if that's really the case; we have to take all of this on trust. And as I always say with these stories, I don't doubt that there are people out there who are planning terrorist crimes in this country, and elsewhere; it's just that I don't know whether we should or can believe everything these 'intelligence sources' say.