British security services missed a number of opportunities to intercept the July 7 London bombers, according to an official report published yesterday.
The leader of the bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan, came to the notice of MI5 at least four times before the suicide blasts, but was deemed not to be a threat.
The Security Service (MI5) had a photograph of Khan and his telephone number as well as the number of another of the bombers, Germaine Lindsay, and had also come across a third member of the team, Shahzad Tanweer, on three occasions. The leads were only followed up in a limited way because the men were considered to be on the "periphery" of any plot.
David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, called for an inquiry similar to the Franks committee report which examined the causes of the Falklands War.
According to the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report, the photograph of Khan was not shown to an informant who knew his face, a decision described by the committee of MPs as a "missed opportunity".
In the months and weeks running up to the attacks which claimed 52 lives, the Government's intelligence umbrella group dismissed as far-fetched the notion of home-grown terrorists carrying out suicide bombings in Britain.
The dossier reveals that Khan had been going to Afghanistan since the late 1990s, and an informant had told the Security Service. However, he had the wrong name for Khan and the correct one only emerged after July 7. Khan and Tanweer had also made repeated visits to Pakistan. The report said: "It has not yet been established who they met in Pakistan, but it is assessed as likely that they had some contact with al-Qa'ida figures."
The ISC stated that little or no intelligence came from Pakistan where MI6 [the Secret Intelligence Service] has a large base. According to security sources, the Pakistani authorities failed to provide any tangible information until after the bombings.
John Reid, the Home Secretary, said that there was circumstantial evidence linking the bombers to al-Qa'ida. "There is no direct verifiable irrefutable evidence ... however, there is considerable circumstantial evidence which runs from the fact that Khan visited certainly Pakistan, possibly outside it, and that he went back with Tanweer between November and February 2004 to 2005."
Despite the failings, the ISC concluded yesterday that no one in the police, security or intelligence services was at fault. The main difficulty, said the MPs, was a lack of resources. The report said: "If more resources had been in place sooner, the chances of preventing the July attacks could have increased. Greater coverage in Pakistan, or more resources in the UK, might have alerted the agencies to the intentions of the July 7 group."
The report also raised questions about the role of the war in Iraq in motivating the bombers.
Sir Menzies Campbell, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: "It is not credible to deny a link between the war in Iraq and the increasing terrorism, when the Government was warned by the security services that the military action against Iraq would lead to this."
The committee dismissed accusations that the report was a "whitewash". But opposition MPs and the families of those killed and injured demanded that the Government hold an independent inquiry.
The cost of carrying out the attacks came to less than £8,000. The ISC report, and a "narrative" of events produced by the Home Office, described how the bombers were motivated by a "fierce antagonism" towards the West because of "perceived injustices", including the invasion of Iraq. However, the security system failed to grasp the growing danger. Just weeks before the attacks, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre said: "We judge that at present there is not a group with both the current intent and the capability to attack the UK."
The ISC said: "Across the whole of the counter-terrorism community, the development of the home-grown threat and the radicalisation of British citizens were not fully understood or applied to strategic thinking."
The cold-blooded ferocity of the attacks was highlighted by the actions of 18-year-old Hasib Hussain, who blew up himself and a bus full of passengers an hour after the other three bombs had been detonated in the Underground system. It had been suggested that Hussain, the youngest in the team, may have initially lost his nerve. However, it emerged yesterday that Hussain had stopped off and bought a battery for his bomb from a shop at King's Cross station to make a second attempt after failing the first time.
It is, however, the actions of the law agencies which came under a critical spotlight yesterday. Khan, 30, and Tanweer, 22, first came to the notice of the police and Security Service in 2003 and then 2004 when they were in contact with other Islamist suspects. Their identities were not known and the Security Service decided not to use its stretched resources to establish these as they were not deemed to be threats to the UK. The report states: "Intelligence suggested that their focus was training and insurgency operations in Pakistan and schemes to defraud financial institutions. As such, there was no reason to divert resources away from other higher priorities."
Following the arrests of the Islamist group the subject of separate legal proceedings the Security Service began to investigate Khan and Tanweer again. But, says the report, the "resources were soon diverted again to higher priorities".
The MPs called for a clearer system of alerting the public to the threat level in the UK.
The ISC's recommendations
* A more transparent threat level and alert system needed.
* Improvements to the way MI5 and police tackle "home-grown" terrorism.
* The chances of preventing the July 7 atrocities "could have increased" if more resources had been made available sooner and there was better intelligence from Pakistan.
* By July 2005, the number of "primary investigative targets" known to security services in the UK had risen from about 250 at the time of 9/11 to 800.
* There was "no specific intelligence" of the July 7 plot, nor of any other group with a "credible plot".
* A judgement from the Joint Intelligence Committee in March last year that suicide attacks would "not become the norm in Europe" could have impacted on the alertness of the authorities to the threat.
* Members of the Intelligence and Security Committee were "concerned that more was not done sooner" about the terror threat from UK citizens.
* "No evidence" of direct links between the July 7 attacks and the failed attacks on London transport on July 21.
* Two of the four bombers Sidique Khan andShahzad Tanweer first came to the notice of the police and MI5 in 2003and then in 2004 when they were in contact with other Islamist suspects. Inquiries were limited because of pressing priorities.
* Khan and Tanweer came to the notice of the security service through detainees held in foreign countries. A surveillance picture of Khan was not shown to a detainee who was later able to pick him out from a newspaper.
* After attacks, MI5 found they had the telephone number of Germaine Lindsay on file.
* Khan's telephone number was known to MI5 as far back as 2004.Reuse content