MI5 officer tells of 7/7 'regret'

MI5 today expressed "profound regret" for failing to prevent the 7/7 bombings.





One of the Security Service's most senior officers told the inquest into the attacks that every member of the agency lamented the fact that plot ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan was not fully investigated before the atrocities.



The top spy, who can be named only as Witness G, insisted MI5 had "no inkling" of what was to befall London on July 7 2005 and said it would be "nonsensical and offensive" to suggest otherwise.



Hugo Keith QC, counsel to the inquest, said: "You have nevertheless recorded that it is a matter of profound regret that despite its efforts and industry, the Security Service did not manage to ascertain the full significance, and intentions importantly, of Mohammed Sidique Khan and thus did not manage to prevent the atrocities of July 7."



Witness G said: "Every member of the service feels that."









Khan and his number two, Shehzad Tanweer, were seen meeting known terror suspects 17 months before the July 7 2005 London bombings, which killed 52 innocent people.



Witness G was called to give evidence to the inquest about whether Britain's security agencies could have drawn together intelligence about the pair's links with extremists and established they were planning mass murder.



The top spy, who is chief of staff to MI5 director general Jonathan Evans, spoke of the large number of serious terrorist conspiracies under investigation around the time of the 7/7 attacks.



He described a plot to bring down transatlantic airliners foiled in 2006 as the gravest threat faced by the Security Service since the Second World War.



"In terms of the seriousness of the plot, I believe it is the most significant thing the service has been involved in since 1945," he said.











Witness G defended MI5 against the suggestion it could in some way be held responsible for the July 7 atrocity.



Asked if he rejected the assertion that there had been "significant intelligence failings", he replied simply: "I do."



The inquest has heard how counter-terrorism officers watched, photographed and followed Khan and Tanweer in early 2004 during their inquiry into the group of extremists planning a fertiliser bomb attack, but did not fully identify them at the time.



Following the conclusion of this investigation, code-named Crevice, they launched Operation Scrawl.



This sought to follow up individuals who had come to their attention during surveillance of the core Crevice plotters.



While they had unearthed some 4,000 "contacts", the task was assigned to just one MI5 officer, the inquest heard.



This person, though given some assistance, was also responsible for "other work going on at the time," Witness G told the hearing.



But he said the Service had subsequently beefed up its reviewing techniques.



Asked if lessons had been learnt from the follow-up of Crevice which was not "quite as thorough" as it might have been, he said: "Not just Crevice, I think we learnt lessons from a number of operations between 2004 and 2005."



The inquest is looking at whether MI5 could have drawn together different strands of intelligence about Khan's links with extremists and established that he was planning mass murder.



Many 7/7 survivors and relatives of those killed in the attacks argue that MI5 had enough information about the bomber to make him a priority for an in-depth investigation which would have uncovered his plot.



Witness G, who in July 2005 was a senior manager in a department which worked to counter international terrorism, explained that this area consumed the largest part of the Security Service's budget.



Spending had increased dramatically in the years leading up to 7/7, he said.







But, at the time, there was concern that a somewhat limited budget meant the service was forced to "prioritise ruthlessly" and could only pin down the "crocodiles nearest the boat".



By July 2005, efforts were under way to boost resources but these are only nearing completion now - more than five years after the worst single terror attack on British soil.



"The planning process really began in 2001 and is only coming to an end now," Witness G told the hearing.







Outlining one problem area in 2005, Witness G told the hearing the service had difficulties in "regional liaison" with local police forces and Special Branch.



In this area, he said, lessons had been learned and improvements made.



Mr Keith asked him: "If steps had been taken before 2005, whilst you can't say for sure, you might have been able to increase your intelligence understanding of what might have been happening in the Dewsbury area?"



He replied: "Yes, I think that's fair."











MI5 received intelligence in early 2005 about a committed extremist called "Saddique" from Batley, West Yorkshire, who spent two months doing military training after travelling to Pakistan in 2001, the inquest heard.



This man was prepared to use a baseball bat and was capable of carrying out a martyrdom operation, according to the source.



Witness G was asked if MI5's system at the time allowed officers to collate the references to a suspect called Sidique.



He replied: "They could have done. Software has improved over the years and this sort of search, which is known as fuzzy searching, is better now than it was then.



"But it's still a long way from perfect on common names."



The task was more difficult because there are a large number of people called Sidique Khan on MI5's database, the inquest heard.



The senior spy said: "Much depends on the name. A highly uncommon name is something that current software technology may be able to pick up.



"With a common name, as this one would be for us, any software which picks up any reference to it would be likely to come up with all sorts of other Sidique Khans."



Asked about how straightforward it was to dig into MI5's files to search for information about a suspect, he said it could be "very difficult" if they did not have their own record on the system.



Khan was bugged discussing travelling to Pakistan to fight for jihad with fertiliser bomb plot ringleader Omar Khyam in February 21 2004, although police only established it was Khan's voice on the tape after the July 7 attacks.



Witness G, who has been a member of MI5 since 1991, agreed that insufficient regard was given at the time to the speed and ease with which people can go from supporting terrorism to planning attacks.



Mr Keith said: "Now that sort of tape would cause alarm bells to ring perhaps somewhat louder than had been the case in February 2004?"



Witness G said: "Yes, it would, but again within the context of if a major operation were running, it might need to be put to one side."



MI5 received information in April 2004 from al Qaida supergrass Mohammed Junaid Babar that two men from West Yorkshire called "Ibrahim" and "Zubair" had travelled to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan the previous year.



Babar was shown surveillance pictures of Khan and Tanweer in August 2004 but failed to identify them, and it was only confirmed after the 7/7 attacks that "Ibrahim" was Khan.



Witness G was asked why a photograph of Tanweer but not one of Khan - known only at the time as "unidentified man E" - was shown to Babar in April 2004.



He replied: "I can only speculate here because we don't know exactly why.



"The judgment we formed was that the cropped photograph of man E was probably such poor quality it wasn't worth showing, but I don't have any contemporaneous record documentation."

Suggested Topics
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
news

As anti-Semitic attacks rise, Grant Feller re-evaluates his identity

News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
News
people
News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Life and Style
fashionThe Secret Angels all take home huge sums - but who earns the most?
Sport
football

Striker ignored Brendan Rodger's request to applaud audience

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?