This was the case where officials were sent scrambling due to an assistant police commissioner being photographed with highly-classified documents visible. The new details illustrate what a close call this may have been, no thanks to said commissioner. “Al-Qaeda came within days of terror attack on Britain last year, court hears,” by Duncan Gardham for the Telegraph, March 9 (thanks to all who sent this in):
An alleged al-Qaeda terrorist cell arrested in the North West was within days of launching an attack on Britain a senior officer in MI5 has told a tribunal.
The men, who were arrested in Manchester and Liverpool in April last year, were said to be in direct contact with al-Qaeda in Pakistan, using coded email messages that talked about cars and girls.
They were said to be “operating in a similar manner” to those planning the mass casualty attacks of July 7 2005 and the trans-Atlantic airline plot of 2006.
Sources at the time said the gang was targeting Easter shoppers but police found no sign of bomb-making equipment and they were never charged.
The operation had to be brought forward after Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, then Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, was photographed entering Downing Street with details of the operation visible.
The “Al-Qaeda Pipeline,” still in action:
Four of the men, who had all arrived from Pakistan on student visas, are now appealing against a government decision to deport them on national security grounds. […]
He said they were “planning a terrorist attack on the UK, directed and orchestrated by al-Qaeda and part of that direction was by coded email passages and the attack was most likely to take place between 15 and 20 April 2009 on which basis the arrests came days before the attacks were due to take place.
“There is a recognition that at the time of the arrests, the appellants on that day were not ready to launch an attack but that doesn’t preclude doing it at the time they said.
“The service retains an open mind about what would happen between the 15th and 20th but our view remains that it was an attack on the UK. There is no other credible explanation.”
Referring to the emails about girls, the officer added: “On the face of it without the surrounding context. these emails were designed to look like a conversation about girls but I do not assess these were young men talking about girls, I believe it was attack planning in some detail.”
He said the men were acting in a similar way to those involved in the July 7 and airlines plots, adding: “They were all planning terrorist attacks in the UK under the direction of al-Qaeda, aiming for mass casualties….