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'British 9/11' Alert Looks Increasingly Like It Was Faked For Political Effect
The Home Office is suspected of being behind discredited media reports on the eve of the Queen's Speech that an al-Qa'ida plot to fly planes into London skyscrapers had been foiled.
Supporters of David Blunkett were accused of trying to exploit public fears in an attempt to help the Government introduce anti-terrorism legislation.
The Daily Mail and ITV News reported that Islamic extremists were caught preparing to attack the financial centre of Canary Wharf, or possibly Heathrow.
The two journalists responsible said they had been told about the story by a "senior source" several days ago. The Mail said the "security services" - MI5 and MI6 - had prevented the planned attack.
Anti-terrorism sources denied the claim. One said: "To say we were surprised at the report is an understatement - this is the first we have heard of a plot like this." Another said: "No one has been charged for this so- called plot which suggests it never happened."
The source added that the fact that the story of the 11 September-style plan came from lobby correspondents, rather than security or crime specialists, "gives you a good clue to where they got their information". The journalists behind the story, Benedict Brogan, the Mail's Whitehall editor, and Nick Robinson, the political editor of ITV News, are known to have joint lunches with politicians and officials.
Details of the story, which they agreed to run at the same time, are believed to have been provided by a Home Office source several days ago.
Despite having the information for several days, and possibly longer than a week, the newspaper and television programme held the stories until just before the Queen's Speech, which contained Bills to introduce an ID card, an FBI-style organised crime agency and other anti-terrorist measures.
Barry Hugill, a spokesman for Liberty, the civil liberties organisation, said: "The timing and contents of this story look very, very suspicious indeed."
He added: "Ten days ago Mr Blunkett announced that the intelligence services had thwarted a major al-Qa'ida plot, then added that that they might not be able to convict the people involved. Now we discover that al-Qa'ida are going to crash an aeroplane into Canary Wharf - the whole thing appears to be very cynical indeed."
Patrick Mercer, the Conservative spokesman on homeland security, added: "The Home Secretary is getting his markers down now so that when the inevitable happens he can say, 'Well I warned you, didn't I?' "
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