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Context of 'October 18, 2008: US ‘Overreacted’ to 9/11 Attacks: Former British Spy Chief'

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MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, disbands G7, a special unit that was established in the early 1980s to monitor Islamic militants. The order to do so comes from MI5 head Stella Rimington. It is strongly opposed by some MI5 colleagues, especially since the World Trade Center was bombed by Islamic militants in 1993 (see February 26, 1993). According to Vanity Fair, “Vital continuity and experience were lost, one senior British official says, and even after al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the 1998 American Embassy attacks in Africa from a fax machine in London, nothing was done to restore the unit.” [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: G7 (MI5 Unit), Stella Rimington

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Sir Stephen Lander.Sir Stephen Lander. [Source: Public domain]According to an officially authorized book on the MI5 published in 2009, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, MI5, warns top British leaders that a surge in the number of reports of threat information is “sufficient to conclude that [Osama bin Laden] and those that share his agenda are currently well advanced in operational planning for a number of major attacks on Western interests.” Similar MI5 warnings about an imminent attack will continue up until 9/11, including one put out on the morning of 9/11. However, apparently none of these suggest a major attack in the US or an attack using hijacked airplanes. MI6 is Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, and presumably most information about al-Qaeda and attack threats would come from it and not MI5. In fact, MI5 appears to be much less aware of al-Qaeda at this time. Sir Stephen Lander, director general of MI5 from 1996 to 2002, will later say that MI5 was “slow to get going” on the al-Qaeda threat because it was preoccupied with the IRA, and after 9/11 it had a “major set to, sitting around a board room table working out how to move on.” [Daily Telegraph, 10/5/2009] This warning appears similar, but not identical, to a warning 10 days later that is an analysis involving all British intelligence agencies (see July 16, 2001).

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Stephen Lander, UK Security Service (MI5)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Stella Rimington (2004)Stella Rimington (2004) [Source: Associated Press]Stella Rimington, a former director general of Britain’s domestic intelligence agency MI5, says the US response to 9/11 was “a huge overreaction.” She adds, “[It] was another terrorist incident. It was huge, and horrible, and seemed worse because we all watched it unfold on television.… I suppose I’d lived with terrorist events for a good part of my working life, and this was, as far as I was concerned, another one.” She says that President Bush’s successor should stop using the expression “war on terror”. “It got us off on the wrong foot, because it made people think terrorism was something you could deal with by force of arms primarily. And from that flowed Guantanamo, and extraordinary rendition, and… Iraq.” The Iraq War has motivated some jihadi terrorists to attack the West, she says. [Guardian, 10/18/2008]

Entity Tags: Stella Rimington

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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