As we approach the vote on Wednesday about whether to give the police the power to hold terrorist suspects for up to 42 days without charge, I have been reading "7-7 The London Bombs, what went wrong" by Crispin Black.
I thought it would be interesting to see if there was the least hint in the book that greater powers to lock up suspects without trial might have helped prevent the bombings. The subject is not even mentioned.
However, the book does give, from the viewpoint of an intelligence specialist, a number of insights into the mistakes that were made and how we could make them less likely in the future.
Issues discussed in the book include
* Black argues that too much weight was placed on the lack of any specific intelligence: there were a number of reasons why July 2005 was a particularly likely time for Islamic extremists to attack Britain and the decision to downgrade the "alert state" threat level a few weeks before the 7/7 attacks was a mistake.
* The division of Britain's intelligence services into SIS/MI6, responsible for analysing external threats, and MI5/Security Service responsible for domestic ones, reflects a previous world situation and does not appear as appropriate to the current situation: in America the "Homeland Security" legislation after 9/11 brought both the CIA and FBI under the Director of National Intelligence and perhaps Britain should consider a similar move.
* Black argues that we have been too tolerant of London-based Islamic terror groups in the belief that they will not attack the country they are using as a base, a policy which he quotes the French as describing as "Londonistan."
He makes a number of other suggestions for better intelligence gathering, working with moderate Muslim leaders, and for deporting non-British citizens who we have evidence to believe may have terrorist links.
You don't have to agree with everything Black writes in this little book to find it an informative and thought-provoking read. In my opinion most of his suggestions are much more likely to help protect the British people from terrorism than giving the police the power to detain terrorist suspects for 42 days without charge.