The U.K. Terror Plot

As the weeks go by, the initial narrative put out by the Bush administration and Blair government is in tatters. John Judis picks up the thread at TNR. Money quote:

While those arrested were British Muslims, they were thought to be acting on behalf of or in coordination with Al Qaeda. A "senior US intelligence official" told The Boston Globe, "There are suspicions that there is a real Al Qaeda connection - not just Al Qaeda wannabees or inspire-ees." Pakistani and American officials claimed that the "operational planner" of the conspiracy was Rashid Rauf, a British citizen, whom the Pakistanis said had admitted under interrogation of having met with an Al Qaeda leader in Pakistan ...

Was the plot an Al Qaeda operation? Rauf himself had been busted by the Pakistanis the day before the London arrests, and, according to the Pakistanis, had admitted - allegedly under torture - to having made contact with Matiur Rehman, whom the Pakistanis claim is an Al Qaeda operative. But that's hardly proof of Al Qaeda direction. Moreover, Rauf's role remains unclear. A British counterterrorism official told the Los Angeles Times that Rauf was not the plot's "mastermind." And Rauf's actual connection to Al Qaeda is also suspect. Rauf has been linked to Jaish-e-Mohammed, which operates in Kashmir. There could still be an Al Qaeda link. But, like all the initial details of this case, it remains in doubt.

As the details have become murky, what has also been cast in doubt is the explanation of why the arrests were made in the first place. According to British officials, the Brits did not want to arrest the plotters; they preferred to see who else, over the next months, the plotters recruited and made contact with. But their hand was forced when the Pakistanis arrested Rauf on August 9. Why the Pakistanis did so remains unclear, but there is a speculation that they did so at U.S. urging. "There have been reports that U.S. officials pushed for the arrest," the Los Angeles Times reported on August 20.