Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Bullet got the wrong bloke

For a few hours on the 22nd of July, Jean Charles de Menezes was a terrorist suspect. What he wasn't was a capital-S Suspect; he wasn't 'known to the police', as we used to say. (Or rather, he wasn't the known person the police thought he was - apparently he was mistaken for Osman Hussain.) What if he had been?

Following last night's appalling revelations, much attention has focused on the police's apparent failure to verify that de Menezes was the Suspect they were after. What if they had done? What if it had been Osman Hussain who was shot?

Consider:
I heard shouting which included the word ‘police’ and turned to face the male in the denim jacket. He immediately stood up and advanced towards me and the CO19 [firearms] officers … I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side. I then pushed him back onto the seat where he had been previously sitting … I then heard a gun shot very close to my left ear and was dragged away onto the floor of the carriage.
The male in the denim jacket was (self-evidently) not about to detonate any explosives: officers had no reason to suppose that their lives, or the lives of the tube passengers, were in danger. (As I wrote back here,"was de Menezes, in his denim jacket, seen as a low enough risk to be watched on the bus rather than being intercepted, and rugby-tackled on the tube train rather than being shot from a distance?") He could, when he approached the firearms officers, have been intending to go for a knife or a gun - but pinning his arms to his sides and pushing him back into his seat handily dealt with that possibility.

So it's hard to see any legal - or rational - justification for the shooting; and this would still be the case if they'd got the right bloke. To quote myself at greater length,
was de Menezes, in his denim jacket, seen as a low enough risk to be watched on the bus rather than being intercepted, and rugby-tackled on the tube train rather than being shot from a distance? But if so, why was he killed? Not, surely, because he had been misidentified as one of the July 21st bombers - this would be summary justice pure and simple.
What I wonder about, after last night's news stories, is: what if it had been Osman Hussain wearing that denim jacket and forced back into that seat on the tube train - what would be the mood of the country now? Would a leak from the Police Complaints Commission have been front page news? Would we be hearing calls for multiple resignations? Or would an act of summary justice - an extra-judicial execution in broad daylight, a truly appalling precedent - have been accepted? Would we now be being encouraged to hail the Metropolitan Police for its resolute stance against terror and its willingness to take the fight to the enemy? (They might cut a few corners here and there, but what's the odd dead terrorist to you or to me?)

The charge that Ian Blair, like his namesake, is a liar has gained some traction lately. The possibility I'm considering here is that he's a gambler: that he saw the July 21st bombings - and the Stockwell operation - as a chance to massively extend the effective power of the Metropolitan Police, and to do so without endangering its support in the political class and the media. I don't know if the gamble would have paid off; I'm glad we never found out.

22 Comments:

Anonymous Chris said...

Well said, the wrongness of the shooting if it had been a terrorist needed saying. Add that to the wrongness of criticising other forces for not shooting suspects. But it is the cover up that will do the most damage to Ian Blair

18/8/05 16:10  
Anonymous Brian said...

Sorry, Phil, but I can't agree with almost any of what you say. The crux, it seems to me, is your assertions that "The male in the denim jacket was (self-evidently) not about to detonate any explosives: officers had no reason to suppose that their lives, or the lives of the tube passengers, were in danger." Both statements seem to me "self-evidently" wrong. Even if you accept the account in the mysteriously leaked document as true and accurate (and there's no reason whatever to do so), it remains the case that the surveillance team did believe that Menezes was one of the failed suicide bombers of the previous day, for a number of reasons that have yet to be shown to have been unwarranted: that he might well have been about to make another attempt at a suicide bombing: and that if at any time his behaviour (such as running onto a tube train, which everyone agrees he did) had suggested that he was about to detonate a bomb, he should be stopped, even if necessary by killing him (and there could have been no other way). The action of the author of the leaked document in trying to pinion him was incredibly foolhardy and could well have set off the explosion, had Menezes actually been a bomber. I have no doubt at all that the police officer who shot him did believe that he was about to detonate a bomb and that he acted with extraordinary courage in running up to him, putting himself in imminent danger of being blown up, instead of holding back and hoping that nothing would happen. But in any case all this speculation is well out of order when we have so few facts to go on. It's really much too early to start talking about the need for heads to roll (anyway an unfortunate metaphor in the circumstances).

I have tried to spell out these arguments against an over-hasty condemnation of the police, even on a provisional basis, in a post on my own blog.

Sorry to disagree! Of course you may turn out to have been right if the facts as revealed by the report of the IPCC inquiry prove to be as you think likely. I merely suggest that we should all suspend judgement until we know what actually happened, rather than rush into premature and quite possibly unjust conclusions, especially in view of the likely damage that the current campaign against Sir Ian Blair and the police is likely to do to the all-important effort to prevent another terrorist atrocity.

Brian
http://www.barder.com/ephems/

20/8/05 17:53  
Blogger Phil said...

Brian,

I used to have an irritatingly thorough work colleague who won arguments by, in effect, getting his teeth in and worrying them into submission; his catchphrase was "I'm not convinced."

He wasn't much fun to talk to and I'm wary of emulating him. But... I'm not convinced.

Even if you accept the account in the mysteriously leaked document as true and accurate (and there's no reason whatever to do so)

This is odd, for a start. That account isn't some "well-er-basically" vox pop taken from a passer-by in a state of shock; it appears to be the debriefing of a police (Army?) surveillance officer appearing before a committee with quasi-official standing. I think the presumption that the account is truthful and accurate is reasonable - more so than the opposite, anyway.

the surveillance team did believe that Menezes was one of the failed suicide bombers of the previous day, for a number of reasons that have yet to be shown to have been unwarranted: that he might well have been about to make another attempt at a suicide bombing: and that if at any time his behaviour (such as running onto a tube train, which everyone agrees he did) had suggested that he was about to detonate a bomb, he should be stopped, even if necessary by killing him (and there could have been no other way). The action of the author of the leaked document in trying to pinion him was incredibly foolhardy and could well have set off the explosion, had Menezes actually been a bomber. I have no doubt at all that the police officer who shot him did believe that he was about to detonate a bomb

This argument seems to rest on the assumption that de Menezes could have been concealing a suicide bomb under his denim jacket: "he could have been concealing explosives under a denim jacket as well as under a padded coat", as you write in your blog entry. But this is unsustainable. Anyone hiding enough explosive to blow himself up under a thin jacket would have the same bulky silhouette as someone wearing a padded jacket. But De Menezes didn't have this shape; I can state this quite confidently, because nobody has suggested that he was wearing several layers of winter clothes under his jacket (or that he was heavily overweight). Nobody with the opportunity to watch De Menezes at close range for more than a few minutes could have thought they were looking at an impending suicide bomber - which perhaps explains the apparent foolhardiness of the watcher who tackled him.

What are we left with? Only three scenarios, I believe:

1. A cold-blooded execution carried out in retribution for the July 21st bombing attempts and in revenge for July 7th. More the style of Brazil's own police than ours (Mark Steyn, surprisingly, had quite a good line on this).
2. An operation to apprehend de Menezes (wrongly believed to be one of the July 21st bombers, but correctly believed not to be carrying explosive on the 22nd) which went wrong at the point of handoff from surveillance to firearms teams: perhaps the latter was instructed to 'stop' de Menezes and assumed that they were dealing with a potential suicide bomber, who could only be stopped by killing him. (It's worth noting here that Cressida Dick is on record as saying that she intended the suspect to be brought in alive.)
3. An operation where all concerned thoroughly lost their heads, seeing a prime suspect where none was and then seeing explosives where none were. (Although this doesn't explain the pinioning of de Menezes - or, for that matter, the decision to let him continue his bus journey.)

I'm currently leaning more towards 2. than 1. I wouldn't dismiss 3., but it's a looser fit to what we know than either of the nastier scenarios. Any scenario more charitable than 3. I'd find very hard to accept.

20/8/05 23:42  
Anonymous Brian said...

Disappointingly, I don't really disagree with anything you say. I'm not asserting that the leaked document is inaccurate, only pointing out that it's just one of several eye-witness accounts, which on past form will vary substantially from one another simply because of the fundamental unreliability of human observation and memory. Moreover there may have been key events in the story which the author of the leaked document didn't witness and wasn't aware of, so his account isn't necessarily complete. I'm really making the fairly obvious point that it's unsafe to rely on a single uncorroborated account of what happened, and that until we see the full story in the eventual report of the IPCC, we should all stop speculating and reserve judgement.

Equally, I agree that any of your three possible scenarios could turn out to be correct: but for the same reasons as those for which we should reserve judgement on the culpability or lack of it of the Met and Sir I Blair, we should surely stop constructing possible scenarios (and then placing bets on which is the likeliest) until we know a great many more of the facts.

You implicitly dismiss the fourth possible scenario -- that the surveillance team or teams, and their controller, Gold Commander Cressida Dick, genuinely and reasonably believed that on the available evidence Menezes was one of the attempted suicide bombers of the day before and that he was probably on his way to the tube station to try again: they interpreted his behaviour as probable confirmation of this: and they interpreted their instruction from Ms Dick to stop him getting onto the tube as an instruction to stop him detonating a bomb on the tube, in the only way possible, namely the way expressly authorised by approved policy. If they did honestly (and not unreasonably) believe all this, the absence of a visible bulge of sufficient size and shape under the denim jacket would hardly have made the difference between either taking pre-emptive action, or doing nothing and hoping for the best. You argue, cogently, that the fourth scenario should be dismissed as implausible, and you may very well be proved right to have dismissed it when we know more of what actually happened. All I can say is that, to coin a phrase, "I'm not convinced" (!).

Let's now wait and see.

There's more on all this on my blog and associated comments.

Brian

21/8/05 11:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A man is dead and he was executed. He was shot, then later shot many more times. That is a very serious issue. What matters most, is what we do.

The cctv camera was working, but the tape the police took away was returned blank.

Quite frankly, quite a lot of people should have been arrested by now. If you disagree with that statement, then if I am concerned for my safety by a policeman walking passed with a gun, it is clearly ok for me to execute him.

Lets not hear this police word. It doesn't matter who you are. You drive a car, you make split second decisions all the time, and you are accountable for them.

22/8/05 02:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only person suspended so far was the person who was telling the truth.

Sir Ian Blair has even had the gaul to try to cover up a cover up and what he said following the shooting was disgraceful as a human being let alone as commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Jean Charles de Menezes was innocent, clearly Sir Ian Blair was not. He should be suspended, he did far worse than the person who told leaked the truth.

Dave

22/8/05 09:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't actually matter whether the person shot was guilty or not. He did not have a bomb, the commissioner would have known this, he certainly had a duty to.

Foul play could not be more obvious, there is a trail of evidence. The police officers responsible for the shooting and the commissioner should be arrested, charged, and due process should follow.

It should be for a court to decide the guilt or innocence of these people. If justice is thwarted by the police themselves, what have we come to?

Dave

22/8/05 10:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

22/8/05 10:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

22/8/05 11:04  
Blogger stat said...

I made the comments prior to the ones that were deleted.

We have issues like 'police moral' and when the commissioner of the Met was asleep as reasons to obstruct justice.

To this day, it is clear, more work is being done to suppress truth and justice than to uphold it. Behind the scenes, sinister forces are evidenced by what has now come to light.

I was expecting, having simply asked for due process to be applied, for those dark forces to make a showing, so would be interested to know in private what had been said and would be grateful if the administrator could email me.

22/8/05 14:52  
Blogger Phil said...

stat - the deleted comments were spam. They were obviously generated automatically & had no purpose except putting a URL where somebody might click on it - the text had nothing to do with this topic, or anything else on this blog. I'm intending to write a post about this later.

(I don't know any more about 'dark forces' which may (or may not) be at work in this case than you do, incidentally.)

22/8/05 15:20  
Blogger stat said...

Many thanks, you are clearly a critical observer of these events.

By law, a murder has taken place. When I checked yesterday, the people who did this had not even been questioned.

Dark forces have not only been rather busy, they have left fingerprints all over the media.

22/8/05 15:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Leaving aside the event itself, Blair's attempt to delay an independent investigation into something which he knew (by then) to have been an almighty cock-up provides a very good reason why he should go now, whatever the outcome of the investigation itself.

In his later defence of this stance, he also attempted (consciously?) to mislead the public about the nature of the IPCC investigation in his statements. I've gone into detail about this in comments on Little Red Soccerballs and Brian B's blog, linked to elsewhere in this thread.

Chris W

22/8/05 15:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS - Phil I agree with you about the salience of the 'what if he had been a terrorist' issue, and will give you some depressing confirmation of the likely attitude next time I see you.

Chris W

22/8/05 15:45  
Blogger stat said...

Terrorist or not, as established in death on the rock, it would still be murder.

As the police are proud to name all their terrorist suspects, I think it is time the names of the shooters were published, and of course, time to hand over the images.

23/8/05 00:52  
Blogger stat said...

I remember when his immigration status was questioned, as if by inference, the police and government thought it was ok to shoot illegal immigrants.

Utterly disgusting behaviour.

23/8/05 01:02  
Blogger stat said...

I see now the family are calling for release of the video.

That is not something Sir Ian Blair can lie about or distract from. He took a keen and hostile interest in the person who spoke the truth by exposing the crimes. Clearly the whole force is on trial, and it is my view that Sir Ian Blair is finished, not just as a policeman.

Sir Ian Blair's only hope was to destroy the family who are complaining, and they tried it suggesting they were out for money. But they went on record for refusing a police bribe, putting in question the number 2 of the New Scotland Yardies.

23/8/05 11:40  
Anonymous Brian said...

A lot of mud is being thrown at Sir Ian Blair, here and elsewhere, over his initial opposition to the transfer of the investigation of the Stockwell tube shooting from the police to the IPCC. Some are even calling for his resignation on this issue alone. Those who advance this criticism in reasoned and sensible terms may like to glance at my attempt in another place to set out an alternative view of the Commissioner's opposition to the transfer of the investigation to the IPCC. (Others won't be persuaded and might as well stay away.)

Brian
http://www.barder.com/ephems/

23/8/05 16:58  
Blogger stat said...

I do fully understand the issue of benefit of doubt. I do accept though the pictures I have seen as being evidential.

The suggestions by the commissioner that this was the product of policy, a policy that remains, and that we shouldn't be focusing on this issue, is simply obsene. I would be disgusted with any human being who has such disregard for human life.

If the man had been a terrorist, the killing would still be unlawful. The IPCC have a statutory duty to investigate as one would expect the commissioner of the met to know. Asking permission to break the law is most unusual, and they would have confirmed within a very short space of time that the person did not have a gun.

23/8/05 17:20  
Blogger stat said...

I cannot accept your argument about rushing to judgement. The Metropolitan Police rushed to a judgement and presented judgements knowing they were false.

The IPCC issue was a sinister development, but I would have withheld judgement if it was only this judgement.

There are a whole trail of issues which clearly incriminate quite a number of police officers and unless these are fully investigated, it means we accept that the police are not accountable to the law.

It is reasonable to suppose, by the time the commissioner's letter had arrived, he knew there was no bomb. Doesn't matter who the man was, that is a very serious issue, and the subsequent actions of the met and the commissioner, warrant a very thorough investigation.

23/8/05 18:15  
Blogger stat said...

Brian, I am not sure why you are defending what is to me indefensible. For a member of the public to be killed by the state, that is an extremely serious issue.

Instead of being in posession of the facts, the public have been in posession of a string of lies, eminating from the same organisation that is responsible for the killing.

A prima facie case is there for murder. If due process is applied, there are serious issues for the Met Chief, that could include murder, and even the home secretary has issues to answer for.

If the Met hadn't presented false stories, tried to intefere with the complainents and evidence, cared about the public (the job they are paid for) they wouldn't be on trial in the public.

Although I am against armed police running round the UK, indeed for this very reason, I originally felt sorry for the people that pulled the triggers. The driver of the train had a gun put to his head, these are dangerous people. A man was nearly shot in Cardiff, he fell asleep in his car near the railway station.

If you see me walking round in a padded jacket, don't confuse me with a terrorist, it is just a bulletproof jacket.

23/8/05 23:48  
Blogger stat said...

The organised attempts to cover up are continuing daily. The Police had tried to bribe the complainants, tried to insult them, we then see their country insulted and only yesterday an attempt to smear their campaign based on the fact an associate of George Galloway is helping them.

George Galloway was against the unlawful slaughter of 100,000 Iraqis, a situation that leaves Tony Blair as an unconvicted war criminal. George Galloway was subject to an orchestrated campaign to assassinate his character. He not only survived, his character towered over the UK and US administrations.

George Galloway is one of the few people who are willing to stand up, and quite simply, speak the truth.

Conversely, Ian Blair's first public appearance was simply a broadcast for the labour party, that already left his conduct as a police officer in question.

I am disgusted by all this behaviour. Sir Ian Blair is not employable in a position of trust.

First the police went out and killed a member of the public, now they are out trying to shoot the messengers.

24/8/05 10:46  

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