U.S. Pressured UK To Arrest Alleged Terror
British wanted to continue surveillance on terror suspects, official
By Aram Roston, Lisa Myers, and the NBC News Investigative Unit
08/12/06 "NBC News"-- -LONDON - NBC News has learned that U.S. and
British authorities had a significant disagreement over when to move
in on the suspects in the alleged plot to bring down trans-Atlantic
airliners bound for the United States.
A senior British official knowledgeable about the case said British
police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least
another week to try to obtain more evidence, while American
officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner. The official
spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.
In contrast to previous reports, the official suggested an attack
was not imminent, saying the suspects had not yet purchased any
airline tickets. In fact, some did not even have passports.
The source did say, however, that police believe one U.K.-based
suspect was ready to conduct a "dry run." British authorities had
wanted to let him go forward with part of the plan, but the
At the White House, a top aide to President Bush denied the account.
"There was unprecedented cooperation and coordination between the
U.S., the U.K. and Pakistani officials throughout the case," said
Frances Townsend, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security
and Counterterrorism, "and we worked together to protect our
citizens from harm while ensuring that we gathered as much info as
possible to bring the plotters to justice. There was no disagreement
between U.S. and U.K. officials."
Another U.S. official, however, acknowledges there was disagreement
over timing. Analysts say that in recent years, American security
officials have become edgier than the British in such cases because
of missed opportunities leading up to 9/11.
Aside from the timing issue, there was excellent cooperation between
the British and the Americans, officials told NBC.
The British official said the Americans also argued over the timing
of the arrest of suspected ringleader Rashid Rauf in Pakistan,
warning that if he was not taken into custody immediately, the U.S.
would "render" him or pressure the Pakistani government to arrest
British security was concerned that Rauf be taken into custody "in
circumstances where there was due process," according to the
official, so that he could be tried in British courts. Ultimately,
this official says, Rauf was arrested over the objections of the
The official shed light on other aspects of the case, saying that
while the investigation into the bombing plot began "months ago,"
some suspects were known to the security services even before the
London subway bombings last year.
He acknowledged that authorities had conducted electronic and e-mail
surveillance as well as physical surveillance of the suspects.
Monitoring of Rauf, in particular, apparently played a critical
role, revealing that the plotters had tested the explosive liquid
mixture they planned to use at a location outside Britain. NBC News
has previously reported that the explosive mixture was tested in
Pakistan. The source said the suspects in Britain had obtained at
least some of the materials for the explosive but had not yet
actually prepared or mixed it.
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