There were rumors about this story cropping up earlier in the week, but I honestly didn’t pay much attention to them. In the aftermath of the Manchester bombing we learned that there were plenty of potentially dangerous cells in Great Britain and it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if American intelligence agencies had run across information relating to them and let their British counterparts know. And if it was of a more general nature, such as “certain groups of bad guys may be plotting something” you can imagine M-15 sort of rolling their eyes and saying, yeah. Thanks. We know.
But if this report from the Daily Mail is accurate, the information was at least somewhat more specific. First, keep in mind that this is once again based on an anonymous source, so take it as you will. (Let’s hope it’s not the same guy who told the New York Times that the Russians had hacked our power grid.) But if they are correct, the FBI had Salman Abedi in their sights in 2016.
UK security chiefs were warned in January that Salman Abedi was planning an attack in Britain, it was claimed last night.
According to a security source, the FBI told MI5 that Abedi was part of a North African Islamic State cell plotting to strike a political target in the UK.
The information came from a US investigation into Abedi and his links to terrorist groups in Libya. The Mail on Sunday has also been told that US security services put him on a terror watch list – used by agents to identify key suspects – in 2016.
The Daily Caller has more details and analysis on this story which is worth a look.
But even if all of the information from this source is accurate, I’m still not sure we can cast too many stones at M-15 here. They’ve already said that Abedi was on their watch list and they had checked him out. Granted, if you’re getting buzz from the Americans about the guy and you know he’s been traveling back and forth to terrorist hot spots he might rate a bit higher on the scale, but how could M-15 be sure? As John was just talking about the other night, everyone is fairly sure that there are as many as 20,000 potential jihadists on the loose in Great Britain at the moment. If it hadn’t been Abedi it might have been any one of the others.
Unless someone was sitting on something specific about Abedi and some bomb-making materials and the concert venue, he was probably just one more on a list of very dangerous Islamic radicals who may or may not go off the rails at any given time. Truth be told, a lack of resources to monitor this specific guy on the part of M-15 isn’t the issue. The problem is that the Brits have allowed far too many people of dubious backgrounds to move into their country without integrating properly and a lot of them haven’t been vetted. And that’s now gone on for a couple of generations. (You’ll recall that Abedi was born in England to parents who were Libyan immigrants.) By the time you see one cockroach in your kitchen trying to make off with your sandwich it’s far too late. That means there’s an entire nest of them in the house someplace and it’s time to call the exterminator.