(ANTIMEDIA Op-Ed) In the aftermath of the gruesome Manchester bombing, which killed 22 people Monday evening, the British government rushed to the rescue, deploying soldiers into the streets of the U.K. in the name of guaranteeing security.
But as the country’s government purports to protect its citizens, it has already proven its incompetence many times over — and it let the terrorists win long before this week. According to a report published Thursday by the Telegraph, British authorities had the suicide bomber, Abed Salman Abedi, in their grasp five times before he blew himself up at a concert Monday evening.
“Sources suggest that authorities were informed of the danger posed by Abedi on at least five separate occasions in the five years prior to the attack on Monday night,” the outlet reported, also adding that “authorities were also aware that Abedi’s father was linked to a well-known militant Islamist group in Libya, which is proscribed in Britain. Abedi also had links to several British-based jihadis with Isil connections.”
People who knew Abedi had called the government’s anti-terrorism hotline to report concerns about his radicalism.
“They had been worried that ‘he was supporting terrorism’ and had expressed the view that ‘being a suicide bomber was ok,’ a source told the BBC,” as noted by the Telegraph. Further, a community leader “said that Abedi was reported two years ago ‘because he thought he was involved in extremism and terrorism.’”
Despite all the clear signs Abedi posed a threat, the British government failed to prevent him from planning and executing the attack (this is also a common theme with U.S. intelligence agencies, which have shrugged off legitimate threats only to have suspects go on to commit attacks). This is the same government now claiming to hold British citizens’ safety in the highest regard.
The U.K. government’s failures are even more glaring considering the British government has one of the most extensive surveillance systems in the world. The country has one surveillance camera for every eleven people. It has sweeping mass spying capabilities. Last year, Parliament passed the Investigatory Powers Act, a sweeping anti-privacy bill that, as the Guardian reported, “legalise[d] a whole range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even the US.”
After its passage, whistleblower Edward Snowden remarked that “The UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”
This bill legalized spying powers the government had already been using, largely in tandem with the United States government’s surveillance apparatus. Lawmakers passed the bill without making any substantial concessions to privacy advocates, thanks in part to widespread fears of terror attacks.
Upon the Investigatory Powers Act’s passage, Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, said:
“The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy. The state has unprecedented powers to monitor and analyse UK citizens’ communications regardless of whether we are suspected of any criminal activity.”
And still, the government failed to stop Abedi. As Ron Paul’s Liberty Report observed after the Manchester bombing, “All individuals in the UK gave up their liberty for security, and as Ben Franklin warned, they ended up with neither.”
Prime Minister Theresa May, who advocated the passage of the bill when she was Home Secretary, has made grandiose statements about the barbarism of the terror attack but has taken no responsibility for her government’s failure to adequately use the invasive, rights-violating tools at its disposal to ‘do its job.’
Instead, May is implying that further U.K. and N.A.T.O. intervention in Syria is a solution to preventing more attacks on British soil. Unsurprisingly, absent from her condemnations of the terror attack were any acknowledgments that the U.K. has armed and empowered the oppressive Saudi Arabian regime, which exports radical Islam and almost certainly funds ISIS, the terror group increasingly implicated in Monday’s carnage.
Her advocacy of further intervention is indisputably the worst possible course of action considering Abedi’s sister, Jomana Abedi, disclosed to the Wall Street Journal that Abedi was specifically resentful toward Western airstrikes in Syria. “I think he saw children – Muslim children – dying everywhere, and wanted revenge,” she said. If she’s correct, he can be added to the growing list of terrorists who have cited Western intervention in the Middle East as the main driver in their radicalization. The Orlando shooter, Boston bombers, and Charlie Hebdo shooters all decried Western wars in the region.
Further, the British government also participated in the 2011 ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, where Abedi visited just weeks prior to inflicting the attack. Libya became a hotbed of terrorist activity after Western governments ousted Middle Eastern the dictator from power and to this day hosts a broad range of terror groups from ISIS to al-Qaeda. The West has also spent vast resources arming al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, further bolstering the proliferation of terrorism.
Regardless, it’s safe to say that no matter one’s perspective on why Abedi committed the attack, the evidence suggests the British government has failed in its responsibility to protect its citizenry. As it attempts to seize even more power and encroach even further on individuals’ civil liberties, it appears more of the same tactics will only encourage further attacks.