Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 96-119)

TUESDAY 13 NOVEMBER 2001

DR MAGNUS RANSTORP, PROFESSOR GRAHAM PEARSON AND MR ALASTAIR HAY

Chairman

  96. Thank you very much for coming at short notice. Perhaps you could introduce yourselves, your main interests and expertise and publications as background for the Committee.

  (Professor Pearson) My name is Graham Pearson, Visiting Professor of International Security in the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford. Previously, from 1984 to 1995, I was Director General and Chief Executive of Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment at Porton Down. Since retiring in 1995, I have been engaged on two main things: one was the study of the work of the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq. I have published a book by Macmillan, The UNSCOM Saga: Chemical and Biological Weapons Non-Proliferation, which is a detailed study of precisely what is in the chemical and biological programmes of Iraq and what lessons can be drawn for the international regimes. The other main matter I have been very engaged in is writing papers for the delegations to the ad hoc group on Biological and Toxic Weapons of Defence and negotiating the protocol in Geneva over the last six years. I have produced lots of briefing papers - the ones with the green covers - over 50 of these during the last five years.

  97. You can send some of those in to us, if you wish.
  (Professor Pearson) I have provided you with some written evidence.
  (Mr Hay) I am Professor of Environmental Toxicology in the University of Leeds. My principal interest is in toxicology and in the chemical warfare scene I am primarily interested in the effects of chemical agents on health. I have been involved with chemical and biological warfare related issues for 25 years. My interest started with the use of agent orange in Vietnam and the health effects of agent orange on the Vietnamese and American servicemen. I have published on chemical and biological warfare. I have a book and also various publications. Over the last few years my interest has been in obtaining some evidence from Iraq on the use of mustard gas and nerve agents, work which I did collaboratively with Porton Down when Graham Pearson was Director. More recently, I have been involved in the preparation of a World Health Organisation book on the health effects of chemical and biological warfare.
  (Dr Ranstorp) I am Deputy Director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrew's. My background is the following: I have previously worked at the Swedish Institute of National Affairs and also with Sweden's largest newspaper. My principal area of responsibility is to write about radical Islamic movements. I have a book on Hizbollah and Lebanon. I have also written extensively on Al-Qaeda, really to understand the nature of the threat we are facing today.

  98. There was not much scope in Sweden for research on terrorists.
  (Dr Ranstorp) That is why I moved to Scotland!

  99. Firstly, I would like to ask some questions about what you believe changed on 11 September. The Prime Minister said in his speech on 14 September when parliament was recalled that three things had to be taken forward urgently. The first was to bring to justice the perpetrators; the second, for all nations to put aside their differences and stand together; and third, to re-think dramatically the scale and nature of the action the world takes to combat terrorism. Do you agree that this third task is necessary, that is, to re-think dramatically the scale and nature of action that world takes to combat terrorism?
  (Professor Pearson) I believe that 11 September has, if you like, acted like a wake-up call to make the states more aware of what terrorists can do. I do not think 11 September as such makes the risk of chemical or biological attacks greater in that they always have had technical difficulties from the point of view of terrorist groups. To try to amplify that a little bit, in the case of chemicals, the quantities you need for an effective attack are of the order of a ton. That is not so easy to get hold of and then to disseminate it in an effective way. Likewise, biological agents, although these occur in nature and are endemic in some countries and therefore easier to get, and then you can grow them up, it is knowledge of how to grow them up and how to obtain a sufficiently pure agent and how to disseminate it which makes it more uncertain. I would argue that both chemical and biological are more uncertain from the point of view of a terrorist because with high explosives, you push the button, it happens, you can predict precisely how far the high explosive will cause damage. With chemical or biological agents, it depends on which way the atmosphere, the wind, is blowing. I am not saying we should disregard in any sense the danger of chemical and biological agents but I think it has to be looked at in a proper perspective.
  (Mr Hay) My views are similar. I think that chemical and biological warfare agent attacks by terrorists are less likely than through the use of explosives. I have that view primarily because of some uncertainty of the outcome of use of either chemical or biological agents, for some of the reasons that Professor Pearson has enumerated: the difficulty of trying to get an effective aerosol of an agent; the best way of tyring to spread it; trying to ensure that an organism, if it is a biological agent, is alive and will survive. With a chemical agent, trying to created the right size aerosol for dispersal is a significant problem. People can and groups do, as the Aum Shinrikyo sect in Japan did, use much smaller quantities than a ton. You can use very toxic agents and some of the nerve agents are very toxic in much smaller quantities. The difficulty is trying to create an aerosol. The other significant problem for somebody trying to use these things is the risk to themselves. These are very toxic agents and you require reasonable protection, certainly for yourself. In the case of the Aum Shinrikyo sect in Japan it was being fleet of foot. They were basically taking the agent around in plastic bags which were then punctured with an umbrella. It did not create an aerosol but just allowed the agent to vaporise. It was primarily the people who were handling these bags afterwards, cleaning them up—personnel who worked for the underground were in greatest contact through skin and otherwise—who were most at risk. I can think of three incidents with chemical agents and/or biological agents, if you look at the way terrorists might use these things to date. There was the (Rashnish) group in Oregon in the United States in 1984 who used salmonella (ticinurium) basically to cause food poisoning in some 750 people. There was some knowledge there of microbiology and they obtained their organisms from a culture collection because they ran a hospital on this particular site. You have the incident in Japan which I referred to earlier where there was chemical expertise. More recently, there was the anthrax delivery through the postal service in the United States. I think there again, you are probably looking at somebody who has had some background knowledge in microbiology to be able to deal with something like that, and that is the advice I have had from other people. I think more generally, unless groups have expertise or access to expertise in the relevant sciences, it is more likely that they are probably going to use explosives and there is a much greater expertise around of explosives and availability of materials than there is for either chemical or biological warfare agents. I would have thought it more likely that explosives would be used. Whether it is more likely in general that chemical and biological warfare agents would be used following the attack on the World Trade Centre, I do not know. That obviously crosses the threshold in terms of the number of casualties created, but whether it is more likely that groups will resort to chemical and biological warfare agents following that attack, I have no idea.

  100. If you look at the scale of deaths over the last 20 years, the figures are coming down. I was looking at the statistics of major hits and we are talking in the hundreds, mostly in aircraft. Are you saying really that this figure of 6,000 in one fell swoop really should encourage us to be a little less concerned that terrorism has not changed all that much? It is still going to be fairly low tech, not wanting to inflame anxieties by killing large numbers of people, so should people be reassured by your analysis or should one be, as most people would be, rather more concerned than your rather rational presentation so far?
  (Mr Hay) My view is that it is more likely that people would use explosives because this is what they can draw on more easily. I am not in any way suggesting that it would never happen. I think, if you were making a rational choice about what you would use, it is more likely that explosives would be used because, in the actual preparation of chemical and biological agents, you also have to have protection for individuals involved in the handling of those agents, let alone the ones who are going to be involved in the dispersal. I would have thought that would perhaps argue against somebody wanting to go down that route if they were making a calculated decision. If they were trying to cause a lot of fear and anxiety, then I think chemical agents would do that extremely well. One of things that Iraq achieved in the attacks on the Kurds was to create huge fear. It was fear that was one of the factors that was responsible for huge numbers of people fleeing across borders.
  (Dr Ranstorp) May I concur with the previous assessments about the difficulty groups have had traditionally, even a group like Aum Shinrikyo with almost $1 billion in assets and with the finest and brightest minds of chemists and biologists in Japan. They themselves had experimented for a long time and were unable to find an effective dispersal mechanism. September 11 for me was a wake-up call in the sense that we have seen the effects of what was used for terrorism, the fusing together of guerilla warfare and terrorism at the low end of the spectrum of the future conflict with the weapons of mass destruction. I think most groups are traditionally very conservative in terms of how they operate. That is principally because they operate in a national context and they have a large constituency. The Al-Qaeda network embodies this scourge that we are facing today. If one looks at their standard operating manual, and I am referring to encyclopaedia of Jihad, which is 11 volumes and 5,000 pages —

  101. Has it been translated yet?
  (Dr Ranstorp) Large portions of it have been but within that volume here is a section on "chem-bio" warfare. Particularly also if one considers that there were indications that seemed to suggest that Al-Qaeda tried to buy laboratories for chemical purposes, there is a clear and present danger.

Syd Rapson

  102. I understand the difficulties of an attack but in Bhopal in India in 1994 on 2 and 3 December thousands of people were killed by an accidental release of pesticide toxic agent. Is there no possibility of a military attack, the use of weapons, on an installation of that sort that would cause the same effect of a release? This was an accident. I am thinking of a purposeful release of it by that means that would kill thousands of people in Western democracies, if that were the case. Is there no concern about that or control over that? That is what worries me.
  (Professor Pearson) I certainly would agree that Bhopal showed what could happen if you have an accidental release of a chemical from an accident in a factory. One of the counters, I believe, to this chemical-biological terrorist threat is to build on what you already have in place to deal with those sorts of industrial accidents. Certainly in the United Kingdom under the Health and Safety Executive and something called CIMAH there is a requirement for all industrial facilities working with potentially hazardous materials to have an emergency plan to deal with accidents. I do agree with you, though, that deliberate attack may or may not be considered in those plans and certainly—and this is where I would very much endorse what Alastair Hay said a moment ago—biological and chemical and also nuclear matters are not well understood. There can be immense anxiety and fear caused. You have seen that in the United States with the anthrax attacks. I think this is why it is very important that the government sends the right message that there is a preparedness to deal with such eventualities, should they happen.

Chairman

  103. Dr Ranstorp, is there anything you would like to add?
  (Dr Ranstorp) This is about the nature of it. I agree with the assessments previously given about the difficulty in dispersal, the unlikelihood that groups will move in this direction and that, even if a group like Al-Qaeda were to try to move in this direction, they would face formidable technical obstacles. However, given today's environment and the global village, there is a trend towards fusion between terrorism and organised crime. There we have technical expertise possibly being available for those groups and therefore it is imperative to shrink the zones of sanctuary for terrorists and also to really try not only to address this problem in a defensive way but more importantly in the civilian capacity to deal with it by enhancement of intelligence as a front line argument in terms or proliferation.

Mr Jones

  104. I hear what you say about the technical problems and you have already highlighted the panic certainly set off in the United States in terms of anthrax. Have any established groups actually recognised that the use of psychological war against the public is using quite a small amount just to try and get panic going in a nation? Is that part of the strategy that is being adopted by the terrorist groups?
  (Dr Ranstorp) Certainly if one looks at groups, the psychology of fear is a major element. In all likelihood, the next terrorist threat using WMD would be a failed attempt, a failed launch of a chemical attack that spreads fear or panic, not an actual mass casualty event.

Mr Hancock

  105. Professor Pearson, in your written evidence to us, on page 3, you talk about Iraq having shown in its selection of chemical agents that different production routes may be chosen for agents that are produced as required. You go on to say: "A rogue state or a terrorist group is more likely to seek an agent for immediate use and a material that is available is more likely to be chosen." I would like you to elaborate a bit on that. I was recently at a meeting in Ukraine of people who have been involved in terrorism in that part of world, in the Caucuses, Chechnya and elsewhere. They put forward a very easy scenario for delivery using high explosives with low grade nuclear waste put in a suitcase and then exploded causing a considerable amount of pollution and the same being done with a packet of anthrax on the end of a fairly small high explosive charge which would generate widespread pollution; very simple, easy to use, easily concealable and very simple to deliver and a very small dirty bomb that would create absolute havoc. None of that has been touched on in this written evidence here. None of you have mentioned the ease of delivery that is there. Certainly the Russians in Chechnya felt very much that that was a fear that they had, that they were going to be exposed to dirty bombs.
  (Professor Pearson) If I can respond to your question "what was behind that statement?", I am very much aware that a trap which some of us can fall into when talking about possible terrorist use, particularly of chemical weapons, is just to think about what we call the traditional chemical warfare agents like mustard or nerve agents. Really what I was picking up is precisely the point that Mr Rapson made. Chemicals like the isocyanate in Bhopal can be very toxic and can cause the right sort of effect. It is simply that the traditional chemical warfare agents that we talk about, when we talk about military chemical weapons, have been tailored by the Western focus on retaliation in kind which drives you to choosing materials that can be stored for long periods and used in retaliation. Saddam Hussein showed that he was interested in making agents to use them and for that reason he went down the route using an agent called GF, which had been rejected by Western groups because it did not have the necessary stability. So I wanted to emphasise that I believe that if a terrorist group chooses to go down the chemical or biological route, they would tend to go for what is available. It is that sort of argument which rules against genetically modified agents, because if you go down the route of genetic modification, you cannot be sure that agent is still as effective. I just feel it is very important in looking at the response—and that is why I like to use the words "chemical and biological materials" - that you try to get away from "weapon" and all its baggage and talk about chemical and biological attacks because that is what we are concerned about, carried out by terrorists, and avoid this "weapon" connotation.

Chairman

  106. Can you think of any terrorist organisation or organisations that have the competence and the scale of operating that Al-Qaeda has? I cannot think of any group that has a world-wide reach with 50 or 60 countries that has managed to get enough crooked businessmen to advise them on an amazing financial network—and probably only Janes could produce as many volumes as they have done with all of their expertise, something that is not dashed off overnight by an undergraduate student—with a country, albeit a failed state to protect it. From my non-expert perspective, I would have thought this is a little bit different from any of the other terrorist organisations that we have been observing. Whilst I appreciate the requirements of if not down-sizing or down grading, do you think there may be a danger of not making the public aware of what as a government we are trying to do? This is a qualitatively and formatively different threat that we are facing now than we have ever faced in the past.
  (Mr Hay) I think there is a difference between talking it up and worrying people and effective preparation for something like this. I think it would be extremely remiss if there was not effective preparation for the likelihood of something happening. One of risks that I have been conscious of when people have approached me is the temptation to talk it up perhaps by people who are not necessarily aware of some of risks involved in the manufacture of these things. I have attempted to try and explain some of the difficulties in preparation. I think that there is a risk that some of these agents may be used if one is looking at organised crime and perhaps has plenty of resources. One of the other aspects that people have been extremely concerned about is some of the perhaps unemployed scientists in the former Soviet Union and Russia who were involved in these programmes. There is not a lot of evidence that I am aware of that these scientists have left these programmes and moved into innocent activity at all. There are some substantial programmes, largely financed by the United States and some by the EU, involving co-operation with these scientists and trying to keep them employed in their laboratory basically in turning swords into ploughshares. I think there is a need to consider perhaps the pool of expertise that is around as well that may perhaps be drawn in to some of these other programmes. I would think that it is absolutely vital in the UK for preparations to be undertaken to ensure that the government is well prepared, that there is a proper emergency response, that we know the outline of that particular response and what the co-ordination is, not necessarily the detail of it—I would not expect detail of it to be made public—and for example information to be publicly available to act as guidance for individuals. The Health and Safety Executive, for example, I know will be putting out additional guidance fairly soon on a website after it has finished its discussion with other government departments just on how to do risk assessments, or assess the risk for individuals who might receive a package that they are uncertain of in the post, where there might be the possibility of anthrax contamination. I would hope that that sort of activity goes along and is there, but done, if you like, a little more quietly perhaps, rather than talking about it too much and worrying people, which I think is the flip side of talking up chemical and biological warfare.

Mr Howarth

  107. Mr Hay, you say you hope that preparations are underway. Certainly my understanding towards my own local authority is that they are actually quite well reorganised. I wonder if you could tell us just how well organised you think local authorities are, without going into the details. I think it is quite an important component in reassuring the public. They do not necessarily want to know the details but they do want to feel that the authorities do have a handle on this.
  (Mr Hay) I quite agree, and I would as well. I am not privy to all the discussions that are taking place at all. I do know that various government department are sharing information extensively on this. They do tell me that there is discussion with emergency planners and that there have been regular meetings. I know some local authorities have indeed been involved in substantial exercises. There was one in Glasgow, I think it was last year, to assess the impact of the release of a biological agent. That exercise identified all sorts of gaps, which one would hope an exercise would do. That is basically what it is intended to do, just to find out what is missing. I think it is crucial that emergency planners are involved in the process and that there is good contact between government and advice flowing fairly freely. There is quite a lot of collaboration that goes on anyway between local authorities and emergency services. They have to deal with all sorts of emergencies: train crashes and various other things. That co-ordination goes on but I am not sure of the specifics.

Mr Cran

  108. I have three questions on the Al-Qaeda organisation, a name that has been mentioned already more than once this morning. I think we are all aware of the fact that the US Government and the British Government have pointed the finger very clearly at this organisation. Is there any doubt in your minds that the Al-Qaeda organisation perpetrated the 11 September atrocity? Could you just reply to that, and the Chairman did ask the question but we did not get an answer to it, the fact that other organisations could replicate what Al-Qaeda have done. I saw nods but I did not have an answer.
  (Dr Ranstorp) Al-Qaeda has taken a long time to develop. The critical years were 1996 to 1998 when it crystallised into the current front. It is unique in that it is a truly multinational enterprise. It is highly structured at the top. One of problems we are going to face in terms of pursuing, apprehending and prosecuting individuals from Al-Qaeda is that we do not have a membership list of middle managers. We know the top 20; they are quite well known. If you look at nationalities of those involved at the top end of the spectrum, you will find that there are not only Egyptians but also Algerians, Iraqis and Syrians. We are dealing with a tightly structured organisation at the top. It is also an umbrella organisation. It is less linked along organisational lines but rather individuals within these constituent groups beneath this umbrella. There is no other group that operates in this way that has the multinational component in the way that Al-Qaeda has. It is no surprise that the majority of the hi-jackers were Saudi and therefore here is no doubt in my mind that Al-Qaeda is the one that warrants attention and is the only suspect as a terrorist group. To my mind, there are no other groups that have the capability, intention and motivation, precisely because they operate primarily in the national context. The backlash against these groups moving in the direction of WMD would be so severe that it would be suicidal for them to pursue that.

  109. This is an international business, as you have made very clear, and others have too. This is not a political point but just a point of information from you. I was interested this morning that the Home Secretary in relation to his anti-terrorism Bill used the words "there would only be a handful in the United Kingdom of possible terrorists who could perpetrate this sort of action". He did use the word "handful". Would that be an accurate reflection, in your view, of the possible threat within the United Kingdom? He made it clear himself that he was not at all sure either. The security services would have to be involved. How do you see it from your perspective?
  (Dr Ranstorp) The United Kingdom I think has been unfairly pinpointed as a source of safe haven for Al-Qaeda. In fact, the United Kingdom does not offer particularly useful sanctuary. There are other European countries where there are a lot more constituent members and groups actively operative. You may remember some of the unearthed plots that we have seen in relation to the Al-Qaeda 11 September incident and we have seen mainland Europe as the principal theatre. That assessment is probably accurate. We are talking about a handful rather than hundreds of individuals. That does negate from the fact, though, that a lot of those individuals have joined up from Britain to go out to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban.

  110. I have one other question before I hand over to my colleague. This is the question of how one deals with Al-Qaeda. There would be a number of views as to how that could be done and governments are already taking certain action, one of which is the freezing internationally of assets. Do you believe that is one of the key areas that we can control in this organisation and all the other terrorist organisations that go hand in glove with it?
  (Dr Ranstorp) Let me echo Donald Rumsfeld by saying that there are no silver bullets to this problem. From the public's point of view, it is very important to understand that this war against terrorism is a multifaceted war and the military is one prong in an otherwise multifaceted problem. It has to be fought on all fronts and to varying degrees. Attacking the life support systems of terrorists, the financial infrastructure, is absolutely key, particularly because it takes a lot of money for groups to even move in this direction of weapons of mass destruction. The problem is that it has to be multinational in scope. I have just returned from Argentina over the weekend. In Latin America, in America's own back yard, there is a grey zone. I am talking about the area between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil, which has become the major Western recreation area for the Al-Qaeda network and also the contraband centre. I am told that in that zone annually they launder $15 billion a year. Tackling the front organisation is part of that strategy in terms of making it as difficult as possible. One should also recognise that in today's globalised environment various mechanisms—(Hawalla) being one—which needs to be addressed. Also in many of these groups, and today's terrorism is particularly characteristic of this, these people are part-time terrorist and part-time criminal. Most of these groups have engaged in what I call the triad of criminal enterprise, which involves identity theft, credit card fraud and bank fraud, which means that, whilst we may be able to tackle the official financial nodes, many of these groups are able to generate a sufficient amount of funding to be able to launch operations, even at the same scale as we saw on 11 September, costing around $500,000. If one looks in Europe and at the constituent groups that are part of the Al-Qaeda umbrella, the average size of individuals despatched to Europe to generate funding per group is 20. It is primarily then a law enforcement problem and the nexus between crime and terrorism as a precursor. Ahmed Swedan, who was arrested trying to cross in to the United States from Canada, is a good example. He was given $12,000 in seed money to set up his terrorist operation. When he ran out of money, he was asked then to generate through credit card fraud the rest of it. Tackling the official front organisation is one step, but certainly much more needs to be done, particularly in tackling those countries that do not adhere to the financial action task force money laundering regulations that represent black holes in terms of the ability of terrorists to move money and store it in safe area.

  111. So that I get this right, you are saying that the freezing of assets that is going on in the Western democracies really is the tip of the iceberg part of it?
  (Dr Ranstorp) It is a substantial chunk of the tip of the iceberg but certainly it will not resolve the whole issue.

Syd Rapson

  112. On this question, the Secretary of State announced that our military objectives have been reached and we have substantially destroyed the training camps and the organisational ability of the Al-Qaeda network to carry out further attacks. Of course we have recently seen the fall of Kabul. The Afghanistan action is interesting me. What is your assessment of the extent to which Al-Qaeda's operational capacity has been damaged by the recent action in Afghanistan where the head is cut from the body?
  (Dr Ranstorp) The first thing in terms of assessment is that life has been made very difficult for Al-Qaeda. It is very important not to personalise this war any more than it has already been. Bin Laden represents a phenomenon and the core strength of Al-Qaeda is about 4,000 operational members which one can classify as terrorists in the conventional sense. The pattern which occurred in 1998 was that many of the Al-Qaeda members streamed over into Pakistan and therefore the absence of Pakistan being forthcoming with high grade intelligence flowing through the country is going to be key in apprehending and pursuing some of the more important members. In terms of eradicating Al-Qaeda's ability in terms of its underground tunnels, it is very difficult to assess that at this time. I think the military action has significantly weakened its command and control. However, one should also recognise that many of these groups when they have been carrying out operations—and we know that there are more cells in the West and all around the world, even in the United States and at least six to seven cells are at large—are taking their own initiative and have received approval for terrorist strikes through very loose co-ordination with the Al-Qaeda centre at the home base. Certainly, shrinking the zone of sanctuary for Al-Qaeda to operate is absolutely key. However, it is also important to recognise that Afghanistan is not the only country and that there are many of these black zones of sanctuary—I mentioned one in Latin America itself—that need to be comprehensively tackled, not through military means but through the secret war that is currently being waged.

  113. I am fascinated. You are throwing light on a dark area. I think everybody finds this. Is there a hierarchy of organisational structure? Afghanistan has been disrupted and the home base of Al-Qaeda has been disrupted and Bin Laden might have been killed. Is there a secondary position in the world where the group could start up again? Is there no second place that they could operate from to start all over again and spread the same sort of organisation, once the Afghanistan home base has been destroyed?
  (Dr Ranstorp) Let me contextualise this because it is important to really look at it away from tight organisational structures. The phenomenon of Al-Qaeda really stems not only from fighting the Soviets but more importantly to when Pakistan and Afghanistan were importing Arab Afghan fighters during the 1980s. In the 1990s they began to export them. They appeared in conflict zones that we were very familiar with in Bosnia. In fact, the first commander of the Seventh Brigade of the Bosnian Army was a Saudi commander who served in Bosnia for a year and a half and after his service went to Kashmir. If you look at the multinational composition, we are then dealing with individuals within this network that created this multinational enterprise. They appear also of course in Tajikistan and Chechnya. It is this combination of globalisation and personalised relationship within existing terrorist groups that is really the nature of the beast. One talks about secondary leadership. Taking out Bin Laden or Al-Qaeda would solve part of the problem. What many of these radical Islamic groups are engaged in terrorism and crime have shown is that they are able to regenerate very quickly and that they are structured very much in compartmentalised fashion, that they are capable of regenerating. If one looks at the relative inexperience of not having the battlefield credentials like the first two generations, the ones on 11 September, the 19 highjackers, we are really talking about a third generation we are seeing now who are capable of launching operations at the lower level. Therefore it is imperative also that we understand and recognise that it is not enough to take out the top board of directors, but also the middle management and, from a law enforcement approach, the lower management. That is going to be a battle that cannot be won.

Chairman

  114. They had a pretty easy run until September 11. They cannot have anticipate the extent of the counter-attack upon the military , financially and in almost every respect. Do you think that they wish to provoke this in order to prove their thesis?
  (Dr Ranstorp) I discussed this with Western officials and the need particularly to counteract the propaganda and Bin Laden's effort regardless of the clash of civilizations is clear to me, because the end game was very clear from the outset: to provoke an all-out confrontation with the West with a view to destabilising neighbouring Muslim countries, Pakistan being a primary country, but also other countries. In effect, they were trying to do what they had been incapable of doing over many years, if one takes Al Jihad, for example, in Egypt and confronting the regime from within. This was rather an outside-in approach. It is no accident that Jordan in the 1990s not only played a stellar role in terms of countering the Al-Qaeda network and has probably the most experience in dealing with the network, but they have also staved off 30 to 35 terrorist attacks and saved hundreds, if not thousands, of American lives and other foreign lives, as well as of course plots to assassinate the King himself. Therefore, it is very clear in my mind that

  Al-Qaeda always launches multi-pronged attacks, simultaneous attacks. I am not sure if they anticipated that they were going to be successful in all the four highjackings, but certainly they were sure about the political effect, if not the nature, scale and scope and intensity of the response. Certainly the attacks on September 11 formed phase one in order to create an engagement, a confrontation, which had a very clear political strategy. Therefore, it was inherent to counteract that, not only in military terms but also in selling our message to our Muslim allies, the Muslim coalition. I think in that area we have not been bad but there is more to do on that front, particularly in presenting some evidence and message to the Muslim and Arab world.

  115. I am not capable of giving a one sentence answer, and I am sure you are not either. I have a lot of Muslims in my constituency and many of them appear to me to be in denial and saying that there is no evidence that Bin Laden was responsible. From the evidence you have received, and none of us here has seen the truly classified information, are you in any doubt that the New York attacks were perpetrated by the Al-Qaeda network?
  (Professor Ranstorp) I have no doubt whatsoever. There is no other suspect. I believe also, given that there has been heavy involvement by Osama Bin Laden and he is indicted in a number of other terrorist atrocities, and given what we have heard from other terrorist trails, we have unearthed a lot about his organisation and his involvement to show he is fully engaged in terrorism on a large scale. There has been an escalation since 1996 when he issued his declaration of war, and that has crystallised into a truly multinational enterprise with global tentacles and a global reach that needs to be countered. I concur with you. I recently came back from Egypt and people on the street in Egypt are not radicalised about the situation, waiting to see what will happen. Certainly they are also in a state of denial and do not believe that Bin Laden is responsible. Therefore, one may want to consider over time that when we are presenting the evidence we will have to think very hard about how to present that evidence to an already sceptical community. The way we present the evidence in the West may not have the same resonance and therefore you may want to think about presenting it to show transparency to the Arab and Muslim world.

  116. You have been to Egypt and Argentina. Do you find time occasionally to give a few lectures?
  (Dr Ranstorp) I do. I am on my way back to St Andrew's this afternoon.

Syd Rapson

  117. There is the point of the anthrax attacks, because that does not seem to fit in with the way you are explaining it. The anthrax attack we suspect might be an internal source in America but would the Al-Qaeda network be directly, in your eyes, responsible for those attacks or is it a bit fuzzy?
  (Dr Ranstorp) I am very sceptical about that. Of course, if you look at the FBI profiling, they are really talking about a lone individual. I was very sceptical at the outset. If one looks at the centre of one of the envelopes, actually I think that was a fourth grade address. To my mind that raised a question mark about the involvement of any Islamic extremist group. If one looks at the message inside in terms of the notes, that would also suggest a strong possibility that it is a lone individual.

Chairman

  118. Just when I thought we were moving on to the next section, we will ask your colleagues to comment. Who do you reckon, from the evidence, was responsible?
  (Prof Pearson) I would like to come back on the question you have raised about the anthrax attacks in the United States. I think that helps to illustrate some of the dangers of talking it up too much. As Alastair Hay said, the United States has been very concerned about the possibility of bio-terrorism for five or six years and has been prone to presentations by people trying to seek money for programmes. I remember one presentation which talked of a simultaneous attack on San Francisco, laying down anthrax on parallel tracks. It was completely over the top. I think what happens is that, by talking it up too much, you encourage the loners who say, "Oh, if it is that bad, we should try this". One of the things we have to watch out for is the copy-cat attacks. On the Home Secretary's comment about a handful, I think it all comes down to capacity and intention. The point that you are making, Mr Chairman, is that Al-Qaeda had the intention and is certainly capable of doing it. There are others who might be inspired to look at this sort of thing in the United Kingdom as a sort of copy-cat. One thing that helps to underpin this is in the World Health Organisation book that Alastair Hay and I both were involved in. One of the things that we had to address was which agents should we focus on. It was quite instructive to look at the range of possible agents and what had actually been used in proven use. That really is quite small. The last comment I would like to throw in is on the preparedness which Mr Howarth was talking about. I believe the preparedness is quite reasonable, certainly looking at what is in the information about emergency preparedness "Dealing with Disaster". My one question would be animal and plant attacks. Foot and mouth disease in Britain has shown a huge amount of damage. I do not believe that in any way was caused deliberately but it could have been. One needs to be alert to that in the preparedness plans.

Jim Knight

  119. I was interested in the notion, Dr Ranstorp, of globalisation meeting terrorism and 11 September being a wake-up call for that, and in turn saying that Al-Qaeda is uniquely capable of such an attack because it is a global network and it does not have the same national motivations. You talked a little bit about this. Is there any evidence that the network is in turn making alliances with national terrorist organisations and could potentially act as a supplier for agents to national terrorist organisations? If so, would that be restricted to organisations that they might have sympathy with in the Muslim and Arab world or could that extend into Western terrorist organisations as well?
  (Dr Ranstorp) It is very much limited to the constituent groups that are currently at its disposal. The group that is of most concern in Europe today, if one looks at the most active, is the Algerian groups, both in terms of the crime, the terrorism, and the link between organised crime and terrorism. There we have had of course the campaigns by the—Islamic group. They splintered off in 1998 to be the Selakis Group of combat and preaching led by Hassan Hattab. We had a cell here in the United Kingdom that was unearthed in the last 1980s. The latest group is Tahwir wal-Hija, also a Salkis type of group, very inward looking. However, there are other groups across north Africa, particularly radical Islamic movements, and smaller nucleus groups in the Gulf. In Lebanon there is a group called Osbat al-Ansar even stretching to Uzbekistan with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. There are the known constituent groups. There will be a natural predisposition not to strike alliances with other groups that do not adhere to the same ideological outlook, partially because of ideology but also because of secrecy and operational sophistication. Let me say also that if one looks—and this relates to the weapons of mass destruction issue—and takes the targets that they have identified, they are very conventional targets. There is nothing unsurprising about those targets in, for example, their attacking embassies, vital economic centres, bridges leading in and out of cities. Therefore, even though the Al-Qaeda organisation is unique in terms of the recruitment and organisational make up, and while they may have been appearing to move in the direction of chemical and biological agents, particularly chemicals, they also, like other groups, use simple conventional means with disastrous mass casualty results. Therefore, even though there is a clear and present danger that these groups are moving in this direction and we must remain vigilant and guard against that, I believe at the end of the day that the group will behave more or less like other groups, even though the level of intensive violence is much more extreme than the conventional level.


 
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