British Investigations Yield Few Clues Thus Far
As Londoners returned to work today, they found little encouraging news:
British intelligence officials, frustrated by their failure to quickly crack the worst terrorist attack here since World War II, have sought help from counterparts in the United States and two dozen European allies to develop possible leads, European counterterrorism officials said Sunday.
The contacts included an extraordinary, private meeting in London on Saturday, convened by Scotland Yard and MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, that brought together senior law enforcement and intelligence officials from the United States and the two dozen European countries, three participants and several others with knowledge of the session said.
European participants said they were struck by how little was known about the attacks, which hit three trains in the London Underground and a double-decker bus on Thursday.
The investigation into the coordinated bombings, which left at least 49 people dead and more than 700 wounded, is now the largest criminal inquiry in British history.
The call for help was unusual coming from Britain, which is regarded by other European countries as often having access to more and better quality intelligence because it is part of a long-established, Anglophone intelligence-sharing agreement with the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
But the two-hour session also indicated that the British officials running the complex inquiry were frustrated because they had few breaks, few leads and no suspects in the 48 hours after the attack, the most important investigative period after a terrorist bombing.
While such international cooperation is always welcome, the slow pace and limited progress are disconcerting. A copycat attack may be planned. Terrorist cells may become emboldened. Clues may disappear.
More generally, intelligence-gathering difficulties may ultimately reflect the terrorists’ more effective adjustments. That they essentially replicated the Madrid strategy in another European city — and confounded numerous governments, including those with high-quality counterterrorism operations, in the process — may indicate just how much they’ve been able to perfect their craft. It’s frightening to think that they may have distanced themselves further from authorities, especially when you consider the low costs of creating mayhem.
I may be (and hope that I am) wrong on this score. Otherwise, trouble may lurk right around a nearby corner.