'Profound' MI5 regret at errors on 7/7 bombs
Published 22/02/2011 | 05:00
MI5 HAS expressed "profound regret" for failing to prevent the 7/7 bombings.
One of the British Security Service's most senior officers told the inquest into the attacks that every member of the agency lamented the fact that plot ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan was not fully investigated before the atrocities.
The top spy, named only as Witness G, insisted yesterday that MI5 had "no inkling" of what was to befall London on July 7 2005 and said it would be "nonsensical and offensive" to suggest otherwise.
Hugo Keith, counsel to the inquest, said: "You have nevertheless recorded that it is a matter of profound regret that despite its efforts and industry, the Security Service did not manage to ascertain the full significance, and intentions importantly, of Mohammed Sidique Khan and thus did not manage to prevent the atrocities of July 7."
Witness G said: "Every member of the service feels that."
However, it also emerged at the inquest that MI5 missed an opportunity to identify 7/7 ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan as a terrorist by failing to show a key informant a clear photograph of him.
Undercover surveillance officers took a sharp colour picture of Khan and his deputy Shehzad Tanweer at a motorway service station in February 2004.
But MI5 did not use this photograph of Khan and provided only a very badly cropped image of Tanweer to US investigators interrogating al-Qa'ida supergrass Mohammed Junaid Babar.
Babar had met Khan when the British extremist attended a terrorist training camp in Pakistan in 2003, but he was not able to identify him until after the July 7 2005 attacks on London.
Hugo Keith said his children could have done a better job of cropping the picture of Tanweer than the MI5.
The security agency also stressed that Babar was a new source and they did not know how far he could be trusted.
Khan and Tanweer were photographed by a surveillance team in front of a Burger King outlet on the M1 in Bedfordshire on February 2 2004.
The blurry black-and-white cropped versions of the picture prepared by the Security Service show only Khan's right half, while most of Tanweer's nose is cut off and his stubble and the letters on his hat cannot be made out.
One of MI5's most senior officers told the inquest that there was no record of why the image was edited like this before being shown to Babar.
Witness G said: "My judgment would be that when photographs are cropped in this way, for whatever reason, we are concerned that by including the background we are giving away too much detail."
Asked why the picture of Khan was not shown to Babar, the senior MI5 officer said: "My speculation remains that the quality of that being even poorer than the quality of the Shehzad Tanweer photograph, it simply wasn't considered worthwhile."
Asked about MI5's ability to transmit colour pictures to other security agencies around the globe, Witness G replied: "It would depend where they were in the world."
Mr Keith pointed out: "America is not the other side of the moon. The system must exist to allow colour photographs to be sent to America."