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Met denies rift as US leaks details of bombs

London Guardian | August 5, 2005
By Duncan Campbell and Rosie Cowan

The release of information by the New York police chief that suggested the July 7 bombs were made from household materials and set off by mobile phone alarms was "unsanctioned", Scotland Yard sources said yesterday. But they denied that the latest leak by American officers had created a rift between the two forces.

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According to Raymond Kelly, the bombs could have been made from household items such as hair bleach and citric acid. The New York chief of police said the bombs had initially been stored in a fridge at the home of one of the bombers in Leeds and transported in coolers in the boot of a car to Luton before being taken to London.

"Initially, it was thought that perhaps the materials were high-end military explosives that were smuggled," Mr Kelly told the security heads of New York businesses in a briefing. "It's more like these terrorists went to a hardware store or some beauty supply store."

He added that the recipes for the bombs were as freely available on the internet as a recipe for meatloaf. Mr Kelly also suggested mobile phone alarms had been used as timers for the bombs.

A Scotland Yard source said there were "elements of accuracy" in the briefing but "a lot of speculation". British detectives are not certain whether the mobile phones were used.

The information released by Mr Kelly was not sanctioned by the British authorities but Scotland Yard denied had it caused a serious row, saying that it continued "to liaise closely with the Americans."

This is the fourth time that information has appeared in the US before it has done so in Britain. The first was when it was reported that British intelligence had made an assessment before July 7 that there was no group capable of carrying out a serious attack.

The New York Times also carried details of the fourth suicide bomber to be identi fied as Londoner Jermaine Lindsay while it was still thought in Britain that the "fourth man" came from Leeds.

This was followed last week by the broadcasting on ABC television of photos and details of explosive devices found in the boot of the July 7 bombers' hired car in Luton.

Information about the 16 separate items, including an x-ray of a ferocious-looking nailbomb, was broadcast in the US, as were the first shots from inside the wrecked tube trains.

Some British police officers are unhappy that shared information is appearing in the US media and being recycled.

"There is a stereotype which, like every stereotype, has a good deal of truth in it," said a US correspondent in London who deals with all British government departments. "It sometimes seems that press officers are set up as an obstacle. It's a rare press person [in London] who's helpful. It has to do partly with our cultures and partly to do with different rules of sub judice."

Under the contempt laws, once a person has been charged no further reference can be made to them beyond the details of the charge until the trial takes place. For this reason, the police here are more reluctant to divulge information. In the US, the contempt rules are more relaxed.

Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said: "There is a gigantically different culture and our culture is partly explained by sub judice rules."

He added that he would not want to "give an unequivocal thumbs up" to the US system because there can be occasions when it is manipulated by those with the power to do so.

Additionally, each country is tighter with information about matters closest to it. Details about conditions in Guantánamo Bay and intelligence assessments about the Iraq war emerged in the British media first.

 

 

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