Mail on Sunday‘s “Secret MI5 Dossier” on Abu Qatada Reveals Stuff We Already Knew

From Abul Taher and Robert Verkaik at the Mail on Sunday:

Secret MI5 dossier: Hate preacher Abu Qatada issued orders to kill British citizens after 9/11

Damning new evidence on hate cleric allowed to walk free from jail

…Hate preacher Abu Qatada issued orders to kill British and American civilians after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to a secret MI5 report seen by The Mail on Sunday.

…The MI5 case file on Qatada was discovered abandoned in the British ambassador’s residence in Tripoli by The Mail on Sunday after the toppling of Colonel Gaddafi last year.

…It says: ‘In arguing the legal case for the attacks of September 11, Abu Qatada advocates fighting jihad against America and the West. 

‘However, he goes further to include not only the aggressor (the American government), but anybody associated with the aggressor (its civilians) as prospective targets.’

…MI5 says Qatada issued the fatwa about ten years ago, when he was on the run in the UK from MI5 and counter-terrorism police trying to detain him under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.

That last paragraph means that the Mail‘s “damning new evidence”, taken from a “secret M15 dossier”, in fact refers to information that has been in the public domain for years. Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory’s The Suicide Factory (2006) contains the detail that

Abu Qatada used his time on the run [from December 2001 to November 2002, following changes in British law after 9/11] to publish an essay on the internet offering a legal justification for the 9/11 attacks. (p. 108)

Given the nature of the 9/11 attacks, one wonders how Abu Qatada might have argued “the legal case for the attacks” without including a justification for attacking civilians. And while Britain can be inferred from the phrase “America and the West”, the text does not quite support the heading’s promise of specific “orders to kill British citizens”. The Mail goes on to relate other details about  Abu Qatada taken from the “dossier”, although again there’s nothing new.

Mysteriously, the Mail’s report comes with a mock-up illustration of the quotes, complete with blacked-out words and the title of a document: Radicalisation of Muslims in the United Kingdom. Underneath is written:

Jihad: The documents found in the ambassador’s Tripoli residence. Qatada justifies attacks on civilians in nations allied to America

This reference to “documents” is weirdly ambiguous: if “the MI5 case file on Qatada” is different from the Radicalisation of Muslims document, why is that title placed above the quotes? And if it’s the same document, why is it called “the MI5 case file on Qatada” when it’s clearly a more general study?

Taher discussed the Radicalisation document in an earlier piece for the Mail last year:

The 200-page document, titled Radicalisation Of Muslims In The United Kingdom – A Developed Understanding, was found by a Mail on Sunday reporter in the abandoned residence of the British ambassador in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. 

The research paper, which was intended to be read by only MI5 agents and officers, was produced after studying 90 terror suspects investigated by the security service.

The “research paper” provides general sociological data about “the causes of radicalisation”, such as experiences while in prison. It’s a potentially useful work, although without a proper understanding of its methodology – which the paper does not provide – it’s impossible to evaluate its findings properly.


The Radicalisation document may perhaps also have drawn on a study produced in 2009 by the Quilliam Foundation, which made the claim that Abu Qatada had been smuggling inflammatory statements and fatwas out of prison. That study was called Unlocking Al-Qaeda: Islamist Extremism in British Prisons, although some press reports at the time named it as Al-Qaeda in Prisons. For some reason, it has since been removed from the Quilliam Foundation website.

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