Time for al-Qaida to move into cloud seeding.
Following Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab starting a party in his pants to which no one else was invited on Christmas Day last year, not to mention the cargo bomb plot and the failed attack in Stockholm earlier in the month, we have to take things much more seriously. Hence presumably today's raids in Cardiff, Stoke, Birmingham and London, which John Yates (remember him?) has described as "absolutely necessary". In a way, this is an improvement over the pronouncements made in the past by police chiefs, who alongside politicians have done their best before anything has so much has been found to impress upon everyone how if they hadn't acted hundreds if not thousands of people would have shortly found their limbs separated from their bodies.
It does however also hardly inspire confidence that the police and security services are completely certain of the information they're acting upon. If you need to say disrupting an apparent plot is "absolutely necessary", it's almost as if they're expecting the coming criticism after those arrested are released without charge. Almost forgotten are the raids in Manchester in April of last year, when no less than Gordon Brown informed the nation that a "very big plot" had been foiled, only for no charges against those arrested to be forthcoming. The Americans have since come to our rescue somewhat, requesting the extradition of Abid Naseer, who earlier in the year had won his appeal against being deported to Pakistan. It says something about the differences between our two nations that while we failed to even attempt to make any charges against him stick, the US seeks him over "conspiracy to use a destructive device", on the same grounds presumably as the Times Square bomber is facing jail time over "attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction".
Whether lessons have been learned from past investigations that have ended up looking ignominious is dubious to say the least. Already those same old "security sources" are out briefing, with even the normally staid Guardian suggesting that Whitehall and "shoppers and/or revellers" in the West Midlands were the targets, potentially reprising their past glories in talking absolute nonsense to all too credulous hacks.
My cynicism is hopefully misplaced, and a serious, dangerous threat to the public could well have been stopped in its tracks. It's difficult though to come to any other conclusion that rather than continuing to depend on explosives, al-Qaida should look into acquiring some silver iodide rockets as used by China; all you need is about six inches of snow to bring the country to a grinding halt. Merry Christmas.