It is a convenient mythology promoted by officialdom that Choudary, the firebrand pro-ISIS hate preacher who presided over the banned extremist network formerly known as al-Muhajiroun, only received his terrorism conviction last year because our laws are too weak.
Choudary is reported to have been the key radicaliser for the London Bridge attackers, who had been recruited into his al-Muhajiroun network. Muslim community sources I spoke to on the ground told me that the London Bridge terrorists were widely known as open ISIS supporters. One of them had fought with an Islamist militia group in Libya, and another had attempted to join the jihad in Syria.
Choudary was not arrested during this period... because he was useful to MI5.
Choudary himself was Britain's top ISIS recruiter according to police sources, siphoning as many as 500 Britons to join ISIS groups in foreign theatres like Syria since 2011.
According to a senior Scotland Yard counter-terrorism officer who had investigated Choudary, Choudary was not arrested during this period not because he was ingenious at staying within the bounds of the law, but because he was useful to MI5. The truth, said the officer, is that police had overwhelming evidence sufficient to prosecute the ISIS recruiter -- but were constantly prevented from doing so by Britain's security services.
So this has never been about the police and security services having inadequate powers to prosecute hate preachers. The man who radicalised and recruited the London Bridge attackers was himself protected by MI5 for short-sighted intelligence purposes.A very British jihad
One of those purposes, according to former counter-terrorism intelligence officer Charles Shoebridge, was to augment British support for the rebellions against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Britain had supplied extensive weapons and military training to rebel groups in Libya and Syria with direct ties to ISIS and al-Qaeda.
When I interviewed him in 2014, Shoebridge had warned with startling prescience that the MI5/MI6 green light to Britons to join various rebel groups in Syria would likely backfire when they returned home. Many of them had gone on to join dangerous jihadist groups linked to ISIS and al-Qaeda -- and would bring that ideology back with them.
This year, he was tragically proven right.
Not only did the British government allow Britons to travel abroad to foreign theatres from 2011 to 2013, where they received military training, with some becoming radicalised by violent Islamist militias -- they were then allowed to return to Britain with few repercussions. As many as a third of British foreign fighters reportedly arrived back home this February, just before the spate of ISIS-inspired violence kicked off.
In a briefing I co-authored with UK foreign policy analyst Mark Curtis, we showed that Britain had also supplied extensive weapons and military training to rebel groups in Libya and Syria with direct ties to ISIS and al-Qaeda. And Britain did so in partnership with the very countries, such as the Gulf states and Turkey, accused by our own intelligence agencies of sponsoring Islamist terrorism.Courting Islamophobes
But it is not just Islamist terror that the British state has ended up facilitating.
To her credit, Home Secretary Amber Rudd wrote an op-ed in The Guardian making clear that the Finsbury Park mosque attack was terrorism, and promising to act "in solidarity with the Muslim community."
The message, though much-needed, is at odds with Rudd's own past affiliations.
It is not just Islamist terror that the British state has ended up facilitating.