current affairs

The New Al-Qaeda:

Last night an interesting accident of scheduling led to an excellent Dispatches on Chechnya over on 4 at 8pm before BBC 2's The New Al-Qaeda: at 9pm. The Dispatches was quite superb and particularly poignant after having seen the Beslan piece they ran last week. There is quite a significant resonance between the Chechen story of today and Poland's suffering over the centuries, we don't seem to learn from our mistakes. The Poles and the Chechens both expected Europe to help them, yet we don't.

What is different this time is the Islamic extremist angle, hence the BBC 2 programme was an interesting follow-up. Filmed in a more stylistic 'spooks-esqe' format the piece had tracked down some extraordinary people to interview including an ex-CIA man and the quite disturbing Saudi exile in London who happily posted pictures of beheadings and bombings on his website.

I found the programme particularly frustrating in the way it breathlessly kept repeating that “now they can even read our email no matter where we are” as if this was a new development. Reality check – email is plain text, it's been the easy to intercept since Internet day one! This is precisely what Phil Zimmermann was arguing for back in the 90s. Email is like sending postcards, not even an envelope to protect your writings…