She may be a former director general of MI5, and what she says may fit with the zeitgeist according to a wide section of the readership of the newspaper she's talking to; and, further, she is right to be opposed to 42-day detention - but what Stella Rimington says here is plain, unvarnished hooey nonetheless:
The response to 9/11 was "a huge overreaction", she says. "You know, it was another terrorist incident. It was huge, and horrible, and seemed worse because we all watched it unfold on television. So yes, 9/11 was bigger, but not... not..." Not qualitatively different? "No. That's not how it struck me. I suppose I'd lived with terrorist events for a good part of my working life, and this was, as far as I was concerned, another one."
The fact that it was bigger makes a difference and a difference that mattered. For not only was it bigger, but it was bigger in a way that made it clear that it was smaller than it might have been. This has been said before, including by me, but it seems that a reminder might already be necessary for the bleached moral consciousness of sunny liberalism. A couple of aircraft full of passengers were flown into two very tall buildings. Had they struck them differently than they did, had more people been trapped in them than were, had the twin towers fallen differently, the death toll could have been much higher than it was. 'Another terrorist incident', therefore, as may be, but it said something about the brand of terrorism now before us, something which had not been evident to the broad public, whatever may have been hypothesized within MI5. It announced that there was no obvious upper limit to the numbers of innocent people who might be murdered if it should suit the political purposes of al-Qaida or whatever cognate outfit or network wished to make a dramatic point.
The events of that day didn't just seem worse than other terrorist 'incidents', because we watched them on TV. They were worse, and could have been worse still - and there could yet, one day, be something that exceeds them in the same line. The widespread reaction of horror was entirely apt. The impulse to treat what happened on 9/11 as no big deal was repellent back then, and the suggestion that it should have been seen as just business as usual is not particularly impressive seven years later.