Al Qaida terrorist Dhiren Barot was jailed for a minimum of 40 years yesterday for plotting death and carnage on a "colossal and unprecedented" scale in massive atrocities on both sides of the Atlantic.
The 34-year-old Muslim convert led a conspiracy to murder thousands of "wholly innocent men, women and children" in the United States and the UK and his plot was designed to strike "at the very heart of democracy and the security of the state".
The sentencing judge, Mr Justice Butterfield, added that if successful, Barot's murder-ous plans for a series of September 11-style synchronised terror attacks would have affected "thousands personally, millions indirectly and ultimately the whole nations of the US and the UK".
He jailed the former north London schoolboy for life at Woolwich Crown Court in London yesterday, and said he would have to serve at least 40 years in jail before being considered for release.
Mr Butterfield explained that, had he given Barot a determinate sentence he would have received 80 years, and that therefore his life tariff would be set at half that.
Barot, one of the most senior al Qaida terrorists ever captured by British security agencies in the War on Terror and a key lieutenant of the network's leading figures, sat impassively as the judge announced the massive jail term.
The minimum 40-year tariff means Barot will be almost 75 by the time he is released.
His two-day sentencing heard how he prepared two terror atrocities in meticulous detail for the approval of his al Qaida "overlords". The first was to collapse five key financial institutions in Washington, New York and Newark, using explosives-packed limousines in underground car parks or by ramming oil tankers into them.
His second was aimed at Britain, and involved a repeat of the limousines plan, together with al Qaida's first ever dirty bomb, a gas attack on the Heathrow Express and a plot to blow up a Tube train under the Thames.
Mr Butterfield said it was clear that Barot's "chilling" plans were "no idle plot", but a "determined, sophisticated and deadly design" to murder thousands of innocent people.
Had he not been thwarted by the police and security services his plans would have resulted in a "terrible massacre" and brought "grief, bewilderment, devastation and anger" to those left behind to mourn, the judge said.
Thousands more would have been left "hideously injured", having to live their lives with disabilities, "their hopes and dreams for the future destroyed."
"This was no noble cause," Mr Butterfield told Barot. "Your plans were to bring indiscriminate carnage, bloodshed and butchery, first in Washington, New York and Newark, and thereafter the UK on a colossal and unprecedented scale.
"Your intention was not simply to cause damage, panic or fear. Your intention was to murder, but it went further. It was designed to strike at the very heart of democracy and the security of the state and if successful, would have affected thousands personally, millions indirectly and ultimately the whole nation of the US and the UK."
Mr Butterfield described Barot as a "dedicated and highly dangerous" individual who was highly intelligent and skilled in the "black arts" of terrorism.
His terror plots were set out like "business plans, as if corporate reports going to head office". However, they were dealing not with a business proposition, the judge said, "they were concerned with murder, with the incalculable loss of blameless life".
The head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch, Peter Clarke, described Barot as a "full time terrorist" whose plans could have killed hundreds, if not thousands.
"He was stopped before he could attack the British and American people," Mr Clarke said.
"As always our concern for public safety was paramount.
"For well over two years we have been unable to show the British public the reality of the threat they faced from this man. Now they can see for themselves the full horror of his plan."
Home Secretary John Reid said the "nature and severity" of Barot's sentence demonstrated that the terrorist threat was "very real and serious".
"His case highlights the extraordinary investigative work that is undertaken and shows the importance of ensuring that the police are provided with all the tools they need to counter the continuing threat," he said.
"We owe a tremendous debt to the police and intelligence agencies."