Wed, 11 Jul 2007
Our security minister, an appointed unelected Admiral, was interviewed
in the Telegraph:
Britain faces a 15-year battle to end the threat
posed by Islamist
terrorists, the Government's new security supremo has admitted.
Admiral Sir Alan West, the former First Sea Lord, said the overall
danger facing the country, from both home-grown and foreign terrorists,
was at its greatest ever level and that a new approach was badly needed
to tackle it.
If the danger is really at its greatest ever level then we should
consider ourselves lucky as the
recent terrorism attempts have been attempted by incompetents
In his first interview since his surprise appointment
Brown as security minister, Sir Alan called on people to be "a little
bit un-British" and even inform on each other in an attempt to trap
those plotting to take innocent lives.
"Britishness does not normally involve snitching or talking about
someone," he said. "I'm afraid, in this situation, anyone who's got any
information should say something because the people we are talking
about are trying to destroy our entire way of life."
Sir Alan used the word snitch
to ‘get everyone rather excited and
’. Advocating a policy that is commonly associated
with Soviet Union, the Stasi and occupied Europe sounds more
inconsiderate and insensitive than exciting and interesting. To get
cooperation the authorities have to improve trust, the government must
follow the law and respect human rights, and
the Police have to behave fairly and in a proportionate manner.
of the Game: Terrorism, Community and Human Rights
report for the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust looked at why cooperating
with the authorities over terrorism is an issue that creates
confusion: ‘The main problem with going to the police was that none of
them trusted the police to handle the information with care and
sensitivity, and they were fearful that the police might over-react and
misuse their considerable powers.’
Let's be clear, cooperation has nothing to do with Britishness or
snitching. It has everything to do with having a government and Police
enforcing human rights for all that protect us all and create a climate
(More snitching than I anticipated for July
He said he was determined to build on the
anti-terrorism strategy of the "four Ps" - prepare, protect, pursue,
prevent - but that the "prevent" side, dealing with the radicalisation
of young Muslims, was the most important.
"This is not a quick thing," he said. "I believe it will take 10 to 15
years. But I think it can be done as long as we as a nation apply
ourselves to it and it's done across the board."
The four Ps were explained in details in the Rules of
report. There are four or possibly five elements of
the counter-terrorism strategy known as ‘CONTEST’:
- ‘Prevention takes in long-term goals, such as working to
reduce tendencies leading to ‘radicalisation’, for instance through
helping resolve international disputes which encourage terrorism (a
prominent part of the FCO’s duties); ensuring that all citizens in the
UK ‘feel fully part of our society’; fighting the ‘battle of ideas’;
and introducing legislation to deter terrorism.
- Pursuit goes wider than actually seeking to prevent
terrorist attacks and apprehending those involved in the disruption of
terrorist organisations, through better understanding of their
capabilities and intentions; prosecutions, deportations, control orders
and proscriptions of organisations; working with communities; making it
harder for terrorists to operate domestically and abroad; and targeting
- Protection entails working to safeguard critical national
infrastructure and other sites at risk and maintaining border security.
- Preparedness means ensuring effective contingency
arrangements are in place.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) expressed regret to the
Home Affairs Committee that ‘Communities’ was not included as a fifth
item in its own right in the strategy, stating ‘an opportunity was
missed to ensure the elements of the strategy that involve communities
had prominence and priority’. Of course, ‘Communities’ would not have
fitted into the neat four Ps structure of the strategy; and we are
informed that Muslim community leaders were against giving it too much
prominence. Consequently ACPO’s missing ‘communities’ pillar is largely
subsumed into Prevention where government sources argue it is at the
heart of this strand of the strategy, as well as featuring in the
Sir Alan gave his comprehensive assessment of the
threat facing the
country to The Sunday Telegraph following last weekend's car bomb
attacks in London and Glasgow.
Yesterday, Bilal Abdullah, a 27-year-old doctor, was remanded in
custody at Westminster magistrates' court on a charge of conspiring to
cause explosions in connection with the Glasgow attack last Saturday.
At King's Cross, Mr Brown joined survivors and relatives of victims to
commemorate the second anniversary of the July 7 bombings in London,
while there were reports that up to eight police officers and civilian
staff in Britain were suspected of having links to al-Qaeda.
The Sunday Telegraph can also reveal that Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller,
the former director general of MI5, has disclosed that there are now
more than 100 suspects awaiting trial across the country in 40
terrorist-related cases and warned of the possibility of an imminent
chemical or biological bomb attack.
Sir Alan said that, after little more than a week in the job, it was
clear to him that the overall threat had increased since he left his
Navy post 16 months ago. He said: "There is a greater threat than there
Further mentions of an increased threat and of the ‘possibility of an
imminent chemical or biological bomb attack’. Why should we believe the
threat is greater than what has been shown in past trials? Is it this
time more than just propaganda
Known examples of recent terrorism attempts have shown that we have
been saved not just by the quality of our intelligence and swift
actions of the Police (ricin
) but also possibly by the competence of
criminals (the chappatti
Britain was now fighting "a disparate core of people
- based abroad
primarily - whom I'm afraid are racist, they're bigoted, they seek
power, they're avaricious in money terms and they talk of the
caliphate." He said that he had been asked by Mr Brown shortly before
he took over from Tony Blair to "sort out" the Government's response to
the terror threat. "We are not getting our message across properly,"
Sir Alan said.
The 59-year-old who was chosen by Mr Brown as a non-partisan figure,
said he would work to achieve a political consensus "wherever" possible
- but added that it was inevitable that "disagreements" between the
parties and across Whitehall would cause difficulties.
One can hope that an essential reading is the most excellent and
The admiral, who has been given a far-reaching brief
government departments, also launched an attack on the phrase "war on
terror" - which has been abandoned by ministers since Mr Blair left
He said: "I hate that expression. When I first heard it - I think it
came over from the States - I though it was totally the wrong thing.
It's not like a war in that sense at all. It demeans the value of a war
and it demeans the value of a lot of things.
It didn't start as ‘the
war on terror
’, it started as ‘the
war against terror
(I'm pretty sure I saw it spelled one
word on each line behind the presenter on BBC News - I must have
one time it happened)! Is that the sign that several of the rushed out
anti-terrorism laws of the previous government will be repealed and the
existing body of criminal legislation used instead?
"I don't like the fact that we talk about 'the Muslim
this sort of thing. I have a lot of Muslim friends and they see
themselves as British. We've got to be very careful. The threat is to
our British way of life and all of our British people."
Of the terrorists, he said: "I think they have severely damaged one of
the world's great religions - the one they purport to support." The
claims that British foreign policy was solely to blame was an erroneous
argument, he said.
"It's not something that has happened recently. Iraq, for example, they
use that as an excuse. There's no doubt the Middle East peace process
is an important issue but actually when we were having men killed
fighting to look after Muslims in Bosnia and in Kosovo, these people
even then were trying to undermine us and ... cause damage to us."
Our foreign policy may not be solely to blame but it is clearly a
contributory factor. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed in Whose
quotes a British Army officer as saying “Every
civilian dead means five new Taliban”, and it has been reported
that only a couple of weeks ago witnesses claim a village in
British-run Helmand was bombed for three hours and that between 50 and
80 people, many of them women and children, had died.
He said he was in favour of giving the security
services more money
staff "if there is a need for that".
Sir Alan, who will become a Labour life peer, was commander of the
frigate Ardent in the Falklands in 1982. The ship was sunk with a loss
of 22 crew. In 2002, he became First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval
Staff. While in the post he became a fierce critic of the Government's
Sir Alan said he had been "amazed" to be offered a ministerial job by
Mr Brown and had taken a "considerable drop in money". When he marched
out of No 10 alongside Jacqui Smith, the new Home Secretary, few if
anybody knew who he was.
He said he had a text message from a Royal Marines general, a friend
serving in Afghanistan and watching a television link, to ask if he had
"become a bodyguard."
It is indeed unusual, in a democracy, to have an Admiral being offered
a governement role looking after a security. Sir Alan appears to have
great experience in war situations, but as he said ‘it's not like a war
in that sense at all’.