Friday, January 7, 2011

Terror Threat Alerts

Welcome to 2011! Sorry there have been no posts recently, what with Christmas, all the travelling I have been doing, and a lack of things to rant about. But I have something today. Terrorism, and societies response to it.

So today the Terror Threat Level at transport hubs (i.e. Airports and London main train stations) has be raised to ‘Severe’ (meaning ‘an attack is highly likely’). What has caused this raise? Rumours of an al-Qaeda plot? A threat from Irish Republicans? Nope! Apparently nothing. According to BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera "Officials are stressing that there is no intelligence of an imminent attack. This is more precautionary than anything else.” (

So there is not greater threat than there has been, yet suddenly the treat of an attack is ‘Severe’ rather than ‘Substantial’. Why is this? I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, because I’m not. But either the security services are keeping something from the public, or there is another motivation. If the former is true, then why publically raise the threat warning? In the pass the Government/Met/Security Service has told the public of a threat. So I’ll assume that it’s the latter. What is the other motivation? Well, another story in the news the past couple of days may provide the answer.

Control orders are back in the news, and are being overhauled. Some want them scrapped, others want them kept. But what is a good way of getting the public on side to support anti-terror measures? How about make them a little bit more scared that there might be an attack. Then the measures can be marketed as a way of preventing further attacks (which they have no intelligence on anyway).

And this leads onto a secondary rant about counter-terrorism and security practices. With this increase in the Threat Level, a guy on BBC News talked about how he travelled through an airport today and was searched, as was his luggage. Even when the level was lower, we had a lot of searches, pat downs, x-rays etc at airports to prevent an attack. And at train stations… nothing. Al-Qaeda’s record of big attacks in the West, 9/11 – airplane, Madrid Bombings – train, 7/7 – train. So they last terror attack in Britain was train based. So why is there absolutely not security at train stations (other than the lack of bins). The answer is simple. It would be too difficult, and you affect too many people. Imagine the queues if every commuter in London had to go through an x-ray scanner, and put his bag through too. People wouldn’t stand for it. It would be too much of an inconvenience, and people would start pushing against it. It just shows that the true response to terrorism is tokenistic, to make it look as if something is being done.

If the threat was that real, and that urgent, then protection would be greater. So, is the threat really that bad, or is it just a mix of political and press scaremongering?

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