Government should be “more open” about winning battle against terrorism

July 7, 2009 at 10:50 am Leave a comment

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The Home Affairs Committee has praised the government’s counter-terrorism efforts and said its approach to the threats faced by the UK is “impressive.”

The report, Project CONTEST: The Government’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy, was published today, the fourth anniversary of terrorist attacks in London’s transport network that killed more than 50 people.

“The UK continues to face a sustained and extremely grave threat from terrorism,” the committee said.

“After a slow start, the Government has done a great deal to improve its counter-terrorism structures and now has an impressive approach to the issue. However, more work remains to be done.

“The threats have not lessened significantly, nor do we expect them to do so in the immediate future. It has been said that “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”. We agree.”

The Government first created a coordinated counter-terrorism strategy in 2003.

This was revised during 2008 and early 2009 and the ‘refresh’ of CONTEST was published in March 2009.

CONTEST has four ‘strands’: Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare.

The Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT), part of the Home Office, is responsible for CONTEST and is the Government’s lead unit on counter-terrorism.

The committee said it welcomes “the full and open nature of the `latest iteration of CONTEST, and its determination to place as much information as possible in the public domain.

They urge the Government to make more of “its many successes” in countering terrorism.

“While we understand the constraints of the sub judice convention, we are concerned that the Government is imposing too strict a self-denying ordinance on itself and could be more open about the extent to which it is winning the battle against terrorism.

“One of the UK’s key points of vulnerability is clearly the Transport for London network.

“We are satisfied that lessons have been learned from the attacks of July 2005, and we accept that airport-style security will never be compatible with the demands of a mass transit system on the scale of the London Underground.

“However, the network remains extremely vulnerable and there is no room for complacency; the protection of the millions of passengers who use the Transport for London network every day must remain a high priority.

“The London 2012 Olympics will also be another critical area of vulnerability.

“We welcome the decision to move the Metropolitan Police’s Olympic Security Directorate to OSCT and we are reassured that the issue is being treated with appropriate gravity and priority.

“Engineering a successful and, moreover, safe and secure Games will be a litmus test for the Government’s counter-terrorism strategy.”

Click here to read the report.

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