What exactly is the Government Decontamination and Recovery Service reported by the The Independent on Sunday ?
"Revealed: the UK's secret terrorism agency
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
26 December 2004
Ministers are secretly establishing an "Armageddon agency" to respond to devastating terrorist attacks on Britain, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
Neither Parliament nor the public have been told how far the Government has gone to put the service - which will deal with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks - into operation over the course of 2004.
The body, called the Government Decontamination and Recovery Service, is such a sensitive topic even within Whitehall that it is deliberately known only by its initials - GDRS. Even then it is hardly mentioned, even in official documents.
It is based in Margaret Beckett's Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and, according to a top official, it has been ready to respond to an attack since last April. It has appointed specialist contractors to tackle incidents, has a senior Defra civil servant directing it,"
An invited speaker to a Chatham House conference held on the 19th of November 2004 was "Robert Bentley Smith (Head of Government Decontamination & Recovery Service GDRS)"
"and at present has a core staff of about 15 officials."
What happened to the Civil Contingencies Secretariat of the Cabinet Office ?
"that MPs and the public have been told is that ministers are "considering" setting up such a body. A single sentence buried in a two-paragraph press release issued on 25 March mentioned that "the Government is actively considering the establishment of a national decontamination and recovery service".
The same words were used by Nick Raynsford, a minister in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, in May, and this is still the official position.
Nine months ago, Elliot Morley, the environment minister, promised that further details would be released "as soon as practicable". But ministers are only now contemplating a public announcement, sometime in the New Year, that they have decided to go ahead with the agency.
A search for the GDRS on the Defra and parliamentary websites last week did not turn up a single mention. Only two references to it could be found in publicly available documents: a solitary line in a Home Office statement referring to a £100,000 contribution to the project, and a single budget line in a balance sheet from the Justice Department of the devolved Scottish Executive recording a contribution of £250,000.
One top official admits: "There is not a lot of information about this in the public domain. We are further down the road than it appears publicly at the moment, and have been working on it for longer."
He says that the first moves to form the agency were taken a year ago after a secret study identified "gaps" in arrangements across Whitehall and at local authority levels in terrorism response planning."
So what happened to the Civil Contingencies Secretariat of the Cabinet Office ? Is the setting up of Government Decontamination and Recovery Service an admission of failure ?
The amount of money revealed to have been spent so far on the GDRS according to the Indepent on Sunday's article, is far less than the £8 million reported to have been spent on the widely ridiculed propaganda, the Preparing for Emergencies Booklet
Is the Government Decontamination and Recovery Service just another level of bureacracy and empire building ?
What is the point of all this secrecy ? The public needs to be informed and the various emergency reponse agencies need to practice before any emergency, not afterwards.
Which of these bureacracies will have the power of life or death over the general public, under the controversial Civil Contingencies Act 2004 Part 2 Emegency Powers ?
How does this tie in with the the United Kindom's apparent pull out from the Atlantic Blue excercise, which was reported to be a week long counter terrorism and Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear contamination exercise, involving the USA, Canada and the United Kingdom, scheduled for
According to an item at the end of an article in the Sunday Times of December 19, 2004, "MI5 agent will build Fortress Westminster" by David Cracknell and David Leppard, who seem to have been thee conduit for various Government and Civil Service leaks in the last year:
"The government faces a second setback to its counter-terrorist strategy after Whitehall officials revealed it was planning to cancel a huge counterterrorist exercise due to be carried out with the American authorities in April.
Under the exercise, codenamed Atlantic Blue, police and emergency services across the south of England were to practise responding to a simulated series of large -scale chemical and biological attacks by Islamic extremists on London and the southeast.
A similar exercise is to be held on the same day in America."
This exercise would have been the only test of the UK's civil defences on a semi-realistic scale, rather than the tiny public relations spin of the exercises at Bank Tube Station in London and the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, held for a single day, away from the crowds and traffic on a Sunday.
Is this cancellation of Atlantic Blue from the UK perspective, due to the neareness of an April date to the political pundits favourite guess at the dat of the next General Election on May 5th 2005 ?
Do you feel that the United Kingdom Government is actually devoting realistic resources and budgets to Civil Defence, or is it all political "climate of fear" spin and hype to give the appearance of action, and to try to reap some sort of political benefit ?