How much "war on terror" training for "tens of thousands" of people is the Labour government providing ? As little as 3 hours (including a coffee break)

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Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown's article in The Observer yesterday, managed to use the headline "war on terror", even though, only a few months ago, the consensus seemed to have been, that this phrase is actually counterproductive.

We are about to take the war against terror to a new level

Gordon Brown
The Observer, Sunday 22 March 2009

[...]

Tens of thousands of men and women throughout Britain - from security guards to store managers - have now been trained and equipped to deal with an incident and know what to watch for as people go about their daily business in crowded places such as stations, airports, shopping centres and sports grounds.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was also on the publicity spin offensive on Sunday,and she managed to claim that

Thousands getting terror training
Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Sunday, 22 March 2009

[...]

Ms Smith told BBC One's Politics Show: "What we're completely clear about is that if we're going to address the threat from terrorism, we need to do that alongside the 60,000 people that we're now training up to respond to a terrorist threat, in everywhere from our shopping centres to our hotels.

Some of the media are claiming that means that some sort of "Home Guard" style "army" is being recruited and trained, but there does not seem to be any evidence of anything even as remotely well organised or well trained as even the fictional platoon in "Dad's Army" led by Captain Mainwaring in "Walmington-on-Sea".

What does exist is something called Project Argus, which is little different from "what to do in case of fire or flood etc.".training.

Project ARGUS is a National Counter Terrorism Security Office initiative, exploring ways to aid you in preventing, handling and recovering from a terrorist attack.

It achieves this by taking businesses through a simulated terrorist attack. The simulation identifies the measures to take for preventing, handling and recovering from a terrorist attack.

This simulation provides you with a unique opportunity to both learn from and contribute to valuable lessons helping to protect you, your business and your community, whether you are a national chain or a small business.

The event explores your options; what is likely to happen in the event of a terrorist attack; and what your priorities should be. Project Argus highlights the importance of being prepared and having the necessary plans in place to help safeguard your staff, customers and your company assets.

What can you expect?

Project Argus is a free event which takes you through, using a multi-media simulation, a terrorist attack. A series of questions and challenges are put to you, both individually and as a group. You will work in small syndicate groups with other local business representatives and develop your responses to the attack. The whole event including a coffee break will last three hours.

[our emphasis]

We assume that this means that Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith's claims that "tens of thousands" or "60,000" people who have been, or will have been "trained " ( by some vague unspecified date in the future) really amount to being exposed to no more than three hours (including a coffee break) of multi-media presentation and group discussion.

Even "Dad's Army" was better trained than this !

The Home Office Home Office / ACPO funded unaccountable quango in charge of this, the National Counter Terrorism Security Office, does produce some Crowded Places advice brochures, with pretty photographs, supposedly tailored for different sectors where there are crowds of people e.g. Pubs and Clubs, Commercial premises etc.

These all have basically the same content, but the chapter on hostile reconnaissance makes this stupid claim in the brochure aimed at Visitor Attractions i.e. the main tourist attractions:

  • people taking pictures - filming - making notes - sketching of the security measures at attractions. Tourists should not necessarily be taken as such and should be treated sensitively, but with caution

{bold emphasis in the original}

The common chapter on hostile reconnaissance:, also mentions Operation Lightning:

hostile reconnaissance

Operation Lightning is a national intelligence gathering operation to record, research,
investigate and analyse:

  • suspicious sightings

  • suspicious activity

at or near:

  • crowded places

or prominent or vulnerable:

  • buildings

  • structures

  • transport infrastructure.

The ability to recognise those engaged in hostile reconnaissance could disrupt an attack and produce important intelligence leads.

That would make life a lot easier for the security forces, but how exactly are civilian members of the public meant to be able to do, what the security forces cannot ?

Primary Role of Reconnaissance

  • Obtain a profile of the target location

  • Determine the best method of attack

  • Determine the optimum time to conduct the attack.

Hostile reconnaissance is used to provide information to operational planners on potential targets during the preparatory and operational phases of terrorist operations.

Reconnaissance operatives may visit potential targets a number of times prior to the attack. Where pro-active security measures are in place, particular attention is paid to any variations in security patterns and the flow of people in and out.

What to look for.

  • significant interest being taken in the outside of you visitor attraction

The words "visitor attraction" are changed to, for example, "premises", in the slightly different versions of this brochure.

  • including parking areas, delivery gates, doors and entrances

  • groups or individuals taking significant interest in the location of CCTV cameras and controlled areas

  • people taking pictures - filming - making notes - sketching of the security measures at attractions. Tourists should not necessarily be taken as such and should be treated sensitively, but with caution.

  • overt/covert photography, video cameras, possession of photographs, maps, blueprints etc, of critical infrastructures, electricity transformers, gas pipelines, telephone cables etc

  • possession of maps, global positioning systems, (GPS), photographic equipment, (cameras, zoom lenses, camcorders). GPS will assist in the positioning and correct guidance of weapons such as mortars and Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs). This should be considered a possibility up to one kilometre from any target

What do you think that Ordnance Survey maps were originally intended designed to do ?

There has never been any use by terrorists of any "GPS guided weapons".

  • vehicles parked outside buildings of other facilities, with one or more people remaining in the vehicle, for longer than would be considered usual

  • parking, standing or loitering in the same area on numerous occasions with no apparent reasonable explanation

  • prolonged static surveillance using operatives disguised as demonstrators, street sweepers,etc or stopping and pretending to have car trouble to test response time for emergency services, car recovery companies, (AA, RAC etc) or local staff

These are exactly the same "suspicious activities" that police and intelligence agency covert surveillance teams use.

  • simple observation such as staring or quickly looking away

That must result in a vast number of False Alerts !

"staring" at a Visitor Attraction should not automatically be deemed to be "suspicious".

  • activity inconsistent with the nature of the building

  • noted pattern or series of false alarms indicating possible testing of security systems and observation of response behaviour and procedures, (bomb threats, leaving hoax devices or packages)

How many "false alarms" should you ignore, before deciding that a "pattern or series" of them is worth calling the police about ?

  • the same vehicle and different individuals or the same individuals in a different vehicle returning to a location(s)

  • the same or similar individuals returning to carry out the same activity to establish the optimum time to conduct the operation

  • unusual activity by contractor's vehicles

  • recent damage to perimeter security, breaches in fence lines or walls or the concealment in hides of mortar base plates or assault equipment, i.e. ropes, ladders, food etc. Regular perimeter patrols should be instigated months in advance of a high profile event to ensure this is not happening

  • attempts to disguise identity - motorcycle helmets, hoodies etc, or multiple sets of clothing to change appearance

Normal clothing, especially in winter time, is now deemed to be "suspicious" ?

  • constant use of different paths, and/or access routes across a site. 'Learning the route' or foot surveillance involving a number of people who seem individual but are working together

How exactly are you meant to magically sniff out that "a number of people who seem individual but are working together" ??

  • multiple identification documents - suspicious, counterfeit, altered documents etc.

  • non co-operation with police or security personnel

So the angry customer, who has been badly treated or ripped off by the staff, is to be treated as a "terrorist suspect" if he is non-cooperative with "security personnel" ?

What about all the people who have lost confidence in the "police or security personnel", due to their to racism or petty bureaucrat jobsworth attitude ?

  • those engaged in reconnaissance will often attempt to enter premises to assess the internal layout and in doing so will alter their appearance and provide cover stories

  • in the past reconnaissance operatives have drawn attention to themselves by asking peculiar and in depth questions of employees or others more familiar with the environment

Staff at major tourist attractions, or even those working in shops or pubs etc., get asked all sorts of "peculiar and in depth questions" by innocent members of the public.

Why should curiosity be treated with suspicion ?

  • sightings of suspicious activity should be passed immediately to security management for CCTV monitoring and the event recorded for evidential purposes.

Except that most CCTV systems are simply not capable of providing tamperproof evidence that will stand up in court.

Reconnaissance operatives may also seek additional information on:

  • width surveys of surrounding streets - exploring the range of tactical options available t deliver the device

  • levels of internal and external security - are vehicle/person/bag searches undertaken?

THE ROLE OF THE RECONNAISSANCE TEAM HAS BECOME INCREASINGLY
IMPORTANT TO TERRORIST OPERATIONS.

When were there ever any terrorist attacks without any reconnaissance ?
What evidence is there that this has "become increasingly important" ?

Reconnaissance trips may be undertaken as a rehearsal to involve personnel and equipment that will be used in the actual attack e.g. before the London attacks on 7th July 2005, the bombers staged a trial run nine days before the actual attack.

Neither the reconnaissance, nor the actual terrorist attacks, were picked up as being "suspicious", not by any CCTV surveillance camera operators, nor by the Police, nor by any security guards, nor by any transport staff nor by any other members of the general public etc.

Vague, unspecific "Climate of Fear" appeals to "be vigilant" for "anything suspicious", are doomed to failure, and are actually counterproductive.

Reporting suspicious activity to police that does not require an immediate response, contact the

ANTI-TERRORIST HOTLINE - 0800 789 321

ANY INCIDENT THAT REQUIRES AN IMMEDIATE RESPONSE - DIAL 999.

Note that there is no mention that all of the above supposed "hostile reconnaissance" activities, are actually perfectly normal and legal, in the overwhelmingly vast majority of cases.

Where is the training, and the systems of profuse public apology and generous financial compensation, for when the above guidelines result in False Accusations against innocent people ?

Why is "saying sorry" to innocent people, so much harder for the Government to do, than sending other people to be killed in the "War on Terror" ?

This sort of "training" does seem to give a green light for the counterproductive "War on Tourism" and the "War on Photographers" waged by jobsworths and petty bureaucrats on our streets and in public spaces.

4 Comments

> when the above guidelines result in False Accusations against innocent people

... and unlawful arrests.

br -d

The Home Office has now published its updated CONTEST document:

The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism

http://security.homeoffice.gov.uk/news-publications/publication-search/general/HO_Contest_strategy.pdf?view=Binary

which mentions Crowded Places and Project Argus on page 107:

Since January 2007, CTSAs have also run over 700 Project ARGUS scenario-based training events to city and town centre businesses to help them identify measures they can take to protect themselves, and their customers, and recover from a terrorist attack.

Sneakily, there is no indication that this "training" only takes "three hours including a coffee break".

Why do they not make the Project Argus DVD terrorist attack multimedia simulation available online, or distribute it (for free) to the public ?

The Daily Mail has noticed this "3 hours including a coffee break" training

60,000 civilian spies to get three-hour lesson in how to spot terrorists

By Matthew Hickley
Last updated at 1:35 AM on 25th March 2009

[...]

The Home Office plans are likely to raise questions over the effectiveness of an army of amateur 'terrorist-watchers'.

There are fears they will swamp the police and security services with spurious alerts or single out law-abiding British Muslims, which could also inflame religious tensions.

Citing security grounds, the Home Office would not provide details of the training, which MI5 helped to draw up, beyond that it centred on improved vigilance and response to terrorist attacks, including evacuation and crowd-control procedures.

[...]

Home Office insiders acknowledged that for many of the 60,000, the training will merely build on similar duties they undertake as part of their everyday work.

[...]

I attended a session in March and found it to be quite disturbing. The techniques used in the scripted 'multimedia presentation' were similar to those used by Derran Brown to manipulate an audience. One part of the presentation showed the presenter going through someone's bag, taking out a purse and looking through the contents of the purse and removing a business card, all while the presenter is speaking about our responsibility to be alert. There was no verbal reference to the theft. I was shocked at the underlying message which that delivers to 60,000 people in key positions in our communities.

Apart from the practical and useful 'what to do in case of an incident' information the underlying message was 'it is your duty to be suspicious of each other, you should feel guilty if you do not'. That message ripples out from these 60,000 respected known people in the hearts of our communities and spreads it's self. This I feel will be deeply damaging to our communities it is not in the least way making us safer; just more fearful and divided.

Someone press the panic button....

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Justin Wylie's political blog

Panopticon blog - by Timothy Pitt-Payne and Anya Proops. Timothy Pitt-Payne is probably the leading legal expert on the UK's Freedom of Information Act law, often appearing on behlaf of the Information Commissioner's Office at the Information Tribunal.

Armed and Dangerous - Sex, software, politics, and firearms. Life’s simple pleasures… - by Open Source Software advocate Eric S. Raymond.

Georgetown Security Law Brief - group blog by the Georgetown Law Center on National Security and the Law , at Georgtown University, Washington D.C, USA.

Big Brother Watch - well connected with the mainstream media, this is a campaign blog by the TaxPayersAlliance, which thankfully does not seem to have spawned Yet Another Campaign Organisation as many Civil Liberties groups had feared.

Spy on Moseley - "Sparkbrook, Springfield, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green. An MI5 Intelligence-gathering operation to spy on Muslim communities in Birmingham is taking liberties in every sense" - about 150 ANPR CCTV cameras funded by Home Office via the secretive Terrorism and Allied Matters (TAM) section of ACPO.

FitWatch blog - keeps an eye on the activities of some of the controversial Police Forward Intelligence Teams, who supposedly only target "known troublemakers" for photo and video surveillance, at otherwise legal, peaceful protests and demonstrations.

Other Links

Spam Huntress - The Norwegian Spam Huntress - Ann Elisabeth

Fuel Crisis Blog - Petrol over £1 per litre ! Protest !
Mayor of London Blog
London Olympics 2012 - NO !!!!

Cool Britannia

NuLabour

Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at http://nuclear-weapons.info

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence and Security Committee - the supposedly independent Parliamentary watchdog which issues an annual, heavily censored Report every year or so. Currently chaired by the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Why should either the intelligence agencies or the public trust this committee, when the untrustworthy ex-Labour Minister Hazel Blears is a member ?

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

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Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

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Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

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Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

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Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

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National Crime Agency - the replacement for the Serious Organised Crime Agency

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Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

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Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."

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Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

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WhistleblowersUK.org - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers