[Media-watch] Whitehall leak reveals plans to cover up terror death toll - Sunday Times - 04/10/2004

Julie-ann Davies jadavies2004 at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Oct 4 10:56:24 BST 2004


http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,176-1291510,00.html

The Sunday Times


      Whitehall leak reveals plan to cover up terror death toll



      POLICE will withhold the true death toll if there is a "catastrophic" 
Al-Qaeda attack on Britain. This would be necessary to "mitigate and 
minimise" its impact on the public, according to secret Scotland Yard plans.
      The confidential memos - the latest in a series of Whitehall leaks to 
The Sunday Times - say that officers should not disclose the "numbers or 
seriousness/nature of injuries" of casualties immediately after a "dirty 
bomb" attack, even if there are thousands of dead and wounded.




One memo, titled Communications Strategy for Dealing with a Terrorist 
Attack, suggests that poor handling of an attack will have "political 
implications" that could damage the police and government.

The instruction to withhold information contrasts with assurances by Tony 
Blair and David Blunkett, the home secretary, that the public will be told 
the truth about terrorism.

In a speech about terrorism to last week's Labour conference, Blunkett said 
that it was "crucial . . . we don't hide the truth". Two years ago Blair 
promised that the public would not be kept in the dark.

Circulated throughout Whitehall as police and Home Office experts prepare 
plans to deal with an Al-Qaeda "spectacular" in the run-up to the general 
election, the document reflects concern that a large-scale attack could turn 
voters against the Blair government.

The memo, and another "restricted" paper titled Major Incident Contingency 
Plans, say that an Al-Qaeda attack here is likely to be at least as serious 
as the September 11 attacks when some 3,000 died.

The memos predict that there would be "widespread loss of life . . . and 
maximum damage to property" which could cause a loss of public confidence in 
the police. They say that a massive chemical or biological attack could 
endanger people for "weeks/months".

Warning of "suicide terrorism in its most extreme form", the documents say 
that in a "catastrophic incident" Al-Qaeda terrorists may use "aircraft, 
lorries (and) cars" to carry out simultaneous strikes at "several scenes" 
which would be "of such a scale" that they would cause "large numbers of 
casualties."

Senior officials are especially concerned about the possibility of people 
learning that police had failed to act on prior intelligence about an 
attack.

The memos also warn Britain's 1.2m Muslims not to retaliate in the face of 
the anticipated violent "backlash" from racist groups. They say that 
tensions between white people and Muslims will "increase sharply" and could 
get even worse if Britain or America takes punitive action abroad.
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