[Media-watch] Whitehall leak reveals plans to cover up terror death
toll - Sunday Times - 04/10/2004
jadavies2004 at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Oct 4 10:56:24 BST 2004
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
Senior officials are especially concerned about the possibility of people
learning that police had failed to act on prior intelligence about an
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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