Whether it be terrorism or massive, violent protests, President Bush’s highly anticipated visit to London in mid-November is expected to be newsy.
The British government and the White House view a terrorist attack as a “real and present danger” during President George W. Bush’s state visit to London on Nov. 19. In addition, hundreds of thousands of anti-war protesters are expected to demonstrate in London and across the country against Bush. Prime Minister Tony Blair has admitted recently that the stopover has serious problems in terms of security.
“We are examining the possibility of a suicide bomber using a biological weapon,” confirmed a senior member of the American security task force that has arrived in London.
Experts in countering biological warfare from Porton Down, Britain’s bio-warfare defense establishment on Salisbury Plain, will be in London. They will be stationed at the Ministry of Defense during the Bush visit.
GCHQ, Britain’s “invisible eye in the sky,” at Cheltenham, will focus its thousands of computers and listening devices to pick up “a whisper in the wind” of any threat to the president.
At Menwith Hill in the north of England, where America’s National Security Agency (NSA) has its European facility, Echelon, NSA’s most sensitive and still ultra-secret surveillance system, will be specially programmed to keep track of any threat to Bush.
The global electronic network called Echelon is of truly astounding proportions. It links satellites to a series of high-speed parallel computers. The system enables every electronic communication in the world to be intercepted—in real time. Searching for key words, Echelon can identify and segregate 500,000 “messages of interest” a second.
By the end of the week, hundreds of U.S. Secret Service men, FBI agents and anti-terrorist teams from the CIA will be in London. Joining them will be every available officer from MI5 and MI6. All police leave has been canceled. With them will come the CIA chief, George Tenet, and the FBI director, Robert Mueller, who will accompany the president.
Surveillance will be intensified on all radical Islamic groups.
The CIA and the FBI plan to pay special attention to Abu Hamza al-Masri. The one-eyed cleric is well known for his radical Islamic views. American intelligence chiefs want Hamza to be extradited to the United States to face terrorist charges. The issue is likely to be discussed in talks between Blair and Bush. The FBI contends that documents discovered in Denver, on how to poison a city’s water supply, have been traced to Hamza.
The threat to Bush has triggered a turf war between Britain’s security services and platoons of Americans.
MI5 and the Special Branch feel Washington’s security policy of “you do it our way” is dangerous. They point to the fact that the FBI wants to conduct a search of the president’s suite in Buckingham Palace, where he and Mrs. Bush will stay during his three-day visit.
“If the queen went to stay in the White House, we wouldn’t expect to run a metal detector over her guest suite,” said an MI5 source.
This coming weekend, the U.S. security team will check the ancient sewers under Whitehall, where a terrorist could place a bomb. The sewers serve Buckingham Palace.
After the search, all manhole covers will be sealed—as they are in all American cities prior to a presidential visit.
Security men will also check all the food the president will be served.
“The plate containing his own meal will be selected at the last moment from several identical plates before it is served to the president,” confirmed a U.S. security official.
Original plans for the president to ride in a horse-drawn coach down the Mall to Buckingham Palace have been scrapped. Instead, Bush’s custom-made limousine will take him everywhere in public.
The car’s defenses have added 2,000 pounds to its original weight. An armored internal partition and windshield have been integrated into the body shell. The doors and roof are similarly protected.
The titanium-ceramic armor has been tested to withstand a 155-mm. shell bursting overhead, or a five-pound mine detonating under the chassis. All the windows are proofed against 50-caliber armor piercing bullets.
Built into the passenger compartment are an oxygen mask and fire suppression system, a global positioning indicator accurate to within one foot and a jam-resistant miniature communications switchboard, which can connect the president to the Pentagon or the White House.
A touch-button facility can also link him to Air Force One. Programmed into the switchboard for his London visit will be all the key security numbers he will need—plus the queen’s direct line.
In the event of the limousine’s tires being shot out, the car is able to maintain a speed of 60 mph on the steel rims of its wheels.
The CIA trained chauffeur has passed the most demanding driving course in the world. By his right knee, within instant reach, is a compartment containing a pump action shotgun.
“Short of driving in a tank, the president is the most protected person in public on Earth,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said.
His personal phalanx of bodyguards has been given special Home Office permission to carry handguns at all times. Usually, the protection detail of a foreign dignitary must check in their guns on arrival in Britain.
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators are expected to be on hand, protesting the visit.
As the volume of protest grows—led by London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone—the U.S. agents are turning the center of the capital into a potential battle zone.
• Fifty sniper agents will be positioned overlooking every place where Bush will be publicly visible when he steps, however briefly, from his armored limo.
• Sixty bomb-sniffing dogs will be withdrawn from normal duty at Britain’s airports to hunt for drugs or explosives and roam ceaselessly among the public onlookers.
• An outer security perimeter will extend to the Channel Tunnel and to all access ports from Ireland.
• An even wider net will extend deep into Europe. French, German and Italian security services will be constantly tracking the movements of anyone suspected of links to al Qaeda.
• Air Force One will be escorted into London by U.S. fighter jets based in Britain. They will be fitted with missiles to shoot down any threatening aircraft.
This decision follows the Pentagon’s warning last week that al Qaeda is planning to use cargo planes as terrorist weapons.