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UK LEADS THE WAY IN COUNTER-TERRORIST EXERCISE PLANNING - HOME SECRETARY

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The UK, which already has one of the most highly developed counter ...
The UK, which already has one of the most highly developed counter

terrorist exercise programmes in the world, is planning a major joint

counter-terrorist exercise with the USA, home secretary David

Blunkett has announced.

The exercise will involve participation at a senior level on both

sides of the Atlantic, to allow us to share best practice on

emergency planning and response on a practical level, and to ensure

that we are fully prepared for such a scenario.

In addition, the home secretary announced that the secretary of state

for transport, Alistair Darling, is finalising plans for a

counter-terrorist exercise on London Underground. The exercise will

take place by the autumn; a further announcement will be made nearer

the time.

The Home Office has also published details of ongoing work on

terrorism and security, and added new content to its terrorism website. As part of the home secretary's

commitment to give the public clear, up-to-date information on

terrorism, it includes new pages on exercises and on warning and

informing the public about terrorist threats. Since its launch, the

terrorism website has received around 326,000 page viewings.

Speaking ahead of his closing speech in the Intelligence

and Security Debate, Mr Blunkett said:

'Exercises are essential to our work on counter-terrorism. They allow

us to test systems thoroughly, train frontline responders, and

highlight vulnerabilities. Our exercise programme leads the way in

counter-terrorist planning and is one of the best in the world;

hijacks, chemical and biological attacks and nuclear devices have

featured in recent scenarios.

'In the past these have generally been conducted in private. These

major exercises mark a new direction towards more complex, larger

scale exercises, with greater public involvement, which will add a

new dimension to our ability to deal with terroris m and potential

terrorist attacks.

'There is no need for work to be duplicated in different countries

when we are all working towards the same aims. We already co-operate

closely with the US on emergency planning and response; we are

closely involved in each other's exercise programmes, and we have

implemented similar systems for analysing and disseminating

intelligence.

'By pooling our resources, we are doing more in a practical way to

protect all our citizens from the threat of global terrorism. Our

experience of fighting terrorism over the last 30 years means that we

have a lot to offer the US, just as we have a lot to learn from them.

'Jack Straw, Alistair Darling and I are clear that we need to treat

the public like adults. The public have a right to know about what we

are doing to fight terrorism, and also understand that some

information needs to be kept secret, to protect the lives of those

who work hard behind the scenes. As we have always made clear, if

there is ever a need to issue a specific warning, we will do so

without hesitation. Public safety is our absolute priority.'

The joint exercise was agreed at the meeting of the joint contact

group of senior counter-terrorism officials in Washington on 13 June.

The group agreed to work towards a date in 2005 for the exercise,

which will require detailed and complex planning to ensure that all

participants gain as much as possible from it.

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