US London banks step up security
June 1, 2008 at 9:21 am ·
photo of an HSBC bank blown up several years ago
Major American banks in London are tightening up security measures after
the discovery of detailed plans for al-Qaeda attacks in the US and UK.
US financial institutions have approached Scotland Yard for advice on
how to respond to the heightened alert.
Meanwhile, Conservatives have urged the government to give details of
the extent of the threat to Britain.
The Home Office says it is maintaining a state of heightened readiness
across the UK.
Plans for terror attacks have reportedly been found on a computer
belonging to an al-Qaeda suspect arrested in Pakistan last month.
Shadow home secretary David Davis said he was very worried US plans
seemed to be much more advanced than Britain’s. And he called on Prime
Minister Tony Blair to spell out the exact threat.
Some US newspapers have questioned the alert, suggesting some of the
intelligence behind it is up to three years old.
The New York Times said intelligence and law enforcement officials had
cast doubt on the suggestion that a terrorist plot or preparatory
surveillance was under way.
But Mr Davis insisted it was essential that more information be shared
with the public in the UK and that they be reassured plans to combat the
threat were continuing at speed.
He said: “It is astonishing we are getting more information about the
risk to Britain from the Americans than from our own government.
“Mr Blair needs to spell out the exact threat to the UK so we are in a
clear position as to where we stand.”
Mr Davis said the US was “at a much more advanced stage than us in
contingency planning and police presence”.
“They also share much more information with their public than our
Mr Davis added: “The raw truth is local authorities are under-resourced
and Britain does not have one person solely responsible for the job of
keeping us safe against terrorists.
“The sooner we have a Minister for Homeland Security, the better.”
The Home Office said in a statement: “We are maintaining a state of
heightened readiness in the UK. We are taking feasible precautionary
measures to protect British citizens both here and abroad.
“We keep the threat level under constant review. There is a continuing
threat that has remained for some time. The public should remain alert
but not alarmed.”
The Metropolitan Police said they had made no major deployment changes
nor stepped up counter-terrorism activity.
“There are only so many things we can do at the level we are at and we
are doing all of them,” a spokesman said.
But commanders are asking officers to be more visible in order to
provide reassurance, Scotland Yard said.
The US said encoded e-mails showed a “credible threat” against targets
in New York, Washington DC and New Jersey.
The security alert for financial institutions in those areas of the US
has been raised to orange, the second highest level.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said buildings specified in the
intelligence included the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in
Washington, New York Stock Exchange and Citigroup CN in New York and New
Jersey’s Prudential building.
The proposals were said to be found in e-mails on the computer of Ahmed
Khalfan Ghailani, captured after a gun battle in Pakistan on 25 July.
BBC defence correspondent Paul Adams said the detailed planning for
attacks on American buildings contrasted with “extremely vague”
information on British targets.
But Pakistani officials insist the encrypted e-mails did include threats
to unspecified British targets.
Information minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said: “We got a few emails from
Ghailani’s computer about attacks in the US and UK.”
Our correspondent said: “It’s been reported that American companies with
offices in London, like Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, have been advised
to tighten security.
“It has also emerged that a Pakistani computer expert arrested in
mid-July and now apparently talking to the Pakistani authorities has
been a regular visitor to this country.”