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August 4, 2004
Recent Captures Related To British Heathrow Alert In 2003?

An alert reader who wishes to remain anonymous sends over this tip regarding British security alerts in February 2003 at Heathrow. As reported in the London Guardian, British security went on high alert that month as the Islamic festival of Eid came to a close:

Heathrow was last night being patrolled by 1,500 anti-terrorist police and troops after intelligence warnings identified it as a likely target for an imminent attack by al-Qaida-linked militants armed with anti-aircraft missiles.

The move was sanctioned late on Monday after high level meetings at Scotland Yard headed by Assistant Commissioner David Veness, who requested immediate army back-up and support from Heathrow's neighbouring forces, Surrey and Thames Valley.

The prime minister was told of the threat and rubber stamped the deployment of 450 soldiers from the Ist Battalion the Grenadier Guards and the Household Cavalry.

Those warnings turned up nothing significant, and eventually Tony Blair faced the same kind of criticism that George Bush has received for the alerts this week in New York and DC. The matter was dropped after a few days and has been mostly unremembered -- including by me -- until this reader noticed the link in the AFP report I quoted earlier today:

Khan had not only been creating websites and secret email codes for Al-Qaeda operatives to communicate with each other, he had also actively plotted terror attacks, the official said on condition of anonymity.

"He was involved in planning for attacks at Heathrow airport London some time ago and was wanted by the US government," the official said, but was unable to say exactly when the Heathrow attack was planned.

Not only does this show that tossing around accusations of politics can rebound uncomfortably on those who make such charges, but also that it may well degrade our ability to deter such attacks by making governments reluctant to take the necessary defensive steps. At least now, we see that the Heathrow alert was not something made up in order to bolster Blair's domestic standing but, in fact, was the obvious and ultimately successful defense of a critical piece of Britain's infrastructure, not to mention thousands of its citizens.

Those who overtly accuse people of playing politics without any evidence (Howard Dean) or covertly undermine confidence in those alerts (Kerry/Edwards campaign staff) detract from our ability to defeat terrorism. That's something to consider when deciding who to put into positions of responsibility in November.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 4, 2004 9:55 AM

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