Thursday, November 15, 2007

Security: Brown unveils new anti-terror laws

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown unveiled measures in parliament designed to increase security in public places. The plans were drawn up by Security Minister Alan West after reviewing the implications of the London and Glasgow attempted car bombings that took place five months ago. For VOA, Tom Rivers reports from the British capital.

In a special parliamentary statement, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced a new initiative designed to tighten defenses around hundreds of public buildings in the country.

He says at airports and train stations, more blast barriers will be installed and vehicle access will become even more restricted.

"The report proposes the installation of robust physical barriers as protection against vehicle bomb attacks, the nomination of vehicle exclusion zones to keep all but authorized vehicles at a safe distance and making buildings blast resistant," he said.

The recommendations were in a report by Brown's security minister, Alan West, a former head of the British navy who examined the vulnerability of public spaces after London's West End entertainment district and Glasgow airport were targeted in June by car bombers.

Brown says the private sector as well will also have to increase security in places like shopping centers and nightclubs, but he gave no hint as to how it might be paid for.

"While no major failures in our protective security have been identified, companies that are responsible for crowded places will now be given detailed and updated advice on how they can improve their resilience against attack both by better physical protection and greater vigilance in identifying suspicious behavior," he added.

Report author West says some old buildings are actually by definition more dangerous to the public, just by the nature of how they were laid out and constructed.

"Particularly some shopping areas, we have actually built into them the shrapnel needed for the explosive to cause mass casualties and we really must not let this happen," he explained. "We have got to make sure that we think about this early and design that out of these buildings and then it costs no more."

And the vehicle barriers will likely be around for a long time to come. In his view, West says it will take Britain 30 years to crush terrorism.

And people like security expert Paul Beaver point out there are other threats out there beyond vehicles alone.

"The real concern though is going to be people with bags on their backs who are bombers, the 7-7 bombers back two years ago, the suicide bombers who were carrying knapsacks on their back and that is something that, there will have to be more vigilance about," he noted.

The prime minister has also announced that Britain will spend more than $830 million abroad on fighting what he calls radicalization. For instance, Britain proposes to sponsor events in Pakistan to counter extremist propaganda.

By Tom Rivers
Published with the permission of Voice of America