David Davis has just been on a trip to America to inspect their homeland security systems and writes about what he has learnt for today’s Sunday Telegraph.
Alongside opposition to John Reid’s "ill-considered" scheme to break up the Home Office, he calls for anti-terror efforts to be more coordinated. [According to John Rentoul in today’s Independent on Sunday, Gordon Brown has squashed Reid’s plans "for fear that terrorists might strike in the middle of a reorganisation"]. Mr Davis repeats the Tory demand for a Cabinet-rank Security Minister and notes that "US counter-terrorism chiefs hold conference calls three times a day, seven days a week, to ensure "situational awareness" of threats."
He then offers three main learning points:
- Invest in intelligence: "If the threat is as serious as MI5 has warned, Labour’s chokehold on security spending is inexcusable. The FBI has 30,000 personnel gathering intelligence and the National Counter-Terrorism Center has more than 400 analysing it."
- Allow intercept evidence: "John Reid has refused to introduce intercept evidence to prosecute terrorists, saying it is "not a silver bullet". Yet the FBI and Department of Justice use intercept evidence in nearly all counter-terrorism and organised crime cases. It is often the critical evidence that secures a conviction. It can persuade a defendant to plead guilty, cooperate with police and give evidence against terrorist accomplices. It is the US prosecutor’s legal weapon of choice, with the most reliable record for hitting the target. Yet Britain remains one of the few countries in the world not using intercept evidence."
- Improve "resilience" to inevitable attacks: "The US has put enormous energy into strengthening its "resilience" to attack, protecting communications systems, chemical plants and transport infrastructure. I examined the poison gas detection system at Grand Central station in New York. Similar systems are in place on US underground networks. Back in the UK, we are way behind. We do not even have a comprehensive underground-to-surface communications system, to allow the emergency services to communicate in the event of an attack on the Tube."
Related link: Patrick Mercer MP wrote for YourPlatform about Conservative security policy last November.