Friday, January 16, 2004

Security - again...

The Americans have apparently owned up that there are "problems" with airport screening in the US. No surprise there after the Sudanese chap who appeared at Heathrow on a Virgin flight from Washington Dulles (of all places) with live ammunition in his baggage was arrested. Question - if they can't spot someone who really has bullets on him, why should we listen to any of these "security warnings"?

The last time British merchant shipping or aircraft was threatened to this degree, during the second world war if you believe the hype, we set up our own security agency inside the States, British Security Co-ordination. This outfit was led by a Canadian zillionaire called Sir William Stephenson who supposedly had mafia connections (but also wrote a huge book about how great he was, after the war) and had the task of detecting German shipping spies and saboteurs. They were originally established whilst the US was neutral, which did not make them astonishingly popular - no-one likes foreign police and spooks running around their city. But at least it worked, which was important as the FBI had very little counter-intelligence capacity to begin with. Which brings me to my point - if we can have British immigration controls at the Gare du Nord in Paris, surely it's not unthinkable to take over the responsibility for the security of British aircraft (and ships, in so far as there are any) travelling to, from or through the US?

The obvious objection is that this way madness lies - will every major airport soon be a weird multinational broth of policemen? And, of course, I objected to the sky marshals on those grounds among others. Here's the problem - this will eventually happen if there is no confidence in land-side states' efforts (or indeed good faith) and continued alerts, because things will get intolerable.

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