Counter-terrorism officials launched a major operation over fears of multiple bomb attacks in Whitehall, central London, and on Christmas shoppers and revellers in the West Midlands, the Guardian has learned.
In a series of co-ordinated pre-dawn raids in Stoke, Birmingham, Cardiff and east London, police arrested 12 men aged 17 to 28 and began extensive searches of a number of properties.
Sources with knowledge of the operation said the arrests followed intelligence that targets including “public spaces” and shopping areas in the West Midlands were part of a suspected plot. Sites in Whitehall, including around the Houses of Parliament, were also said to be possible targets. Sources said it is believed that the targets had been scouted as part of the alleged plot.
If the intelligence and assessment by British counter-terrorism officials are correct, it means an attack may have been averted with days to spare. The multiple arrests followed a long undercover investigation led by MI5, according to counter-terrorism officials. MORE
The lead story in today’s Washington Post is a major investigative feature on domestic intelligence operations. The online version of the story includes even more details. Please see: Top Secret America.
Thousands are without power as winds, rain continue to pummel the Los Angeles area… More than 5 inches of rain have already fallen in downtown Los Angeles this month, and the record of 8.77 inches for December is within reach. Mammoth Mountain has already recorded the highest December snow levels ever. After four days of pounding rain, another major storm is expected to hit Los Angeles on Tuesday and last through Wednesday night. Then another storm is expected to settle in over the Christmas weekend. MORE
European Travel Chaos
Heathrow authorities effectively cancelled the Christmas plans of hundreds of thousands of travellers yesterday as the Transport Secretary admitted the chaos at Britain’s busiest airport was “not acceptable”. The whole story suggests a classic intersection of natural hazard and human organizational amplification. MORE
Fresh snowfall overnight caused further setbacks at Frankfurt Airport, with no planes taking off or landing on Tuesday morning. Around 130 departures, and a further 130 arrivals, were canceled at Germany’s biggest air terminal. One of the airport’s three runaways was reopened, allowing the first plane of the day to land at 8:28 a.m. MORE
Doctors have warned they are seeing the worst flu outbreak in 10 years in some areas as fears grow that three more people may have died after contracting swine flu.
The new deaths would take the total to 20 so far this winter, with the majority linked to the H1N1 swine flu virus. Laboratory tests on the latest deaths in Leicester are awaited. MORE
Monday afternoon I was one of nineteen “preparedness professionals” seated around a table at the emergency management headquarters of a major jurisdiction. I was the only one focused on preparedness for catastrophe. There was one other colleague who often works with me on catastrophic possibilities. So… we might say there was a 9-to-1 ratio in terms of disaster-to-catastrophe attention. Frankly that’s much higher than usual. Consistently investing five percent would be great.
The collection of stories above suggests why. Flood, blizzard, and other less-than-catastrophic threats abound. Just these can strain our readiness and seriously complicate our lives. Yet an investment in catastrophic thinking pays dividends by helping us be less-surprised by the less likely, catastrophic or not.