“Train stations across London have been put on high alert amid fears of a terrorist attack on transport hubs. British Transport Police cancelled leave and called in extra officers after intelligence was received that terrorists could be planning attacks. A security source said there was no “imminent” threat and the overall threat level had not changed but there was activity from one of a “handful” of extremist cells that cause concern at any time, leading to an adjustment in policing levels.” (More from Friday’s Telegraph)
This morning (Saturday) the Telegraph is reporting,
An alert issued by the security services warns of plots against transport hubs by al-Qaeda’s “international operations wing” designed to cause “a large number of casualties”. The “restricted” document, seen by The Daily Telegraph, details plans for “one or more attacks against Europe, including the UK”, aimed at “high-profile Western targets”. It warns of attacks against British airports and the London transport network – including the Underground – with the aim of inflicting “political, economic and psychological” damage. (More from the Telegraph)
The leader of the International Operations Wing of Al-Qaeda has been identified as Ilyas Kashmiri, 46, 6ft tall, one-eyed, with a long white beard, dyed red with henna. (More from the Telegraph)
All of this is happening in the context of a heightened level of terrorist chatter, concern, and security since at least October. It is a context punctuated by a series of terrorist actions and arrests in many Western countries.
In his New Years Day broadcast, David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, gave at least as much attention to the terrorist threat as the current economic difficulties (read the transcript).
The Telegraph (usually supportive of Cameron) took audio of the Prime Minister’s counter-terrorism remarks — 2.5 minutes — and spliced together some accompanying video. You can hear and see the result here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/uk-politics-video/8232983/Listen-to-David-Camerons-New-Year-message.html
Maybe its the British accent — somehow a bit menacing to this Midwesterner — or perhaps it is the echo of George Orwell’s voice dancing along the seams of memory, but I feel as if I am watching the preview for a new science fiction disaster film.
It was even possible, at moments, to switch one’s hatred this way or that by a voluntary act. Suddenly, by the sort of violent effort with which one wrenches one’s head away from the pillow in a nightmare, Winston succeeded in transferring his hatred from the face on the screen to the dark-haired girl behind him. Vivid, beautiful hallucinations flashed through his mind. He would flog her to death with a rubber truncheon. He would tie her naked to a stake and shoot her full of arrows like Saint Sebastian. He would ravish her and cut her throat at the moment of climax. Better than before, moreover, he realized WHY it was that he hated her. He hated her because she was young and pretty and sexless, because he wanted to go to bed with her and would never do so, because round her sweet supple waist, which seemed to ask you to encircle it with your arm, there was only the odious scarlet sash, aggressive symbol of chastity.
The Hate rose to its climax. The voice of Goldstein had become an actual sheep’s bleat, and for an instant the face changed into that of a sheep. Then the sheep-face melted into the figure of a Eurasian soldier who seemed to be advancing, huge and terrible, his sub-machine gun roaring, and seeming to spring out of the surface of the screen, so that some of the people in the front row actually flinched backwards in their seats. But in the same moment, drawing a deep sigh of relief from everybody, the hostile figure melted into the face of Big Brother, black-haired, black-moustachio’d, full of power and mysterious calm, and so vast that it almost filled up the screen. Nobody heard what Big Brother was saying. It was merely a few words of encouragement, the sort of words that are uttered in the din of battle, not distinguishable individually but restoring confidence by the fact of being spoken. Then the face of Big Brother faded away again, and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitals:
- WAR IS PEACE
- FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
- IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH
From Chapter 1 of 1984 by George Orwell