Journalists can thwart terror threat, says top police officer

Stevens: journalists have a vital role to play

Britain’s most senior policeman said journalists have a vital role to play in thwarting terror attacks and he insisted that the threat to London from “Al Qaeda and their associates” remains severe.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens cited three reasons why the threat from new terrorist groups post-September 11 is so serious.

He said: “They are sophisticated and well trained beyond what we’ve experienced with the IRA; they are determined to inflict the most casualties and psychological damage and to undermine public confidence; and they have incredible patience.

“They are willing to wait for the right opportunity before making an attack and the threat is enduring.”

He said that the Met has an “incredible story to tell” about its anti terror operations but cannot do so yet because of legal constraints.

“I would like to go to Trafalgar Square and tell the world about our successes but we can’t because it will affect trials taking place at the moment and those that are going to take place in the future”.

Sir John said the police have “everything to gain and much to lose from the way we issue information and talk about terrorism”.

And he suggested that newspapers, and the communities they serve, can do much to counter the threat from terrorists.

“It’s communities that defeat terrorism. Terrorist attacks are the result of very careful planning.

“They need accommodation, equipment and vehicles. To achieve their aims they have to interact with other people.

“We can do all the clever stuff in terms of intercepts and GCHQ but it is communities themselves who have to give us the information we need”

Reports by Dominic Ponsford and Ian Reeves

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