Headlines around the UK have been showing the now infamous picture of Bob Quick carrying the documents relating to an anti-terror police operation into downing street. The information, it is reported, forced a large scale police operation (200+ staff) ahead of schedule. For this error in judgment Mr Quick has been criticized and forced out of his position; resigning just 24 hours after the incident.
But how bad was his lapse in judgment? Is he a disgrace who needs to be kicked out of his job?
The pictures were taken on downing street as Bob Quick came to Number 10 for a meeting. Downing street is the most secure street in the country, if its not, there is something very wrong.
The entrance to downing street consists of a large security gate, and a vertical road block , that could, quite literally, stop a tank. This gets lowered into the road if a car is allowed to pass. In addition to this the entrance, and the street itself has numerous armed police officers, carrying semi and fully automatic weapons. It would be reasonable to feel secure in this scenario.
Capturing the image:
The press managed to read the information on display, using telephoto lenses and probably image enhancement techniques. I.e. the same technology a spy or a special forces reconnaissance unit would use.
Several papers have published the pictures of what the document states, with the key information blacked out. It appears that the information given away was:
- The “gold” commanders for each area
- The “SIO” for each area.
A gold commander is almost always the Chief Constable, and this is a strategic, rather than a tactical role. This role is a very public role, and the person involved could be expected to appear on TV with the title “Gold Commander of Operation X” under his name.
The SIO, or Senior Investigating Office, will normally be the head of CID for the area, or possibly the head of special branch for the region. This will also be public information, normally, or very easy to find out.
In fact a quick google search for “Gold Commander” brings back a Wiki page on the very subject, as the first hit.
In short the only information given away is that fact that a police operation was occurring in the North, North West, or North East of England, against those of Pakistani origin. That geographic area would probably include 70% of all pakistani terrorists in the UK, who must know that at any time they may be under the gaze a police operation of some sorts. (Note 70% is a wildly made up figure, but the true number will be a high number due to the geography, social demographic and previous events in the area)
One of the houses the police were due to raid they were not even going to carry firearms; where the terrorists armed with strong sarcasm and a disdain for authority?
The police have alleged they stopped a “major” terrorist plot, that could have occurred as “early as this weekend”. Therefore, by definition the police raids must have been planned to occur, at the latest, this weekend. This means that the police have acted a couple of hours early.
The government has the ability to stop the press publishing information, and have done so on numerous occasions, often without merit. If this was an issue of national security, surely this would have been an opportunity to use this power?
Losing information is not a new thing. The goverment loses data all of the time and last year a civil servant left an entire dossier on the train; other MPs have allowed similar photographs to occur. Despite this huge history of events no minister or senior civil servant has resigned or been sacked over these incidents.
A police officer, in the most secure street in the country, allowed press with high powered lens find out that a police operation was going to occur, somewhere in England. An operation on which some of the terrorists suspects were not percieved a serious enough threat for the police to bother carrying firearms. The government could have used a D-Notice,but didn’t. In other information loss/leak cases which similar in nature, but far worse in scale, nobody of any importance has been sacked or forced to resign.
Mr Quick however, was out of his job faster than you can say “double standards”.