Interpol chief blasts UK
London, July 10, 2007
Britain's counter-terrorism efforts are 'in the wrong century', the head of Interpol said, accusing it of failing to share information on militants and consult a vital global police database.
The harsh and embarrassing criticism from Ronald Noble, boss of the 186-nation police organisation, came as investigations into a suspected al Qaeda car bomb plot involving Indian and Arab medics stretched from Britain as far as Australia.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has stressed the need for countries to exchange information on suspected militants, but Noble said Britain was not passing on such data.
'The UK has not shared its terrorist watch list with Interpol,' he said in an open letter on the organisation's Web site, interpol.int.
He said this could have damaging consequences if other countries approached Interpol for information on suspects.
'The UK might lose a significant investigative lead; the country consulting Interpol would obtain no or incomplete information; and those individuals on the UK terrorist watch list would remain free to plan and carry out more terrorist attacks.'
Noble also slammed a failure by British authorities to systematically check the passports of foreign visitors against an Interpol global database containing details of more than seven million lost and stolen passports.
There was a 'clear link between stolen passports and Al Qaeda-linked terrorist activity', he told the BBC.
'The UK's anti-terrorist effort is in the wrong century.'
British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told parliament that all terrorist suspects identified by Interpol were placed on a British 'warnings index'. Work was under way to enable British law enforcement officials to access the organisation's stolen passport database.
She did not reply to the charge that Britain was failing to pass on its own counter-terrorism information to Interpol, and a ministry spokesman said he had no further comment.
Noble has long warned that countries are playing into the hands of terrorists and criminals if they fail to clamp down on the use of stolen passports, but he said only 17 nations were systematically checking the database.
'On the other hand, all countries systematically check our bags to see if we are carrying bottles of water or other liquids. These priorities seem misplaced,' he said.
Britain has been a frequent target of Al Qaeda-inspired attacks, including one in which four suicide bombers killed themselves and 52 others in 2005. Four men were found guilty of a botched attempt to replicate those attacks.
In the latest case, one man has been charged and seven people are under arrest -- one in Australia -- over last month's two failed London car bombs and an attack on a Scottish airport.
Counter-terrorism minister Alan West was delivering an interim report to Brown on how to improve security screening of skilled foreign workers entering Britain, following revelations that most of the suspects were doctors or medical staff. Three are Indian, the rest from the Middle East. Reuters