Yard fury over Bush visit
By Patrick Sawer, Evening Standard
London - 10 November:
White House security demands covering President George Bush's controversial state visit to Britain have provoked a serious row with Scotland Yard.
American officials want a virtual three-day shutdown of central London in a bid to foil disruption of the visit by anti-war protestors. They are demanding that police ban all marches and seal off the city centre.
But senior Yard officers say the powers requested by US security chiefs would be unprecedented on British soil. While the Met wants to prevent violence, it is sensitive to accusations of trying to curtail legitimate protest.
Met officers came in for heavy criticism when banners were torn down and demonstrators prevented from coming within sight of Chinese President Jiang Zemin during his visit in 1999.
But with tens of thousands of protestors from around the UK set to join blockades and marches during the Bush trip, US officials are reportedly insisting on an "exclusion zone".
They say terrorists could use the crowds as cover to attack the President.
Secrecy surrounds his itinerary during the trip, which starts on 19 November. He will stay at Buckingham Palace and his staff want The Mall, Whitehall and part of the City closed. Besides provoking a civil liberties backlash, the Met fears such a move would cause traffic chaos and incur huge loss of business across the capital.
White House officials have already vetoed the traditional drive in an open carriage along the Mall. They fear it would make Mr Bush too vulnerable to attack or confrontations over British support for the US in Iraq.
Anti-war groups such as the Stop The War Coalition, and the Muslim Association of Britain, have made no secret of their wish to harass Mr Bush wherever he goes. But they insist they are only planning "non-violent direct action".
Met Commissioner Sir John Stevens said his force was facing "a very tough" time over the visit, which will see the biggest security operation ever mounted in Britain.
He told the Breakfast with Frost show a balance had to be struck between the President's safety and protestors' right to make their voices heard.
"We are on the highest alert that we have ever worked at," he said. "We are working two-and-a-half times harder than we did at the very height of the Irish terror campaign."
The Yard has cancelled all leave for the three-day visit and mobilised 3,800 officers for the £4million security operation.
Civil rights campaigners say they expect draconian anti-terror rules to be deployed, although Sir John has assured them marches will be allowed and they will be able to use Trafalgar Square.
But the Met and the US Secret Service have reportedly agreed "rules of engagement" allowing Bush bodyguards to shoot anyone they believe is clearly threatening the life of the President.
Jets Intercept Plane Near White House
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Nov 10, 12:24 PM (ET)
By TERENCE HUNT
WASHINGTON (AP) - Air Force fighter jets were scrambled Monday to intercept a privately owned plane that flew too close to the White House, the Secret Service said.
President Bush was away at the time, on a trip to Arkansas and South Carolina.
Vice President Dick Cheney and White House chief of staff Andrew Card were moved temporarily to a secure location as a precautionary measure, said presidential spokesman Scott McClellan. They resumed their normal routine soon thereafter, said McClellan, who was with Bush in Little Rock, Ark.
The privately owned plane was detected flying in a southwest direction, coming down the Potomac River, when it entered restricted airspace, said Secret Service spokeswoman Jean Mitchell.
The fighters were scrambled from nearby Andrews Air Force in Maryland and they intercepted the plane, escorting it out of the area, she said.
"Anytime we have an airspace violation, we take it very seriously," Mitchell said. "At this point we don't know if it was a mistake."
Maj. Douglas Martin, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, said it was determined that the plane did not represent a threat.
"From the NORAD perspective, he's not a threat, and that's the main thing for us," Martin said.
The plane apparently strayed within the Air Defense Identification Zone, roughly a 30-mile radius around Washington, according to Les Dorr, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.