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U.S., Britain Announce Joint Anti-Terrorism Working Group

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2003 – The U.S. and Britain will partner to establish a joint anti-terrorism working group, the two government's top civil security officials announced at a press briefing here today.

"The United Kingdom has extensive experience in battling the challenge of terrorism at home," U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge remarked to reporters after meeting with British Home Secretary David Blunkett. "This relationship will benefit the strong homeland security partnership that our countries have developed since the attacks on our country on September 11th."

Ridge noted he and Blunkett discussed "strengthening the partnership between our two countries in fighting the war on terror" and "ideas that will benefit both of our countries in the area of homeland security."

Ridge said topics of discussion included the sharing of best practices of countering terrorism at home and abroad, joint training exercises, cyber- and physical- infrastructure security, border and transportation security, research and development, and science and technology.

The United Kingdom "has been a critically important ally in bringing our attackers to justice," Ridge pointed out, noting that the United States looks forward to continue working with the British "to battle terrorism at home and abroad."

Blunkett also praised the Anglo-American partnership against terror, pointing out "the unprecedented level of cooperation we now have, which has been built up over the last 18 months."

America and Britain have shared and will continue to share counterterrorism intelligence, the two officials noted. The working group, they pointed out, will go a step further in U.S.-British collaboration.

The group "will involve officials from the Homeland Security Department and our own department," Blunkett explained. Such collaboration will facilitate cross- learning, he noted, which will enhance the development of similar methods to protect the two nations' populations.

"All of us know that we've never faced a threat like the one that has developed since the 11th of September 2001," Blunkett declared. "Because we are partners, including with the conflict in Iraq, we need to be more vigilant and we need to be more aware."

The two countries will conduct joint training exercises, Blunkett pointed out, so "we can look at what might formulate the necessary steps to protect us from simultaneous attacks, from joint attacks."

The first joint exercises will be conducted on computer, the British official noted, "then physical exercises."

The U.S. and Britain will brainstorm issues such as border protection, surveillance, biometrics and identification, Visa and passport controls, and the pooling of research and training, Blunkett noted.

Establishing joint facilities, he added, will assist the two countries in dealing with the threat "of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear imports and the danger that people are transferring the capability across the world."

The U.S.-British partnership will also seek ways to thwart the threat of cyber and electronic attack, "which would disrupt our commerce," Blunkett explained.

The two nations are also "collaborating closely on the development of new assessment techniques," the British official pointed out. He noted the United States has its Terrorist Threat Integration Center, which starts operations May 1, while Britain has its Joint Terrorism and Assessment Center.

"We can better pull together the information we have from the lessons we've learned in terms of dealing with terror," he concluded.

The Home Office is the British government department responsible for internal affairs in England and Wales. "The Home Office works with individuals and communities to build a safe, just and tolerant society enhancing opportunities for all and in which rights and responsibilities go hand in hand, and the protection and security of the public are maintained and enhanced," according to the department's web site.

Ridge became the first U.S. secretary of Homeland Security on Jan. 24; 22 separate agencies transferred to the new agency on March 1.

The department's Web site states that the "first priority is to protect the nation against further terrorist attacks. Component agencies will analyze threats and intelligence, guard our borders and airports, protect our critical infrastructure, and coordinate the response of our nation for future emergencies."

"Besides providing a better-coordinated defense of the homeland, DHS is also dedicated to protecting the rights of American citizens and enhancing public services, such as natural disaster assistance and citizenship services, by dedicating offices to these important missions."

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