Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ex-Yard Terror Boss Attacks Chaos of Whitehall Committee after 7/7

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ex-Yard Terror Boss Attacks Chaos of Whitehall Committee after 7/7

Article excerpt

Byline: Justin Davenport Crime Correspondent

THE Government crisis committee that deals with events from flu epidemics to terror attacks was condemned today as a "nonsensical system" by a former head of police counter-terrorism.

Andy Hayman, who was head of Scotland Yard's specialist operations until he resigned in 2007, said the Cobra committee dragged people away from their real jobs when dealing with a crisis.

Mr Hayman, who was head of counter terror operations during the 7/7 bombings in 2005, gives details of Cobra in his book The Terrorist Hunters.

Mr Hayman is particularly critical of the shambolic operations of the committee, which he revealed meets in a fortified cellar beneath Whitehall.

Senior officials who are dealing with the immediate aftermath of a major event are suddenly dragged into a meeting with politicians, he says.

"There's a bomb attack and all hell breaks loose. Everyone scrambles -- emergency services, police, intelligence agencies, Government departments -- and rushes around trying to deal with it. But within an hour we're pulled off the job and summoned to Cobra."

He says the meeting room is stuffy and often senior officials wander lost beneath Whitehall trying to find it.

He adds: "Of course a meeting should be called to co-ordinate the response, and the role of senior people is to detach themselves from the detail and plan ahead. But in my experience, Cobra fails to do that. The first time I attended, I was in awe. There were more knights there than at King Arthur's round table."

He says politicians are often plunged into meetings on issues they know little about. Speaking about the 7/7 attack he says: "Take Alistair Darling, who was then Transport Secretary. He was on my case all the time, telling me the Underground needed to be reopened. And I kept asking: 'Do you want me to secure the crime scenes and get the evidence to prosecute the terrorists, or do you want me to get the traffic moving? …

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