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Volume 6 No. 211
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British Home Secretary Told Months Ago Of Failings Of Olympics Security Firm G4S

British Home Secretary Theresa May was "under pressure" to explain whether she could have averted the Olympics security fiasco after it was revealed that the Home Office "was warned 10 months ago that there were problems with the ability of [contractor] G4S to provide security for the Games," according to Merrick, Chorley, Leftly & Brady of the London INDEPENDENT. A confidential report was presented to Home Office ministers in September, which "should have raised alarm bells about the readiness of G4S." It is not known whether the Home Secretary personally saw the report or whether it "only went across the desk" of May's Junior Minister, James Brokenshire. In another development, one of the Games' largest competition venues, ExCeL, revealed "it had been raising concerns" with LOCOG "about the handling of security by G4S" for several months. Former Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, who headed security planning for the Olympics, said the problems were "predictable." Ghaffur: "I just couldn't understand, when I was planning for it, how you could give such a contract to one company. Venues like Wembley already have their own security, and it is just logical to give it to those who are doing it day in and day out." He said that he also fought against the responsibility for operational planning going to the Home Office. Ghaffur: "I was pushing for it to be kept in the Met. They already plan 3,000 to 4,000 events a year" (INDEPENDENT, 7/15).

DEFENSE MOVE IN APRIL: In London, Hayes, O'Connor & Watson reported the Ministry of Defense "put 4,000 military personnel on standby for Olympic duty in April because it was concerned over a possible shortfall in private guards." And because the move came three months ago it "raises questions over how much of a surprise it was" when G4S said they wouldn't be able to supply sufficient manpower. Ministers will be told today whether they need "even more troops" on top of the 3,500 already called up. Such a move "would increase pressure" on May, over her department’s handling of the crisis. A Whitehall source said: “Unless we can find more efficient ways of using the manpower G4S has estimated it needed, if they cannot find them, I see little option but for us to [put more troops on standby]. No other body of well-led, disciplined and motivated people exists that one can use at very short notice if really necessary” (LONDON TIMES, 7/16)

G4S APOLOGIZES: In London, Blitz, Warrell & Oakley reported that G4S expressed “deep regret” over its failure to supply enough security guards for the Olympics. The private security group admitted responsibility for the additional costs facing Olympics organizers in a lengthy statement. G4S CEO Nick Buckles said, "We are deeply disappointed that we have not been able to fully deliver against our contract. We are working flat out around the clock to resolve the situation." Big investors said that "they planned to meet with G4S management in the coming days" to question execs over the failure. One shareholder said, "We are not demanding resignations, but clearly something has badly gone wrong." G4S warned that it faced estimated losses of £35M-£50M ($55M-$78M) on the botched contract, under which the group was supposed to supply more than 10,000 guards to patrol Olympic sites and search spectators entering venues (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/13). Also in London, Stephen Wright reported that Buckles was "left red-faced" after he admitted he had "no idea if those who are working could speak English." Buckles said the penalty payment would be "in the range of" £10M-£20M ($15.5M-$31M) as a result of the firm's "failure to meet its commitments" (DAILY MAIL, 7/13).

OFFICIALS NOT WORRIED: In London, Rosa Prince reported that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said it is "completely normal" for a contractor to fail to deliver on a major project. Hunt "refused to criticize the firm," saying it had acted "honourably" by raising with the Government the problems it was experiencing. Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman called for troops "who have been called up to provide security" at the Games to be given a bonus of at least the £500 ($778) offered to bus drivers working during the Olympics, adding that the money "should be paid for by G4S, and not the public purse" (TELEGRAPH, 7/15). Also in London, Paul Kelso reported that LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe has "insisted that Olympic security will not be compromised." Coe said, "We have two weeks to get this right and we will get this right." Home Office officials, the G4S and LOCOG's HR department have "spent the weekend working on rotas and venue plans" to try and ensure that venues and athlete preparations camps are fully staffed as athletes arrive in London this week. Coe: "The reality of security is that it is one of those areas that only becomes clear when the rubber hits the road and you begin to lock down venues. That was when we were able to see the gap" (INDEPENDENT, 7/15).

TERROR SUSPECTS ADMITTED: In London, Mark Townsend reported that terror suspects on the Home Office watch list "are entering the U.K. in the run-up to the Olympics without the necessary security checks." One senior border officer said that inexperienced new recruits, deployed to shorten queues after complaints over lengthy waiting times, "are repeatedly missing passengers of interest who should be referred to counterterrorism officers" when they reach passport control. The official said he was personally aware that three terror suspects -- all of whose names are registered on the Home Office suspect index system -- "had been waved through by staff on his shifts since the start of July." Another colleague alleged that five suspects were "missed" in one day earlier this month (GUARDIAN, 7/14).