|Defense Technology International Sep 01 , 2011 , p. 47|
|U.K. builds defenses for 2012 London Olympics|
|Printed headline: Security Blitz|
|There is less than a year before the curtain rises on the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London (July 27-Aug. 12), which, with the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games (Aug. 29-Sept. 9) also in London, will require Britain’s biggest peacetime security operation. |
Anna de Vries, senior information officer with London’s Metropolitan Police Service, tells DTI via e-mail that “our plan to deliver a safe and secure games is designed to mitigate against a range of threats. It is kept under review and we retain the capacity to alter our plan in light of the threat or new attack methodology. Planning is being done to a severe level of threat,” which means terrorism is “highly likely.”
Indeed, almost 1 million more tourists are expected to come to the U.K. in 2012, many if not most for the Olympics. Local conflicts as well as domestic agitators and opportunists are bound to be part of the mix. Security planning is doubtless being influenced by the July 22 mass killings in Norway, in which one home-grown terrorist murdered 77 in bombing and shooting attacks, as well as by the riots in London and other U.K. cities last month, which saw arson, looting and mass arrests. Some Olympic venues will be near the stricken areas. Responsibility for security lies with Home Secretary Theresa May. She said prior to the Norway killings that “we have a robust safety and security strategy. The testing of our plans, structures and responses to ensure they can deal with any incident is vital. It is important we learn lessons ahead of the games.”
The British are keen that security measures remain discreet even if they are spending £600 million ($984 million) on them. “Sport must take center stage—this is a sporting event with a security overlay, not a security operation with a bit of sport thrown in,” says Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner Chris Allison, national Olympic security coordinator.
A classified intergovernmental document, the Olympic Safety and Security Strategic Risk Assessment, is the basis for planning. Although most events will be in London, 34 Olympic venues lie across the U.K., so the security net will be wide.
For the most part, little new technology will be used. “We are planning based on what we know works, using tried and tested systems,” says Allison. Indeed, Thales has just one Olympic security-related contract, providing a radar at London Oxford Airport. A company representative says it has received “specific small contracts for CCTV (closed-circuit television) cameras, but otherwise it’s business as usual.” Cassidian has no contracts for the Olympics, and BAE Systems subsidiary Detica supplied a technology demonstrator for crowded places as part of the Instinct (Innovative Science and Technology in Counterterrorism) program in the framework of the Home Office’s counterterrorism strategy, but this is unlikely to be used because it is not yet mature.
Some innovations may find a place in preparations. One such involves an airport screening system that is being promoted by AR Challenges Ltd., an Israeli consultant specializing in travel security. This is a trust-based security (TBS) system, and CEO Rafi Sela wants to install a pilot network in one airport—possibly London Stansted—in time for the games. The TBS system is a Build Operate Transfer method that is an integrated and predictive security network. With TBS not everyone is a suspect, since the system is based on an individual’s intent. TBS does not need upgrades or new procedures every time a threat level changes. Sela says it is easy to install and operate and requires much less manpower and space than conventional security systems that screen all passengers. A pilot system is being trialed at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, arguably the most secure civil airport in the world.
The system verifies, through enrollment, smart card and other measures, the identity of travelers beginning at check-in. Each passenger receives a trustworthiness assessment. Those who pose no risk or a negligible risk move quickly through screening areas. High-risk travelers can be identified and detained before boarding a flight. The system could include detectors that scan for traces of explosives and inexpensive RFID stickers to track baggage.
As passenger traffic increases for the Olympics, smooth and continuous movement becomes a priority for airports in particular. London’s Heathrow Airport is the largest point of entry for air travelers, and therefore a big security concern. “We have established that intelligence is 80% of the protection scheme,” says Sela. Moreover, the ability to handle large crowds at Heathrow is a concern. “People are increasingly spending an average 45 min. in a queue at immigration just to have EU passports checked. This is one of the most vulnerable places [for an attack] since no one knows who [might be] in the crowd.”
The threat of an airport attack by terrorists on arrival is real, Sela adds. Also at risk are trains to London, “since travelers have been reunited with their luggage and more threats can arise.”
In October 2010, the government published “A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The National Security Strategy,” which, among other things, considers risks and threats to the Olympics and lays out a five-part security program: protect Olympic and Paralympic venues and events, and support transport infrastructure and those attending and using them; prepare for events that may significantly disrupt the safety and security of the games and ensure capabilities are in place to mitigate their impact; identify and disrupt threats to the safety and security of the games; command, control, plan and resource the safety and security operation; and engage with international and domestic partners and communities to enhance security and ensure success of the strategy.
The “identify and disrupt” section aims at providing the necessary capability to counter threats through “appropriate, proportionate and lawful use of overt and covert law enforcement, security and intelligence agency resources.” These include an automatic number plate recognition system for vehicles and the evolving technology of facial recognition.
While analysis of all that video could be vital after the fact in case of an incident, weeding out criminals and terrorists with facial recognition is still a difficult proposition with many critics. In the U.S., facial recognition software from Viisage Technology (now part of L-1 Identity Solutions) made its first real debut during the 2001 Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla. The software picked out 19 faces and matched them to pickpocketing and fraud charges, though there were no game-day arrests. Further use in the city by police, however, produced dubious results. A study from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology at the time found a 43% failure rate in the software.
Since then, facial recognition software has evolved and become more prevalent in security applications. The London Olympics may feature new software using photometric stereo mapping, which better measures shadows over skin and rough surfaces for more accurate identity results.
There will be at least 10 security procedure run-throughs for the Olympics, the first of which took place this summer. Even if the words “military” or “armed forces” rarely appear in Olympic security documents, U.K. forces are going to be a big part of contingency plans, although the tradition and legal history of using troops in Britain means they will be kept in reserve.
They will take part in exercises coordinated by the Home Office, which will involve members of the emergency services, police, transport operators and Olympic security officials to ensure that participants function as an effective combined antiterrorism force. They will also look at public response issues, ensuring that if anything happens during the games, spectators get reliable information right away.
The Special Air Service always has a squadron of 100 personnel on permanent antiterrorism duty, a number likely to be expanded for the games.
In addition to these forces and apart from exercises, the military will provide surveillance assets, notably a Britten-Norman Defender electronic surveillance aircraft, developed to snoop on communications in operations against terrorists in Northern Ireland. This long-endurance aircraft can occasionally be seen above London.
Also seen periodically above London is the RAF’s newest electronic surveillance aircraft, the Hawker Beechcraft Shadow R.1, a slightly adapted version of the U.S. Army’s RC-12 Guardrail sigint aircraft from the same company.
Possibly in or near the Thames estuary will be a Type 45 antiair-warfare cruiser. As its Sampson (from BAE Systems) and S1850M (Thales) 3D radars can undertake air picture management to several hundred kilometers and are linked to the highly maneuverable Sea Viper missile system, it will enhance surveillance and defense.
The RAF will provide Boeing E-3 Sentry AWACS coverage, and Eurofighter Typhoon F2/FGR4 jets, which will act as quick-reaction-alert aircraft. In addition, the RAF will be the providers of support helicopters for security.
Threats include attacks from chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents. Advanced CBRN protection will be provided by 1st Royal Tank Regt., the U.K.’s specialized CBRN unit. Equipped with Fuchs armored reconnaissance and survey vehicles, and the new Integrated Biological Defense System, the regiment provides national CBRN coverage. Since its main base is east of London, it is likely that there will be an advanced deployment closer to the capital during the games.
The core of the U.K.’s homeland improvised explosive device (IED)/explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) capability lies with 11 EOD Regt. of the Royal Logistic Corps. The regiment keeps teams on 24/7 notice across the U.K. to deal with terrorism threats, as well as with continuing threats from World War II bombs. The regiment will support the Metropolitan Police. In the aftermath of Iraq, EOD/IED activities have become more joint, so Royal Navy and RAF EOD units, which had specific EOD roles on land and water, have been integrated into a wider framework, and might be part of an Olympic IED/EOD force, as would troops with similar skills from the Royal Engineers.
The bulk of forces used in a worst-case scenario come from three Army sources. The lead contingency unit is 2nd Btn., Princess of Wales Royal Regiment (PWRR). It has been tasked to counter a range of threats, not least of which is an attack on a hotel or arena. This threat is regarded as real and has absorbed a great deal of planning. If necessary, the 2nd PWRR could call upon whichever Guards battalion is on ceremonial duty in central London for extra troops, although there are concerns that a terror event there could hinder movement of the unit. Extra coverage is provided by the Civil Contingency Task Force unit for London, which will be drawn from Territorial Army troops from the London Regt.
Ultimately, the government will be able to call upon all assets within reach of London should it be necessary. The main concern, though, is keeping units and technologies at a high level of readiness and yet almost invisible to spectators.