I’ve often wondered why al-Qaeda doesn’t simply dispense with elaborate terror plots and embed its operatives in the offices of a tabloid newspaper instead? After all, investigations by the Daily Mirror and the News of the World have seen their undercover reporters living a terrorist’s wet dream at times over the last few years. And all it cost these newspapers was the time to fill out a job application, the price of hiring a helicopter for half an hour, and a £1,000 backhander.
The Daily Mirror has largely led the way in this field. In February 2003, they hired a helicopter and hovered over Parliament for five minutes at 1,500ft, which aimed to prove that, had they been terrorists, they could’ve dropped a bomb on the House of Commons, or dusted our political leaders with anthrax, or plagued them with a swarm of radioactive killer bees.
In that same year, Daily Mirror reporter Ryan Parry also managed to infiltrate Buckingham Palace (as a legitimately hired employee, not as a break-and-enter Milk Tray man) in the run-up to a state visit by then U.S. President George W. Bush. In the 15-pages of coverage the Mirror churned out for this scoop, there was a photo of The Belgian Suite (where George and Laura Bush were due to stay) and also one of the Queen and Prince Phillip’s breakfast table, which were both taken by photographer Phil Harris.
Surprised at the the lax security, Parry wrote: “Had I been a terrorist intent on assassinating the Queen or American president George Bush, I could have done so with absolute ease. Indeed, this morning I would have been serving breakfast to key members of his government, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and US Secretary of State Colin Powell.”
In spite of the Mirror’s efforts to expose serious security flaws at Buckingham Palace, which could have seen determined assassins trying to poison the Queen’s Cornflakes, the Daily Telegraph picked up on the bigger story: ‘‘Footman’ exposes Tupperware secret of the Queen’s table’. In some respects I guess that is quite an expose. I would’ve at least expected the Queen’s cereal to be kept in the diamond-encrusted, hollowed-out skulls of her departed Corgis.
Anyway, now it’s the News of the World‘s turn after they ran a front page exclusive in yesterday’s paper about how they managed to get two undercover reporters into sensitive areas of the Palace. After bunging a Royal chauffeur a relatively small amount of cash, the two reporters were subsequently allowed to film and photograph the Queen’s fleet of cars and even sit in the back seat of her Bentley.
And with a heavy nod towards racial profiling, the News of the World also wrote:
“The driver betrayed his Queen for just £1,000 as he sneaked our men – both Asian – past security without even searching them.”
Can you imagine that?! Two Asian men walking around the Palace, bold as brass, and they weren’t so much as held at gun point, brutalised or kitted out in orange jumpsuits and packed off to a black site prison? Scandalous!
[Lax Palace security aside, what I found most most amusing about the News of the World’s front page exclusive was the wording of the strapline and the unfortunate positioning of the Queen’s photograph (right). I always thought that if you looked beyond the fierce and frigid exterior, there’s a definite glint in Her Majesty’s eye.]
Still, it seems clear that if would-be terrorists want to get close to high-value targets or wander around sensitive locations unhindered, then they really need to be working on some kind of tabloid exposé, where they will be paid to probe weaknesses in official security (win-win). Before long, they’ll probably find themselves helping Gordon Brown slip into his tartan underpants every morning, or catching Prince Phillip’s Pop Tarts as they jump up from the Palace’s gold-plated toaster.
Although I would never wish to suggest ways in which al-Qaeda might be able to streamline their global operation, it does seem that they’ve been missing a trick. Working for a tabloid newspaper is access all areas, which could transform the terrorists’ ‘to-do’ list (The Queen, Gordon Brown…his Cabinet…Peaches Geldof). Maybe we should take a look at the recruiting and vetting procedures of tabloid newsrooms before investigating the evidently lax security at Buckingham Palace? Strangely, they seem to be an untapped resource.