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'Terrorist Attacks Planned for Britain', Says Minister
- Hain's vague alarm call wakes us up to the need for truth

BRITISH ministers have given fresh warnings of terrorist attacks on the UK, but do so at a time when official information channels are becoming increasingly discredited.

"I understand that [bin Laden] is preparing already for high-impact terrorist attacks in the coming weeks," said Minister for Europe Peter Hain, who was backed up by his boss, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who said: "There continues to be a risk of them making further attacks."

Neither minister was able to provide evidence for their assertions, a practice that has already become standard issue in the aftermath of the September 11 events in New York and Washington. Nowhere has the old truth-is-the-first-casualty-of-war line been proved more emphatically than in the US, in record time to boot.

At the time of the terrorist outrages, government officials fed a story to the media that the reason George Bush was hiding out in various bunkers across the country was that he and the Presidential aeroplane, Air Force One, were designated as the next suicide-attack victims. White House officials have now confirmed that that such reports had no basis in fact.

Back in the UK, semi-official leaks to senior reporters have also raised serious doubts. Top ranking intelligence sources told The Times that five of the hi-jackers had held a planning meeting in the UK in the weeks leading up to the attacks. But other secret service moles told The Sun that the visits of hi-jackers to Britain were merely for transit reasons.

In the absence of official channels providing verifiable evidence, it is likely such rival spook stories will continue to invade the media, all the more so given the kind of vague and alarmist ministerial speeches being sold cheap by the half dozen. In the build to a major military intervention, it is surely legitimate to demand that those who carry the power over life and death do better than that.

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