The heart of Government Attacked – a few quick thoughts
by Philip Ingram MBE
3rd October 2019, whilst the Prime Minister is being quizzed on his latest Brexit proposals a few hundred meters away, a bright and chilly day in central London and a red Dennis Fire Engine comes to a gentle halt outside HM Treasury on Horse Guards Road in Westminster. There are armed police throughout the wider area, security staff on the door.
Next we see protesters unfurl a hose from the fire engine and climb on top of it pointing it at the entrance to the Treasury Building with the security staff no doubt wondering what was going on. A banner is unfurled on the side of the fire engine, stating “Stop Funding Climate Change” and then the vehicles pump is started an a red coloured liquid is sprayed towards the front entrance of the Treasury Building, some staining the sand stone façade before the hose popped from its nozzle and snaked around the back of the appliance, out of control, pumping 1800 litres of water with red dye all over the road, pavement and passers-by.
As this was happening, people continued to loiter not far from the entrance of the treasury building, there was no sign of a coordinated reaction, no sign of ‘Run, Hide, Tell’ from anyone. The police were not on the scene, there was no evidence of any reaction, bar bemusement, never mind a well-rehearsed security protocol anywhere. The press reaction is equally one of bemusement at a snaking hose rather than this being a successful attack.
This has to be one of the most worrying, highly visible attacks on our critical national infrastructure, the heart of government, the focus for economic stability in a tumultuous period, that has largely gone without any reaction or comment of substance. Is it right to say, “oh its ok its only those daft Extinction Rebellion types?” “It was only harmless red dyed water?” The harmless nature of the liquid was only known after the fact.
The total Metropolitan Police response was in two messages on Twitter as seen in the picture below:
The ‘Privately Owned’ fire engine could have been carrying so much more. It looks like its livery acted as a perfect disguise to get a vehicle capable of carrying a massive load into the heart of Government. 1800 litres of water would could have been replaced with 1800kg of explosives. The 1800 litres could have been some other harmful liquid, it could have been contaminated water, contaminated with dangerous or deadly chemicals.
This incident throws up so many questions. Did the door staff at the entrance to the Treasury building initiate a protocol commensurate with a possible hostile attack? Why were the doors open and a security guards head pops out before it being gently shut? Why was the building not immediately locked down until the threat could be ascertained? Where was the police response 50+m from the back of Downing Street and a few hundred metres from the Palace of Westminster? How did a vehicle with hostile intent get so close to a critical government building unchallenged? What are the lessons being pulled out of this and how will procedures change? And so many more.
If anything, we have to thank the @XRebellionUK team for highlighting a very real security loophole which I have no doubt will have been noticed by those with desires for a much more deadly intent. The whole reaction seems to have missed the potential for what could have been and smacks of complacency. Complacency never leads to a good outcome. Let’s hope those with more malicious intent don’t infiltrate the planned @XRebellionUK climate protests as it would seem an easy route given the reaction to this incident.
On Saturday The Guardian Newspaper published a story which said: “The Russian men suspected of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury received a phone call after returning to London on the day of the alleged attack, raising the possibility that a backup team played a role in the operation.
One theory being considered by investigators is whether the call, which has not been disclosed before, was a signal to tip them off that the operation had been a success.”
So, what does this mean, how significant is it and is there more we can deduce from this new snippet released by the Metropolitan Police?
It gives an understanding to more detail that could be out there, and yes, it is very significant, so lots more can be deduced! Philip Ingram MBE a former British Military Intelligence Officer explains some of the things that the investigators will have and what this means.
What it does suggest is that the second team (and there could even have been a third) were there during the operation carried out by Chepiga and Mishkin and remained there afterwards. They were providing overwatch and checking to see if the operation was a success. Although it is a bit of a speculative jump, there is a possibility they are part of a clandestine Russian unit permanently in the Salisbury area (suggested here: https://greyharemedia.com/salisbury-sleepy-hollow-or-spooks-playground/). However, it is unlikely that anyone involved in deep cover operations would get involved in something so dynamic, unless resources were scarce.
It could also explain the ‘sealed’ bottle of Novichok that Charlie Rowley found some time later. There could have been a second bottle left as a back-up in case the first attempt failed.
The next thing it confirms is that Chepiga and Mishkin has a phone they used on the operation. This is almost certainly a UK pay as you go, unregistered “burner” phone and the fact they received a “phone call”, rather than a call being made over a secure App such as Threema or WhatsApp, would suggest the phone wasn’t a smart phone. This would make sense as smart phones, with their built in GPS capabilities, are much easier to track once identified.
So how would they have identified the phone? Well, all phones operate using a SIM card and each SIM card has a unique International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number which consists of the users account number, network code and telephone number. There is a second number, and this is the International Mobile Equipment Identity, (IMEI) number that relates to the handset and remains the same even if the SIM is changed.
When mobile phones are switched on, they transmit these numbers to local phone cells to “check in” and do the same each time they make a call. The mobile network is divided into a series of cells with a base station at the centre of each cell and they can hand calls across to each other, giving seamless coverage to the user.
If the police have identified a call being made it means they almost certainly know the IMSI and IMEI numbers linked to that call and to all other calls to and from that handset or SIM. The GRU network will have likely been identified.
The police will have been looking at base station activity corresponding with the times Chepiga and Mishkin were on their train journeys, in Salisbury, other travel rotes they will have taken in London and near their accommodation in London to see if they could identify on IMEI or IMSI number that was consistent and ideally both. The huge amounts of data they will have had to crunch through to do this is unimaginable but shows the effort that is being put in to the Skripal Investigation. It is highly probable that the computing power of the government listening agency, GCHQ will have been used for this part of the investigation.
With this information, a more detailed understanding of the movements of the GRU officers and any associates who they have communicated with can be deduced if the phones and SIMs have been connected to the network more than one time only.
With this level of detail going into the investigation, there is a lot more yet to be exposed.
Note: This blog is written by Philip Ingram MBE, a former British Military Intelligence Officer and Colonel, who was based near Salisbury in the past. If you would like any further comment from Philip, please contact him by clicking HERE