London is experiencing unprecedented security as thousands line up to pay their respects to Queen Elizabeth II and many world leaders are expected to attend the late monarch’s funeral on Monday.
Queen Elizabeth II, who died on September 8 at the age of 96 after 70 years on the throne, is currently resting in the historic Westminster Hall of Parliament, where her coffin will remain until her funeral at Westminster Abbey.
British media reported that up to 750,000 people could head to London for the state funeral, with around 10,000 police on duty each day before that.
« It’s a combination of the Olympics, all the royal family weddings we’ve had, all combined into one, » said Will Geddes, international security specialist and managing director of the International Corporate Protection Group. in London, to CTVNews.ca by phone. interview Thursday.
POLICE AND MILITARY
The main plans for the Queen’s death are outlined in a plan called Operation London Bridge.
Another set of protocols codenamed Operation Unicorn came into effect because the Queen died in Scotland, specifically at her private residence at Balmoral Castle. The codenames Feather and Marquee are also used in reference to the Queen’s management in state at Westminster Hall.
« It’s been worked on almost daily for the past four or five decades, » CTV’s Your Morning told Thursday. « So that gives you an idea that it wasn’t just something out of a box. »
Wharfe said that from a police perspective, the cost of security, including for the Royal Family, is still a « primary issue ».
« But on something like this, there can be no cost of protection because the risks are so great, and I think the government understands that, I think the vast majority of people understand that, » he said. he declares.
CTVNews.ca experts described the security presence as a combination of uniformed police, military and private security, more low-profile elements such as rooftop snipers, specialists involved in mine clearance and standby military aircraft, and covert units such as civilians. officers.
“The main objective behind security is that security be as low-key as possible,” Philip Ingram, a former British military intelligence colonel, told CTVNews.ca in a telephone interview Thursday.
« It blends into the whole event and won’t stop people from getting into the general atmosphere and getting as close as possible to the parade and everything that’s going on. »
He said other agencies involved in the ongoing operations were likely to include the UK’s domestic and foreign intelligence services MI5 and MI6, government communications headquarters, the National Crime Agency, counter-terrorism police, liaisons private sector and executives abroad, and intelligence gathered from international partners such as the Five Eyes Network, of which Canada is a member.
Along with the Metropolitan Police Service and officers from other forces in the UK, Geddes added there are 1,500 servicemen providing additional security, with various special forces operators among them who will search for potential emerging threats and can be deployed quickly, if need be, should one materialize.
In addition to this, security personnel will have access to surveillance tools such as London’s vast network of CCTV cameras, as well as technology and people who specialize in facial recognition – the latter sometimes being referred to as » great recognizers ».
But unlike what’s shown in the movies, security experts CTVNews.ca spoke to said the city’s CCTV network isn’t entirely centrally connected, with many cameras owned by private companies or to owners and managed on independent servers.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS ?
Not only are the events surrounding the Queen’s funeral taking place in a relatively small area, but they have also been widely publicized, with the expected numbers presenting a wide range of risks, experts said.
Geddes pointed to the potential threat from Islamic and far-right extremism, while Ingram said so-called lone wolf terrorists could be motivated to act and, on a lesser level, scammers targeting tourists.
Both cited groups such as Extinction Rebellion who may want to interrupt the debates to promote their causes, as well as the discontent of anti-monarchists.
Some nation states might also want to disrupt the funeral, Ingram said, given some countries’ dissatisfaction with global events such as the war in Ukraine or conflicts in the South China Sea.
« There are countries that could potentially be interested or would be more satisfied if it didn’t go as well as hoped, » Ingram said.
Over the next few days, Ingram said he would monitor whether the UK’s national threat level changed.
The threat level was downgraded to « substantial » in February, meaning an attack is « likely ».
« If it increases, it’s something that’s announced publicly and will put a lot more resources on the line, » he said. « But if it increases, with the arrival of world leaders, that’s when I start to worry. »
Official documents obtained by Politico and reported by other media show foreign heads of state and their wives have been told to arrive in the UK on commercial flights where possible, not to use helicopters to get around and attend funerals by bus.
Geddes said it would not be the first time mini-buses have been used for an event, pointing to Harry and Meghan’s wedding, and to help control the routes of various entourages.
And while there are also a limited number of runways available for the expected volume of air traffic, Geddes described the commercial flying advice as a « wakeful nod » to those who may be more mindful of the environment and expects most heads of state to fly privately.
With files from CTV News and The Associated Press