The First Post : Top terror cop Bob Quick resigns after al-Qaeda cell gaffe

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Top terror cop Bob Quick resigns after al-Qaeda cell gaffe

April 9, 2009

Scotland Yard's most senior counter-terrorism police officer, Bob Quick, resigned today following a "clumsy" mistake which jeopardised a top secret police operation against a suspected al-Qaeda cell in the north of England.

Assistant Commissioner Quick made the error when he visited Number Ten for a briefing, clutching a secret document outlining details of the operation (pictured). Because he was holding the document under his arm, but facing out, photographers in Downing Street were able to capture clear details including officers' names and locations.

As a result, police had to bring forward a series of raids by anti-terror officers in Manchester, Liverpool and Clitheroe, Lancashire, during which 11 men were held, 10 of them Pakistan-born nationals on student visas and one a UK-born British national. One suspect was held by armed officers in full view of the public at Liverpool John Moores University.

Security sources said on Wednesday that the suspected terror cell may have been set up by Rashid Rauf, an al-Qaeda suspect reported to have been killed in a US drone attack on Pakistan in 2008.

Quick resigned early on Thursday after pressure from senior politicians and from within Scotland Yard. Shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said the "clumsy" way Quick handled the document was "extraordinary". He asked: "If our most senior counter-terrorism officer can't be trusted not to expose highly secret information like this in a public place, then who on Earth can be?"

The Lib Dems' home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne added: "Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick seems to be increasingly accident prone which is potentially dangerous given the serious responsibilities of his role."

He was referring to the fact that it was Quick who ordered the controversial arrest last year of senior Tory MP Damian Green and sent 20 anti-terrorist officers to search Green's parliamentary office.

Before Quick resigned, the Daily Telegraph quoted a senior source at Scotland Yard saying: "It is a hammer blow to the Met, coming after the very alarming footage from the G20 protests of the man who died being knocked down by an officer. It's fair to say there is an element of shell-shock at the Yard."

One lone voice speaking in defence of Quick on Wednesday was former London mayor Ken Livingstone. He said al-Qaeda would be "delighted" if someone with Quick's experience had to step down "for one mistake of holding a piece of paper the wrong way".

However, his successor Boris Johnson, who as mayor is chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, accepted Quick's resignation and said his replacement would be Assistant Commissioner John Yates, known as Yates of the Yard, since he oversaw a high-profile cash-for-peerages investigation before Tony Blair left office.


Gerald Warner, the Daily Telegraph: This potentially catastrophic blunder is the more inexcusable when one recalls that, as recently as last May, Housing Minister Caroline Flint similarly exposed a secret ministerial briefing document about the weakness of the housing market, in a transparent folder, also on her way into Number 10. That indiscretion provoked panic headlines about house prices and was a landmark in the developing economic crisis. With that cautionary example, how was it that our top anti-terror officer could commit exactly the same gaffe, in the same place? Do our public service mandarins not read the newspapers or watch the television news?

Duncan Campbell, the Guardian: The 50-year-old Yates is a bright and articulate man. He is at ease with the media. He does not retreat into the default defensive mode adopted by so many of his colleagues when the police come under attack for justifiable reasons. Now he has one of the most high-profile jobs in the service. When his current boss, Sir Paul Stephenson, retires, Yates is likely to be one of the leading candidates to replace him. Then it really will be Yates of the Yard.