16 Jan 2015

Cameron: threat levels to Jewish community & police

Prime Minister David Cameron confirms to Channel 4 News in Washington that raising the threat level for the Jewish community would mean stepping up police patrols.

Mr Cameron refused to go into details about whether that was triggered by specific threats but he said these sectoral threat levels like the national threat level that people are more familiar with are set by JTAC and not the politicians.  But he has been under pressure from bodies responsible for the security of the Jewish community who’ve been communicating their concern after the attacks in Paris – here’s an article he’s written for this week’s Jewish Chronical.

The prime minister was less forthcoming about the threat level being raised for the police. There are reports of real unease in some police forces and officers feeling threatened by people photographing them and potentially tracking their movements. Mr Cameron didn’t engage with that but repeated that the officials in JTAC set the risk level.

Read more: David Cameron on why ‘we have to be incredibly vigilant’

When I asked him what chance he really had as a “Brit and a limey” taking on the mighty US tech corporations who’ve rushed into ever more complicated version of encryption he insisted that the US giants were reasonable people who valued their own company reputations. Those two factors, he implied, would deliver a solution over time.

He distanced himself from the view of the Pope, who yesterday appeared to side with muslims who want an end to images being published of the Prophet. He said he defended people’s right to publish such things but wouldn’t engage with whether he personally thought it a bad idea.

At dinner last night in the White House, the prime minister’s team of officials lined up facing the president’s team, mainly made up of cabinet figures like the treasury secretary. The discussion is pretty much completely between the two main players at the table with others listening and very occasionally chipping in. It ranged over economic issues including the EU-US trade deal and the problems still in the Eurozone. The two leaders explored continental Europe’s dependency on Russian oil and making sure Ukraine has enough money to stay intact.


This afternoon they’ve been talking about Iraq and Syria, the Prevent programme and what the US and the UK can learn from each other about internal threats. They were also expected to touch on encryption issues but No. 10 is not billing this as a major moment of confrontation or progress.

Mr Cameron’s team have been venting their frustration this week over some of the headlines they say were misrepresenting what their boss would like internet companies to do. They insist he’s not in the business of banning something like Snapchat.

But if he wants the potential for access to metadata and/or content depending on the occasion and the writ, that would require a complete re-design of an app that’s based on vaporising metadata and content … call it banning or abolition or changing the business model it’s a big deal for the tech company concerned.

Read more: Jewish groups and police ‘face heightened terror threat’

They dine early here in the US. It doesn’t sound like the spirits trolley was wheeled out after the White House dinner last night. The PM was back in Blair House, the guest house over the road from the White House, by around 9pm last night. After a few bits of prep and a debrief of the chat with the President, he was in his bed by 10pm.

In the interview I also asked the Prime Minister about the UK leaders’ TV debates row he returns to overnight. He insisted he wasn’t being disingenuous in asking for another party, the Greens, to be included. I sense a bit of nervousness around the PM’s team as they wonder whether the calculus of risk on dumping debates is do-able without collateral political damage. They will be keeping the situation under permanent review watching the chess moves of the broadcasters and the other parties.

The prime minister is still talking today of trying to get any debates done before the dissolution of parliament and the start of the formal campaign. I said that was before manifestos were published and he said his manifesto was an open book anyway and he’d tell me anything about it I wanted to know. Hmmm.

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