Interpol: U.K. not sharing terror information

Armed British police guard Whitehall
An armed British police officer guards the Old War Office in central London on July 3 in the wake of attempted car bombings in London and Glasgow, Scotland.Andy Rain / EPA
/ Source: The Associated Press

The head of Interpol said Monday that Britain has not shared any information gleaned from the investigation of three failed car bomb attacks, which he said is symptomatic of London’s reluctance to join in global efforts to combat terrorism.

“We have received not one name, not one fingerprint, not one telephone number, not one address, nothing, from the UK, about the recent thwarted terrorist attacks,” Ronald Noble, Interpol’s secretary general, said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. television.

Detectives on three continents are working to piece together details of the failed attacks on two London nightspots and the airport in Glasgow, Scotland.

Police in Australia on Monday asked a judge for more time to question an Indian doctor arrested in Brisbane in connection with the British attacks. And a senior Indian police official said investigators there have seized a computer hard drive belonging to the man suspected of ramming a Jeep into the Glasgow airport.

Eight in custody
Two cars packed with gas cylinders and nails were discovered June 29 in central London. The next day, the Jeep Cherokee smashed in flames into the security barriers at Glasgow airport.

Eight people are in custody as suspects — seven in Britain and one in Australia. One has been charged: Bilal Abdullah, an Iraqi doctor who was identified as the passenger in the Jeep.

Most of the suspects worked for Britain’s health service and come from countries in the Middle East and India.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said last week that authorities would work to expand a “watch list” of potential terrorists so that authorities in other countries could be warned of possible threats.

Noble said Britain — like most countries — has so far failed to take advantage of Interpol’s list of 7 million lost or stolen passports. However, he said Britain was now testing systems to access the database, and said he hoped that would be working within months.

“I believe it is significant that only 17 out of the world 186 member countries currently systematically check the passports of visitors to their countries against a global database that contains 7 million stolen passport numbers.”

Switzerland, he said, checks the database 300,000 times per month, and typically gets 100 hits on stolen or lost passports.

‘Wrong century’
Britain now checks the database about 30 times a month, and the United States uses it 80 times per month, he said.

“My view is that the U.K.’s anti-terrorist effort is in the wrong century,” Noble said.

Britain’s Home Office said the Interpol databases were consulted by the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA).

“The U.K. works closely with the Interpol secretariat and with member states to provide police-to-police cooperation,” a Home Office spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.

“SOCA, as the U.K. arm of Interpol, consults Interpol databases and performs searches on behalf of U.K. law enforcement, in addition to which U.K. police forces have direct secure access to Interpol databases,” the Home Office said.

Lengthened detention?
In Australia, meanwhile, police have asked a judge to extend Muhammad Haneef’s detention without charge, his lawyer, Peter Russo, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. Monday.

Haneef, 27, who was working at a hospital in eastern Queensland state after emigrating from Britain last year, was detained on July 2 as he tried to board a flight to India.

Australian Attorney General Phillip Ruddock said suspicion about Haneef was heightened because he was rushing to leave Australia when he was arrested.

“His wife says it’s because she gave birth to a child two weeks ago,” Ruddock told Southern Cross Broadcasting. “That may be well the reason but certainly the appearance was that his intention (was) to leave with speed.”

Ruddock also said police may want to speak again to six other foreign doctors who have been questioned and released without charge in connection with the investigation.