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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 August, 2004, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Blunkett defends terror secrecy
Home Secretary David Blunkett
David Blunkett said he refuses to add to the 'speculation'
The home secretary has rejected calls for the UK Government to follow the US in giving the exact al-Qaeda threat.

David Blunkett told the Observer newspaper on Sunday he would not "feed the news frenzy", defending his government's more cautious approach.

Earlier in the week David Davis, shadow home secretary, criticised ministers for failing to share more information with the public.

It followed claims of al-Qaeda plans for attacks both here and in the US.

Is that really the job of a senior cabinet minister in charge of counter-terrorism? To feed the media? To increase concern?
Home Secretary David Blunkett

These included the security operation around financial institutions in America, the arrest of 12 suspects across England and claims about possible plans for an al -Qaeda attack on Heathrow Airport.

Mr Davis claimed there was an "unwillingness" on the government's part to reveal the nature of the threats.

But Mr Blunkett wrote: "Of course, it is not possible for me to comment on last week's arrests and the action which has followed. These are operational matters."

He told the newspaper he had issued an "appropriate statement" after last week's arrests and gave his reasons for refusing to comment further.

He said: "Had I done so without having anything additional to add, I would have merely added to the speculation, to the hype, to the desire for something to say for its own sake.

"In other words, to feed the news frenzy in a slack news period."

'Arrant nonsense'

Mr Blunkett said: "Is that really the job of a senior cabinet minister in charge of counter-terrorism? To feed the media? To increase concern?

"To have something to say, whatever it is, in order to satisfy the insatiable desire to hear somebody say something?

"Of course not. This is arrant nonsense."

Responding to the article, Mr Davis maintained later on Sunday that the public "should be made aware of the risks".

"For the government to suggest that they cannot tell us about security risks or the levels of terrorist threats without giving the public confidential information is pure rubbish", he said in a statement.

"If we had relied solely on Privy Council briefings in the past then we would never have discovered the abuses in the immigration system and the lies the government pushed out to cover the crisis up.

"The simple truth is that the public should be made aware of the risks and remain vigilant at all times."

The BBC's Carolyn Quinn
"David Blunkett's current reticence was not always so"

Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy
"The security and intelligence communities have not been well served by their political masters"

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