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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 March, 2004, 18:24 GMT
Blunkett holds terrorism talks
David Blunkett
Mr Blunkett will seek advice on a new FBI-style force
Home Secretary David Blunkett is in the United States to finalise plans for a US-UK simulated terror attack.

He will meet President Bush's senior security adviser, Gen John Gordon, at the White House.

British and American authorities decided last year to hold a major exercise on both sides of the Atlantic, probably in 2005.

Mr Blunkett will also give a speech in Boston on the challenge of balancing anti-terror laws with human rights.

The purpose of the visit is to continue bilateral work with the US on a number of issues, particularly counter-terrorism
Home Office

Both the UK and US are keen to prepare for the possibility of a co-ordinated simultaneous terrorist attack.

Mr Blunkett told BBC News it was necessary to test out the destabilising effects of a dual attack.

"I think that it's wise to be really ahead of this rather than waiting until something really tragic happens and then asking questions," he said.

The home secretary is also expected to urge the US to join forces with Britain in shutting down violent pornographic sites on the internet.

Another topic on the agenda will be UK plans for an FBI-style organised crime agency.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "The purpose of the visit is to continue bilateral work with the US on a number of issues, particularly counter-terrorism.

"The aim is to ensure everything is in place at the highest level to enable that essential work to continue."

'Affront to law'

Last month, Mr Blunkett unveiled proposals for new UK anti-terrorism laws to make it easier to convict terror suspects, including lowering the standard of proof required by a court and introducing more pre-emptive action.

But civil rights groups condemned the proposals as shameful and an "affront to the rule of law", leading the Home Secretary to admit he was surprised by the ferocity of the criticism.

And when a Home Office options paper was published on 26 February, he conceded he did not intend to lower the standard of proof for terror cases.

The latest document, which will be discussed with Gen Gordon, suggests more powers are needed to apprehend terrorists before they strike and that the controversial power to detain foreigners without trial "was, and remains, necessary".

The spokeswoman said Mr Blunkett would be delivering a speech on Monday evening, entitled Defending Democracy - Two Sides of the Same Coin?, which aimed to "initiate debate on this difficult issue".

Prosecutions advice

Another topic on the agenda will be plans for an elite new agency to tackle organised crime in the UK, already dubbed Britain's FBI.

Mr Blunkett is due to discuss the plans with US Attorney General John Ashcroft, seeking advice on successful prosecutions in particular.

It is not known whether Mr Ashcroft would be available to meet the home secretary, due to illness.

We believe effective action [on online violent pornography] can be achieved only through international co-operation and want to start this discussion
Home Office
Mr Blunkett is also hoping to speak to him about co-operation in closing down internet sites "dedicated to matters of necrophilia and adult violence" after his meeting this week with the family of murdered Brighton teacher Jane Longhurst.

Musician Graham Coutts, 35, was jailed for life in January for strangling the 31-year-old after visiting such sites.

He admitted to having a seven-year addiction to online violent pornography.

The spokeswoman said: "The family discussed their concerns over the link between his use of these sites and their daughter's murder.

"We believe effective action can be achieved only through international co-operation and want to start this discussion."

The BBC's Carolyn Quinn
"Last week in a speech, the prime minister spelt out the growing threat from global terrorism"

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