Three days before yesterday’s attack in Westminster, 200 anti-terrorism police took part in a large simulated operation, zipping across the Thames to rescue “hostages” being held on a hijacked river cruiser. As a Met Police commander told the media, “This kind of exercise demonstrates that should a terrible event ever happen for real, London is ready for it in the most efficient and effective way possible.”
And they were ready. Minutes after the attacker ploughed his car into the railings by the Houses of Parliament, the entire area was cordoned off and swarming with heavily armed cops in black uniforms. Parliament was put on lockdown. When the air ambulances arrived there were plans in place so they’d know exactly where to land. People knew exactly what they were meant to do. It was all seamless, all mechanised. This had been expected.
But the cops and the medics weren’t alone. Everyone’s doing the same thing; we all have our own contingency plans, our own half-conscious preparations for what we’ll do or say. Millions of people have been practicing in their heads, working out how to respond the next time people are killed in large numbers on what started out as just another ordinary day. Respectful silence is never an option. We have rituals for these things now: you mark yourself safe on Facebook, you use the #PrayForLondon hashtag, you post Keep Calm signs and pictures of Winston Churchill, you talk about the Blitz spirit, you insist that you’re not afraid – and you’re not. You had a plan for this, too.
Watching the news as it unfolded, I found myself hearing things I’d heard before. Without anything to report on beyond the sparse, brutal facts, the TV newsreaders fell back on their scripts. If you were particularly cynical, you could map out everything that Sky and the BBC would say right from the first moment, without even needing to watch.
The suspect of a deadly attack outside the UK parliament in London was British, Prime Minister Theresa May said, as police arrested eight people after several overnight raids across the country.
Police named the man as Khalid Masood on Thursday, saying he had a string of criminal convictions.
Masood, 52, was born in Kent to the southeast of London and had been most recently living in central England, London police said.
“Masood was not the subject of any current investigations and there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack,” a police statement said.
“However, he was known to police and has a range of previous convictions for assaults, including GBH [grievous bodily harm], possession of offensive weapons and public order offences.”
REP. DEVIN NUNES, the California Republican and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, claimed Wednesday that “the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition” between President Trump’s election and his inauguration.
Nunes then headed to the White House to brief Trump. White House press secretary Sean Spicer read Nunes’s statement at a press conference and called it “startling information,” implying that it justified Trump’s recent claims that Trump Tower was wiretapped on former President Obama’s orders.
The underlying reality is likely significant but far less exciting: That Trump transition staffers were picked up by standard U.S. surveillance as they arranged for Trump to receive standard post-election calls from world leaders.
If so, what Nunes was describing would not vindicate Trump’s claims, and would also be a separate matter from reported contacts by Trump associates with Russian intelligence officials before the election.
A former Russian MP who had fled to Ukraine was shot dead on a busy street in central Kiev on Thursday.
Denis Voronenkov, who had spoken out against Vladimir Putin and Kremlin policies, was shot three times outside the upmarket Premier Palace hotel.
Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, quickly pointed the finger at Russian authorities, calling the killing an act of “state terrorism”.
Kiev’s head of police said Voronenkov, who had been granted Ukrainian citizenship after he fled in 2016, was shot three or four times in the head and neck and died at the scene.
A firefight broke out between Voronenkov’s bodyguard, believed to have been provided by the Ukrainian security services, and the assassin. Both were wounded and taken to hospital, where the assassin died a few hours later.
One of the more mysterious parts of the Mercer family’s political orbit is Cambridge Analytica. The data firm claims it has psychological profiles of over 200 million American voters. The firm was hired by the Trump campaign to help it target its message to potential voters. The Mercers have bankrolled the company and placed Steve Bannon on its board. We speak to The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer.