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Mobile blocking helicopter to trail Bush in Sydney

Fighters, SAS on alert as 'Blue Luminary' goes Down Under

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US President George Bush will be followed about by a helicopter which jams mobile phone signals during an upcoming visit to Australia, it has emerged.

According to reports in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, train stations will also be temporarily shut down and parts of the city will "become restricted areas". The Age speculates that "heavily armed [Australian] SAS troops" could be deployed on the Sydney streets, with "expanded rights to shoot to kill".

President Bush is to visit Sydney along with 20 other world leaders in September for the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit. The summit and President Bush have been seen as a likely target for terrorist attacks on previous occasions.

The rash of news reports into APEC security comes as New South Wales state premier Morris Iemma announces likely measures and proposes temporary legislation on security powers.

Conjecture around the phone-jamming helicopter has arisen as a result of its appearance in attendance on Mr Bush at the 2005 APEC summit in South Korea. Reporters covering the conference said that a Black Hawk chopper would shadow the presidential motorcade, and as it passed overhead mobile phones would lose touch with the local network.

"Whenever Mr Bush visits a foreign country local sovereignty is surrendered to US authorities as he moves around in heavily armoured vehicles that follow him around the globe," said the Telegraph.

Jamming technology employed to prevent command-detonated bombs functioning is nothing new, of course. British infantrymen would carry man-portable jammers on patrol in Northern Ireland decades ago, and security geeks in London might note similar equipment (in smarter backpacks) occasionally being carried by guardsmen engaged in public ceremonies.

On the UK mainland at least, it's unusual to employ aggressive active jamming on important civilian frequencies, but it could be that South Korean authorities take a firmer line. Those in Thailand, for instance, are thought to do so routinely.

The Australian authorities seem willing to kick plenty of electronic arse in order to avoid having Mr Bush bumped off on their territory, but they may balk at cutting off mobile phone. Even if they're happy to do that, there are still hundreds of other consumer gadgets for bomb-makers to exploit and they can't all realistically be jammed. One type of kit which it's particularly hard to get permission to mess with is hospital beeper systems; and that's not the only example.

Quite apart from all that, Mr Bush's entourage and security detail will need to keep at least some frequencies open for their own use.

Nonetheless, it's likely that Mr Bush will move about in a bubble of electronic interception to some degree. But his jamming gear might not, in fact, be in a helicopter. It would be more normal for such kit to be in the motorcade. The 2005 Pusan Blackhawk could well have been there for different reasons.

One thing's for sure - the Aussies intend to be ready. Major security exercises are underway even now, according to the Age. Strangely, they are said to be codenamed "Blue Luminary 2", suggesting that the Antipodeans aren't aware of Mr Bush's electoral base.

Or, of course, that they are. ®

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