Pictured for the first time: Top secret bunker where British Government holds Cobra crisis meetings

The fortified, windowless bunker lies deep underground, between the Houses of Parliament and Trafalgar Square, its exact location one of Britain’s most closely guarded secrets. Only those with the highest security clearance have seen what it looks like – until now. For these are the first-ever published photographs of Cabinet Office Briefing Room A, or Cobra, where the British Government, through the ad-hoc Civil Contingencies Committee (CCC), meets to co-ordinate its response in times of emergency, such as terror attacks, military strikes or dangers to public health. Deep underground: The secret bunker where emergencies such a terror attacks, military strikes or dangers to public health are discussed by the British Government Photographer David Moore spent months negotiating permission to take pictures of the room. He was granted unprecedented access to Government institutions for his project The Last Things – a collection of images of secret Government sites. Usually chaired by the Prime Minister, key members of the CCC include the Director of the SAS, the heads of MI5 and MI6, the Mayor of London, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Government Ministers and specialists such as flood prevention or public health experts. Access is gained through a series of corridors that link a suite of anonymous-looking rooms to Downing Street, the Foreign Office, the Cabinet Office and police and security offices TV screens around the room allow for video-conferencing and, right, even the PM must turn off his phone Cobra itself is entered through a blast-proof, steel-reinforced door using a special swipe card and several locks. The air-conditioned room is dominated by a 30ft polished burr-walnut table. The carpet is blue and the curtains, merely decorative, are a mustard-coloured velvet. Up to 22 committee members sit in large brown leather chairs. Each has a microphone. Behind the chairman is a giant eight-panel video screen and a lectern. Four 20in flat screens are fixed high on the walls behind the committee, doubling as televisions and video-conferencing units. Lockdown: The blast-proof steel-reinforced door and, right, high-tech lecterns have built-in computers to help experts make informed and up-to-the minute presentations The level of security is so high that mobile phones must be switched off at all times and other electronic devices are banned. As well as official minutes-takers, the meetings are monitored by two closed-circuit cameras either side of the giant screen and the room is soundproofed. Cobra was set up after the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 but there have been emergency planning committees since 1920. CCC has in the past been called to discuss the Kosovo war, the London bombings in 2005 and, most recently, the outbreak of swine flu. The lectern from which security chiefs address ministers as a crisis unfolds and, right, the card-swiping device allows only officials with the highest security clearance to enter Cobra Cobra has been denounced as ‘political posturing’ by Scotland Yard’s former anti-terrorist chief Andy Hayman. But the idea of a secret nerve-centre still appeals to the national psyche. Mock-ups of the room have been seen in TV’s Torchwood, Spooks and the SAS series Ultimate Force. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1206862/Pictured-time-Top-secret-bunker-British-Government-holds-Cobra-crisis-meetings.html

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