U.S. and British officials will meet today in Washington to plan security for next summer's Olympic games in London, where the massive U.S. law enforcement presence will include more than 500 federal agents.
The 2012 Olympics, which begin on July 27 and run for 17 days, are expected to bring close to a million visitors to London. U.S. and U.K. security and terrorism officials told ABC News that thousands of police officers, soldiers, intelligence officers, firefighters and private guards -- a force that could at times top 40,0000 -- will be on hand at 32 sports venues to respond to everything from pickpockets to terror threats. U.K. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond told Parliament Monday that security measures might even include surface-to-air missiles.
British officials have closely coordinated their efforts with their American counterparts, and the meetings that begin today are only the latest in a series of high-level meetings stretching back more than a year, officials from the CIA, State Department and FBI told ABC.
A report in the U.K. paper The Guardian Sunday claimed that British security officials were chafing at working so closely with the Americans, that they felt they were not "equal partners" with the U.S., and that the U.S., in turn, has expressed "repeated concerns" about British preparations and "deep unease" about limits on stop-and-search powers.
Senior British officials directly involved in the planning of Olympic security told ABC News that the Guardian's report "is inaccurate, and that the U.S. has expressed no such unease or concerns.
"Clearly the US is a fundamental relationship and our Ministers are mindful of this, but the assertion that questions from the U.S. dominate is wrong," a spokesperson for the Olympic Security Directorate told ABC News Monday. "We haven't had such concerns/questions voiced to us in the first place."
The Guardian also quotes a British security official complaining that "we are not equal partners in this," and said British security officials have raised private concerns about the U.S. need for "reassurance" and the size of the U.S. "footprint." British authorities told ABC News that they are not surprised by the size of the footprint or the U.S. need to know details of the plan.
In recent weeks, say both U.S. and British authorities in Washington, there has been an increased focus on the Olympic security package within the Obama administration, but U.S. concerns have not dominated the planning meetings.
The U.S. will bring a large security contingent to the games -- in excess of 500 officers and agents from the FBI and the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service, though no final numbers have been set.
The proposed U.S. presence is miniscule, however, when compared to the overall security scheme. The U.K.'s current plans call for 20,000 private security guards, 5,000 British troops, including special forces, and the nation's two intelligence services, MI5 and MI6, to augment thousands of officers drawn as needed from Scotland Yard's 31,000-member force and major police departments outside London.
Authorities had originally planned on 10,000 security guards, but after review now believe they will need up to 21,000. The global security behemoth G4S will provide the initial group of guards, and officials there told ABC News that they would expect no great difficulty in vetting and training an additional number of guards. It is not clear that the U.K. government will award them the final contract for an additional guard force.
On Monday, in a response to a question from a member of Parliament about security preparations for the Olympics, U.K. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said, "I can assure [you] that all necessary measures to ensure the security and safety of the London Olympic Games will be taken including -- if the advice of the military is that it is required -- appropriate ground-to-air defenses."
Security planning for the 2012 Olympics began not long after they were awarded to London, which won the right to host the games after a competition against Madrid, Moscow, Paris and New York. The decision was announced on July 6, 2005. The next morning, four suicide bombers attacked London's public transportation system, killing more than 50 people.