Cabinet Office Briefing Room

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Cabinet Office Briefing Room
Cabinet Office Briefing Room.jpg
Released under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, this is the only publicly available photo of the classified COBR facility.
Location London
Country United Kingdom
Purpose Crisis management centre

Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBR)[1][2] refers to the location for a type of crisis response committee set up to coordinate the actions of bodies within the government of the United Kingdom in response to instances of national or regional crisis, or during events abroad with major implications for the UK. The constitution of a COBR meeting depends on the nature of the incident but it is usually chaired by the Prime Minister or another senior minister, with other key ministers as appropriate, and representatives of relevant external organizations such as the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Local Government Association.[2][3]

COBR meetings are generally held in one of the Cabinet Office buildings in Whitehall, London. Each is held in a secure room fitted with video and audio links able to display all intelligence information relevant to the situation under discussion. Unlike the equivalent U.S. facility, the White House Situation Room, it is only staffed during each period of use. It is actually on the first floor of the building and not below ground.

It is often referred to as COBRA or Cobra by the media; this relates to the acronym for Cabinet Office Briefing Room A as the meetings were usually held in Conference Room A[4] at the Cabinet Office main building at 70 Whitehall. This abbreviation is no longer used within the Cabinet Office. Official papers bear a logo based on that of the Cabinet Office with the addition of the words "Briefing Rooms".[5][6] There is no basis to the widespread story that it was originally referred to simply as "Briefing Room A" and that the words "Cabinet Office" were added to give the acronym a more virile character. In 2009, former senior police officer Andy Hayman, who sat on the committee after the 7 July 2005 London bombings and at other intervals from 2005 to 2007, was highly critical of its workings in his book The Terrorist Hunters.[7]

A single photo of COBR was released in 2010 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.[8]

In the Gold – silver – bronze command structure COBR is sometimes known as the Platinum Command.

The first Cobra meeting took place in the 1970s in order to oversee the government's response to the 1972 miner's strike.[9] Other events that have led to meetings convening include the fuel protests, the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak and the September 11th attacks and the murder of Lee Rigby.[10][11]

In Popular Media[edit]

  • COBRA was featured in the fifth Alex Rider novel, Scorpia. Alan Blunt, the director of MI6, takes Alex to a COBRA meeting to figure out what Invisible Sword (a proposed high-scale terrorist attack) is and how to stop it.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Emergency Response - Central Government Arrangements -
  2. ^ a b Emergencies: the legal and operational framework -
  3. ^ Gardiner, Joey (21 October 2002). "What is Cobra". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 15 Sep 2009. 
  4. ^ "Key facts about COBR(A)". 7 September 2007. Retrieved 31 July 2012. 
  5. ^ Brian Brady (25 March 2007). "Blair convenes Cobra team as crisis in Iran escalates". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 28 April 2009. 
  6. ^ Sir Gus O'Donnell, Cabinet Secretary, interviewed on BBC TV programme The Secret World of Whitehall, 2011
  7. ^ O'Neil, Sean (June 22, 2009). "Cobra emergency committee 'slows everything down'". The Times (London: News International). Retrieved 3 January 2010. 
  8. ^ "COBR - a Freedom of Information request to Cabinet Office". WhatDoTheyKnow. 
  9. ^ "File 9 Central Government in War in the 1980s". 
  10. ^ BBC News - London 2012: What exactly is a Cobra meeting?
  11. ^ Cobra meeting hears 'strong indications' machete murder was a terrorist attack | London - ITV News
  12. ^ Alternative COBRA committee COBRA: A Critical Response