In the UK, it’s extremely rare that interviews with members of the British intelligence, let alone the head of MI5, are broadcast on primetime news programs, yet this is what happened, when Andrew Parker, MI5’s director general, warned that Britain was facing the most severe terrorist threat ever and further attacks are inevitable. Parker explained “That threat is multi-dimensional, evolving rapidly and operating at a scale and pace we’ve not seen before…It’s at the highest tempo I have seen in my 34-year career. Today there is more terrorist activity, coming at us more quickly, and it can be harder to detect.”
While Islamic State has been suffering heavy defeats in Iraq and Syria, MI5 estimates that 850 Britons who had travelled to its territory could return Britain. About 100 have died in fighting.
There’s no question that Parker and his spying agency are under severe pressure, having failed to prevent four Islamist terror attacks which led to 36 deaths – Westminster Bridge, Manchester, London Bridge and Parsons Green tube station. More so, when Parker’s staff is increasing 25% to 5,000. UK politicians are pushing for more oversight as The Guardian reports “This month the government will receive reports on whether chances to thwart the atrocities were missed and what lessons could be learned. Ministers and the National Security Council wanted independent oversight of the review, in essence not allowing MI5 or counter-terrorism police to assess themselves. Oversight is being provided by the barrister David Anderson QC, a former government appointment as independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.”
From a BBC report:
“Mr Parker was asked what was the point of MI5 surveillance when someone who had made ‘no secret of his affiliations with jihadist extremism’ had then been allowed to go on to launch a deadly attack. He said the risk from each individual was assessed on a ‘daily and weekly basis’ and then prioritised ‘accordingly’.
‘One of the main challenges we’ve got is that we only ever have fragments of information, and we have to try to assemble a picture of what might happen, based on those fragments.’
He said the likelihood was that when an attacked happened, it would be carried out by someone ‘that we know or have known’ – otherwise it would mean they had been looking in completely the wrong place”.
Defending his agency, Parker stated that 20 terror plots had been prevented during the last four years and seven in the last seven months. However, he lamented “The threat is more diverse than I’ve ever known. Plots developed here in the UK, but plots directed from overseas as well. Plots online. Complex scheming and also crude stabbings; lengthy planning but also spontaneous attacks. Extremists of all ages, gender and backgrounds, united only by the toxic ideology of violent victory that drives them.”
Journalists pressed Parker on the role of technology firms and social media platforms. He remained relatively diplomatic, but said they were inadvertently helping terrorists and emphasized their “ethical responsibility” to do more in helping the government in the “dark edges” of the internet.
As an aside, there was a different story about MI5 in the Daily Mail last weekend. Under the headline “Communists monitored by MI5 over fears they could destroy democracy are now senior advisors to (Labour leader) Corbyn, claims the spy agency’s former chief.” Dame Stella Rimington, who headed the agency from 1992-96 said “I see in Momentum (left-wing political organisation) some of the people who we were looking at in the Trotskyist organisations of the 1980s. They are now grown up and advising our would-be prime minister Mr Corbyn as to how to prepare himself for power.”
Great…although hardly a surprise.
Rimington and MI5 refused to name names. According to the Mail, “Labour MPs have suggested possible candidates included Mr Corby’s spin doctor, Seamus Milne, Momentum founder Jon Lansman and the Unite’s chief of staff, Andrew Murray, who worked for Labour’s election campaign.” Closer to finance, we shouldn’t forget that UK’s Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, said he was a Marxist four years ago “Look I’m straight, I’m honest with people, I’m a Marxist” and pledged to “overthrow capitalism.”