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BBC Special on Terrorism in the U.K.


Here’s a Times of London piece on an upcomoing BBC Radio 4 program titled, “The Real Spooks.” Some excerpts:

By July 7, 2005 the home-grown threat was clearer, but the suicide bombings in London that day still came as a surprise.

“The fact these were British citizens did really bring the system up with a jolt and had serious implications for what we were trying to do,” said Sir Richard Mottram, who has just retired as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.

After 7/7, MI5 faced a barrage of criticism when it emerged that during Crevice it had had multiple sightings of two of the bombers. But Peter Clarke, head of the Metropolitan police counterterrorism command, told me that collecting enough evidence to make sure any charges stuck had been vital.


Jonathan Evans, MI5’s director-general, last month talked of 2,000 people his organisation believed were a threat to national security – and possibly as many again whom they didn’t know about. In practice that means the days of having the luxury of running operations long and waiting to collect as much intelligence as possible may be disappearing.

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said one counterterrorism official.


Dealing with foreign partners can sometimes put Britain’s security officers in uncomfortable situations. A senior Pakistani intelligence officer told me that when his service picks up a suspect who is also of interest to the UK, British officials are allowed to watch the interrogation from a neighbouring room on video monitors. Occasionally they will also interrogate jointly.

It is unlikely that the Pakistanis would maltreat anyone seriously in front of their British counterparts, but there are times when MI5 and the British government will get information that might have been the result of torture.

“Intelligence doesn’t come like pots of jam with labels and health warnings,” argues Sir David Omand, security and intelligence co-ordinator 2002-5. “If you receive intelligence which looks as if it bears on the security of people living here, you have a duty to follow it up.”


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