MI5 and how to deal with homegrown Muslim extremists

MI5 has faced a series of criticisms about the way it has tackled the threat posed to Britain by homegrown Muslim extremists. Now the Security Service has decided to publicly celebrate its success, albeit cautiously.

In the wake of the July 2005 bomb attacks on London and a series of other plots, MI5 faced accusations they had not done enough to counter the threat of al-Qaeda. Officers were found to have had a number of terror suspects who launched plots under surveillance without stopping them.

Now, following a series of successful terror prosecutions, Mr. Evans has given a relatively upbeat assessment of the battle against Muslim fundamentalists in Britain. The battle is not won, he says, but MI5’s actions are forcing them “to keep their heads down”.

New challenges may now lie abroad, he said. His interview is part of a wider strategy to gradually open up the work of the security services to the public. The first interview by a director general of MI5 was timed to coincide with the centenary of the founding of the Security Service. But is part of a more gradual opening up in which the “spooks” come in from the cold. “I don’t view this as lifting the lid,” Mr Evans said. “As a secret intelligence agency it is important that quite a lot of what we do, we don’t lift the lid on.”

Nevertheless there is a recognition that MI5 has to be accountable and it now faces behind closed doors investigations by the Intelligence and Security and Committee of parliament. His last significant speech – in which he warned that al-Qaeda was attempting to recruit British Muslims as young as 15 – was delivered on the eve of a Government announcement of new anti-terror measures.

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