A former head of Britain’s foreign spying apparatus (MI6) has acknowledged that the security forces lack the required capability to prevent atrocities like the Woolwich murder.
Richard Barrett said preventing such terror attacks was “incredibly hard”, admitting that the UK forces are virtually powerless to stop such crimes like what happened in a southeast London street last week, when two assailants attacked a trooper and hacked him to death in broad daylight.
Killers Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale were both known to MI5, Britain’s domestic spying apparatus, but were classed as fringe figures who did not merit full scale monitoring.
MI5 chiefs are facing tough questions about how much was known about the two men and when they were last “on the radar”.
But Barrett, ex-head of counter-terrorism at MI6, believes there was little MI5 could have done to prevent the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, the trooper killed in Woolwich attack.
“I think it is incredibly hard to stop,” he said. “When does a person who expresses radical views, who joins a radical group, flip over to be a violent extremist? To find the signals, the red flags as it were, I think is enormously hard.
“I should imagine that these two people themselves probably didn’t have any intention to commit a crime like this until relatively recently before they did it.”
“They must have had some indication that these guys were a problem in order to note their names. But it is one thing to note their names, it is quite another thing to take invasive action to track their movements”, added Barrett.
Lord Blair, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said there were “thousands and thousands of people who listen to extremists”.
MI5 and MI6 must go after the most dangerous suspects who travel abroad for terrorist training, he said. “The Security Service (MI5) has limited resources. They must prioritise people who are most likely to move from being interested in violent extremism to carrying it out.
“Even if you have the resources to do it, you have to have a very high level of suspicion to put surveillance on them. What are you monitoring? Lots of people have very odd views”, Lord Blair added.
daily alternative | alternative news – Ex-MI6 chief admits ‘UK incapable of stopping home-grown terror’