MI5 reveals plan to fight terror with national data-sharing scheme with local public sector agencies

Domestic intelligence agency looks to improve flow of info between justice agencies, NHS and social services

MI5 headquarters in central London   Credit: ALASTAIR GRANT/AP/Press Association Images

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies have revealed plans to share more data with local public sector agencies including NHS and social services in a bid to combat terrorism.

There are several such pilot schemes already up and running around the country, according to a joint statement issued this week by MI5 director general Andrew Parker and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick. The intention is that these projects will lead to the establishment of a nationwide scheme.

“A broader, multi-agency approach to managing the risk in communities posed by individuals linked to violent extremism can succeed where a more active, intrusive investigation might not,” the statement said. “This means sharing intelligence with a wider range of partners than before, such as health and social services departments, to make use of local expertise.”

It added: “This approach has parallels with how the authorities manage the risk posed by sexual or violent offenders.”

The need to share information with the broader public sector was one of “three key themes” that came out of a review of the 2017 terror attacks in Manchester and London. 

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Another theme was identifying ways of using data that “enable us to sharpen our ‘radar’ and increase insight”, Dick and Parker said.  This will involve police and the intelligence services “going further” in their burgeoning work with the private sector to explore the use of analytics.

“We have made important progress already,” the statement said. “Used in combination with knowledge from our behavioural science experts, this will give us an earlier and richer picture of our cases. It could also help us spot more quickly when individuals known to us from the past re-engage with terrorism. We do not have the resources or legal justification to actively monitor those many thousands of individuals. The challenge we are addressing is how to detect signs of developing intent.”

An increasing diversity of extremist threats was picked out as the third theme to emerge in light of the 2017 terror attacks. 

“Islamist terrorism predominates by scale, but we are also concerned about the growing threat from other forms of violent extremism”, Dick and Parker said. “Violent extremism covers a spectrum of hate-driven ideologies, including the extreme right and left. The police have been working hard to combat these threats, and over the past few years have stopped a number of right-wing terrorist attacks from getting through.

“Sadly, as the murders of Jo Cox, MP, in 2016 and Makram Ali outside Finsbury Park Mosque in 2017 demonstrated, as well as those in New Zealand, we have seen an increase in such forms of violent behaviour. MI5 has now joined the police in tackling the most serious end of the problem.”


Sam Trendall

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