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MI5 to scrutinise counter-terrorism operations after May calls for review
PM’s call reflects concerns over increase in tempo of attacks as fears grow that police and security services missed opportunities to stop attacks
by Ewen MacAskill, Rowena Mason and Vikram Dodd - The Guardian
The British domestic intelligence agency MI5 is to take a hard look at its counter-terrorism operations in the wake of the London Bridge attack after Theresa May took the unusual step of calling publicly for a review.
The prime minister’s decision to go public adds to the pressure MI5 is under as further questions emerge over whether it did enough to stop the attack.
May’s call reflects concern over a sudden increase in the tempo of attacks and plots. There is also worry over whether the police and security services missed opportunities, including a disclosure from Italian intelligence that it had flagged up to its British counterparts worries about the third attacker, the Moroccan-Italian Youssef Zaghba.
As well as internal reviews by MI5 and the Metropolitan police counter-terrorism team, parliament’s intelligence and security committee is expected to hold a full inquiry. It carried out investigations after the 2005 London bombings and the 2013 murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby.
May pledged that MI5 will carry out a review after being repeatedly challenged about how the Home Office, police and intelligence services dealt with the information relating to the attackers. Her foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, said MI5 had questions to answer.
She defended the performance of the intelligence agencies in foiling attacks at a time when the “tempo is increasing” in a way not seen before. She told Sky News: “I absolutely recognise people’s concerns.”
May, speaking on the campaign trail, said: “We need to look at how the terror threat is evolving, the way that terrorism is breeding terrorism and the increased tempo of attacks. We have had three horrific attacks and we have foiled five others. The tempo is there in a way we haven’t seen before.”
On the review into MI5 and the police, she said: “We will look at how the processes were followed, what they did. They will want to be looking at that because they will want to learn lessons for the future, if there are those lessons to be learned.”
MI5 conducts reviews after every attack to see what lessons can be learned. At present it is still heavily engaged in investigations into the Manchester bombing as well as the London attacks. But the prime minister may be looking for more than such fine-tuning.
A concern within the higher reaches of government is why people regarded as low to medium risk decide to stage attacks.