Britain’s senior-most intelligence official has warned that UK-based Islamist extremists pose a serious threat to the country.
MI5 director-general Andrew Parker highlighted that Al Qaeda and its affiliates in South Asia present “the most direct and immediate threats to the UK” in his first public address since he took charge of his role as the head of the country’s Security Service in April.
“It remains the case that there are several thousand Islamist extremists here who see the British public as a legitimate target. Being on our radar does not necessarily mean being under our microscope,” Parker said.
“The reality of intelligence work in practice is that we only focus the most intense intrusive attention on a small number of cases at any one time. The challenge therefore concerns making choices between multiple and competing demands
to give us the best chance of being in the right place at the right time to prevent terrorism,” he added.
Addressing the Royal United Services Institute in Whitehall here,the espionage expert also stressed on the damage done by recent revelations by former US intelligence official turned whistleblower Edward Snowden.
“GCHQ intelligence has played a vital role in stopping many of the terrorist plots that MI5 and the police have tackled in the past decade. It causes enormous damage to make public the reach and limits of GCHQ techniques. Such information hands the advantage to the terrorists,” he said.
Parker,who led the investigation into the July 7 attacks on London’s transport network,did not mention Snowden by name but stressed that such leaks had shrunk the “margin of advantage” for his officers.
With 30 years in MI5,Parker was previously deputy director general and before that director of its counter-terrorism division at the time of the London bombings in 2005.
Tracing the nature of how terror threats have changed over time,he added: “We are not perfect,and there are always things we can learn,do better and sharpen up on.”