James Forsyth

The view from the frontline

The view from the frontline
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The speech by Jonathan Evans, the Director General of MI5, to the Society of Editor’s conference is well worth reading in full. Iraq and the dodgy dossiers mean that it has become impossible for government ministers to talk about the terrorist threat without been accused of scaremongering or trying to win public support for an extension of the period of detention without trial, ID cars or the like so speeches from Evans and his colleagues are the best information we have on how the security establishment see the situation.

Sadly, the extent of the threat facing this country is not some piece of Blairite spin. As Evans says,

“You may recall that in her speech this time last year, my predecessor, Eliza Manningham-Buller, pointed out that this country was facing an increasing threat from Al Qaida-inspired terrorism. When she spoke, MI5 had identified around 1,600 individuals who we believed posed a direct threat to national security and public safety, because of their support for terrorism. That figure today would be at least 2,000.”

Evans goes onto warn that the security services “suspect that there are as many again that we don't yet know of.” 

Evans’s speech also shows how the Cameron doctrine of ‘national security first’ fails to grasp the nature of the challenge we face.

“Another development in the last 12 months has been the extent to which the conspiracies here are being driven from an increasing range of overseas countries.

Over the last five years much of the command, control and inspiration for attack planning in the UK has derived from Al Qaida's remaining core leadership in the tribal areas of Pakistan - often using young British citizens to mount the actual attack. But worryingly, we have more recently seen similar processes emerging elsewhere.

For instance, there is no doubt now that Al Qaida in Iraq aspires to promote terrorist attacks outside Iraq. There is no doubt that there is training activity and terrorist planning in East Africa - particularly in Somalia - which is focused on the UK.”

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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