Recent months have seen four devastating terror attacks in the UK; the recent attack in London Bridge and Borough Market has once again highlighted a severe shortage in the number of investigative analysts within the law enforcement arena.
The amount of information acquired electronically as a result of intelligence gathering is astronomical, and it is becoming a concern that there is simply too much data to sift through with current resources available. This data has grown further due to the Investigatory Powers Act that was passed last November. This Act legalised a number of tools that can be used for snooping and hacking by UK intelligence agencies and police forces; providing unparalleled surveillance powers, not seen anywhere else in the Western World.
Each attack in recent months was followed by the announcement that security services had ‘reliable, well-sourced material’ on each of the perpetrators, with regards to associations or links to radicalisation.
- Khuram Butt, had previously been reported to the anti-terror hotline in 2015 and had been investigated by MI5 for his ties to the banned network al-Muhajiroun.
- UK intelligence had been warned of Youssef Zaghba’s risk of radicalisation by the Italian police who had previously interrogated him. Subsequently Zaghba was added to the Schengen Information System, an EU database that provides details of jihadis in Europe.
- Salman Abedi was also known to MI5, categorised as priority 4, he was deemed at risk of re-engaging with Islamist extremism but had not been found to be planning an attack.
- As with Abedi, Khalid Masood who carried out the attack on Westminster Bridge in March, was classed as priority 4, it was understood that he was an Islamist but was not deemed a threat.
Security experts have warned that these individuals have slipped through the net due to a severe lack of analytical experts to sift through, decode and contextualise the tremendous amount of information that intelligence agencies receive each day.
Following the attacks MI5 has announced that it will be reviewing procedures for prioritising their suspects; however, Raffaello Pantucci, the Director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, has highlighted the need for a potential separate unit to evaluate decisions made when classifying the risk of suspects.
We predict that coming months will see a drive for intelligence analysts within the law enforcement field; and as a result of this we want to stress the importance of effective training for these roles that require highly skilled individuals.