On the edge of the elections, we see new developments in a few areas. The issue is not the people trying to keep others safe; it is now to some extent the law that is aiding people getting killed. Here we see the first of a few issues, that first one being the Human Rights Act 1998. Now, let’s be clear! I am not against the HRA. The issue is that it is now protecting terrorists in completing their goals, which was not what it was intended to do. That issue is seen at the very beginning of article 2.1. Here we see: ‘Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.‘
This gives us that Terrorists cannot be hunted down; the first rule is to capture them alive, whilst knowingly endangering the lives of many. In addition we see articles 6, 7 and 8 messing things up (in light of terrorism); still it is not a failure of the law.
The issue is that these laws were never designed with the abundance of terrorism to the amount we see nowadays. The fact that any armed police action, aimed on capturing terrorists is placing them in harm’s way, but in an unrealistic and unacceptable way. A policeman’s life is set to a higher degree of danger, whilst giving the terrorist a prolonged time to act out the acts of terrorism. It is in this light that we should see ‘May: I’ll rip up human rights laws that impede new terror legislation‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/06/theresa-may-rip-up-human-rights-laws-impede-new-terror-legislation). There is a growing concern that the laws of our nations have been a hindrance in dealing with acts of terrorism. In addition we see another return with “It is possible May’s plans could involve seeking further derogations from the ECHR. This is the way the government is seeking to prevent human rights claims against soldiers in future military situations“, the question is not just in the laws, the issue we see with “May was then repeatedly challenged about how the Home Office, police and intelligence services dealt with the information relating to the attackers, after Boris Johnson, her foreign secretary, said MI5 had questions to answer. One of the attackers, Khuram Butt, 27, had been reported to the anti-terror hotline in 2015 and a third attacker, Youssef Zaghba, 22, had been detained by Italian authorities in 2016”, there are questions for MI5 to answer, yet it is not just them. The UK needs to establish to with level SIGINT (GCHQ) has been missing the ball.
Now there are two problems with that assumption of mine. The first is whether the European intelligence services have been keeping its allies and NATO partners up to date on movements. The second is how some allies classify certain people of interest (Youssef Zaghba). Without that knowledge we end up kicking both MI6 and GCHQ without actual cause. So it is not just MI5. We can wonder how certain borders were passed as well as how we will stop certain events from happening. So Boris Johnson is correct that there should be questions and answers, yet in the first only to the smallest degree and in the second, I would want to ask GCHQ a few questions before knocking on the door of Andrew Parker. The fact that he goes straight to the door of MI5, gives an implicit lack of knowledge on the address of Boris Johnson which is not the way we know him, so I wonder what he is playing at, at present. This now gets us to ‘Police and MI5 face further scrutiny after third attack since March’ (at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/05/police-and-mi5-face-further-scrutiny-after-third-attack-since-march). The part that matters here is “MI5 has a staff of 4,000, with up to 1,000 more promised by 2020, to keep tabs on a list of 3,000 people classified as “subjects of interest”, who included Butt, and to engage in other activities. Counter-terrorism accounts for just over 60% of what MI5 does”. We can hide behind the numbers to some extent as we consider that 1650 keep tabs on 3,000 people. This implied two people to watch per agent, this in a situation where it is about resources. In addition when we consider “Another of the London attackers, Rachid Redouane, was not known to the police or MI5, the police said”. The numbers show the impossibility of the task. In opposition we get that either the UK becomes an unlivable police state, or we take the war to them and prune the HRA to a larger extent. Weirdly enough, that gives us the headache that the HRA is losing potency, something that none of the players want. We basically move a nation into a place where we end up getting ourselves killed. As Richard Barrett, former director of global counter-terrorism operations at MI6 states: “I do not want to live in a state like that”. So even the agencies want a non-police state system, as such we need to consider other evolutions.
So how to go forward?
Until we get an actual union of interest in the Intelligence industry there will be an age of uncertainty. As SIGINT departments unite to set forth the first need of identifying the dangers and replicate that knowledge we are at an impasse. If this reads weird, then let me explain it. The function of GCHQ is to monitor and report to the UK agencies. This is how it should be in the past. In this age of ISIS/ISIL we need to consider that SIGINT agencies set the data in one common database when it concerns terrorists. So basically GCHQ forwards Intel directly to NSO (Netherlands), DGSE (France), SAIC (Germany) and so on. After that (or actually at the same time) the obtained data goes to MI5 and MI6. As filters are removed the whole gets more and quicker intelligence on movements. There is no issue with Brexit or Bremain, this is about European security, and as Europe becomes safer, so will the UK be safer. This path has never been walked because the trouble is with containing intelligence going into the open. In this setting we have intelligence filters this is not a bad thing, but the need in light of the attacks require us all to rethink the issues. There is an additional benefit that the union of data could give additional clusters of information, clustering’s we did not have in the past. It gives voice to not just paths of interests, but a path of people that are a justifiable target in this situation. A path that is partially hindered by the Human Rights Act in a way that was never the intent of the Human Rights Act in the first place.
The issue becomes a larger issue when we see certain media. Now as we exclude the tabloids on mere grounds of inferior intellect and increased factors like being clueless and greed driven through the expanse of emotion, we do get some media that should have known better. So when we see “Dame Stella Rimington, the first female director general of the agency, spoke out this week (6 June) during a keynote speech at 2017’s Infosecurity conference. The former spymaster took the time to urge for a calm response in the wake of recent London terror attacks” (at http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/former-mi5-chief-nobody-really-knows-how-deal-cyber-espionage-1625025), we see in addition “We are facing a world where there’s cyber-espionage now, which nobody really knows how to effectively deal with. We are facing a world of very complex communications which make it very difficult [for] our intelligence services to keep pace with changes taking place.”
This is a path that has a few additional repercussions. The first repercussion is seen in the need of new technology to meet the challenges. The second repercussion is seen in combined need to evolve HUMINT, FININT and GEOINT. As money can be transferred through alternative means in faster ways and new methods we see that the terrorists are equipped and given new means to which several intelligence paths have no way to counter at present. The simplest issue of funding terrorist infrastructure through international debit cards is a nightmare to get through. Ordering these debit cards with up to 5,000 euros is getting easier and payment via web becomes increasingly easy. Getting these cards in Western Europe and dispense them to the dangerous elements in the UK is an increased danger as we now have a situation where HUMINT and FININT walk two very different paths. If we do not get an evolved SIGINT solution, we will see an escalation of events whilst the intelligence will fail. At present when a student is found with 2,000 euro a flag is raised (not always), yet when a student is seen with a debit card and 300 Euro, no flag will ever be raised. The cyber path is intervening on several levels increasing the dangers of a successful attack as they just get what they need at their destination. Nowadays a student goes into a car rental place, has his international student ID, picks up a van, pays with the prepaid card and he is off to load it up with explosives. At this point, when properly done, SIGINT, HUMINT and FININT will all have failed to stop this. This is the danger that Dame Stella Rimington is warning us about. And whilst the tabloid jokes are all about the emotions and the blame game towards the intelligence service, we see that failure after failure stacks up, mainly because what the intelligence agencies need is not coming their way. It’s like giving Jenson Button the task of winning the F1 trophy whilst giving him an Edsel to get the job done, which seems a little too unfair on the poor lad.
The world evolved too fast in too many directions and in this terrorists, especially lone wolves could use the system to remain largely invisible until it is too late. It is a collection of what we used to perceive as unrealistic elements ion danger assessment that is now stopping police and agencies in finding the targets trying to hurt innocent civilians. The game has become too unbalanced, and for the most I agree with Richard Barrett. Yet, in equal measure, we see a lack of evolution in technology that the seekers need to classify disseminated information as well as being able to cluster a multitude of databases each filled with variable information to find that needle, hoping that you are even near the right haystack. Consider the scenario I just painted. Finding that person would be near impossible if the Lone Wolf kept to the ground. So where is the validation of blame? There is none and the people actually realise this. It does not change the job, or the challenge. It merely increases the pressure. So when I read: “The third attacker was named as Youssef Zaghba, an Italian national of Moroccan descent, who was living in east London” there is no concern to be elevated into some danger status, yet when we see in addition “is said to have told Italian authorities “I’m going to be a terrorist”, while officers reportedly found Islamic State-related material on his mobile phone when they intercepted him” makes it a different issue (apart from any person proclaiming to become a terrorist to the police). How long until that news reached the UK? In addition, what did the Italians do to stop this possible extremist? When we see a file on Youssef Zaghba in the areas of FININT and SIGINT, what do they reveal? You see, we might not stop all events, yet there is an increased chance that any previous success by these lone wolves will leave us with information that potentially stops the next attack. That will leave us with increased options when SIGINT will start sharing the data internationally.
We are in a phase where we get ourselves killed, not because of the failing of the agencies, but with our complacency regarding human rights and thinking that the agencies did not need certain elements. As we are bragging on Facebook and demanding the government does not collect data, we place ourselves in harm’s way, which is increasingly stupid.
Yet in equal measure spending irresponsibly (read: Jeremy Corbyn’s lame promise) is equally dangerous. You see we need to work on actual solutions, not buy 1000 staff members, 15 servers and hope it will work itself out. That is a recipe for a political pork pie that leaves us with indigestion.
There is a lot that requires doing, let’s not get ourselves killed whilst doing that.