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1 December 2014

Dear Home Secretary

In a statement to the Commons on 25 November the Prime Minister announced an increase in funding to the security agencies of £130 million over the next two years. From the website of one of the security agencies, we are informed that the overall budget in the coming year will be £2 billion. Perhaps 40% of this is for MI5 for its domestic security responsibilities. Such provisions will lead to further staffing increases, estimated to have risen for MI5 from around 2000 at 9/11 to perhaps five times that number today.

As the Cabinet Minister responsible for this agency, and now steering the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, you have also made some dramatic announcements recently – that ‘forty terrorist plots have been disrupted since 7/7’, and  ‘four to five serious plots have been foiled this year alone’.

The purpose here is not to question budgets, headcounts or such declarations of mission accomplished.   It is clear from the political rhetoric that domestic security is about controlling Muslims.  The proposed Bill refers to preventing return to Britain, seizure of passports,  making the Channel ‘early intervention’ programme statutory. The level of surveillance and use of informers will be far beyond the security regime in force during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Then, with a much lower level of technology, the Caister and collator systems had much of the population on file. The British Muslim population of 2.78 million is greater than Northern Ireland’s, but not excessively from a systems design point of view. The purpose here  is to express concern that by making domestic security  all about controlling British Muslims, there is a blind spot.

This is the danger to peace and harmony  lurking within extremist right wing groups.  Rifleman Ryan McGee, recently sentenced for making a nail bomb in Manchester, ‘had links to far right groups in Europe on his computer and watched a video of two men being executed under a swastika flag’.  Pavlo Lapshyn,  murderer of  Birmingham pensioner Muhammad Saleem  told police he hated ‘non-whites’.  Websites reporting Islamophobic incidents have logged the attacks by BNP, EDL and Britain First, and these are growing by the day.  There are lessons to be learned from the fiasco of the Norwegian’s equivalent of MI5 in preventing Brevik’s mass murder. The Norwegian security agencies were clueless:

Before he went on his mass killing spree in 2011, Anders Behring Breivik was a regular at the Palace Grill in Oslo West. He looked harmless: another blond man trying to chat up women at the bar. ‘He came across as someone with a business degree,’ one woman recalled, ‘one of those West End boys in very conservative clothes.’…He did little to hide his obsessions. One night in late 2010, he was at the Palace Grill when a local TV celebrity walked in. Breivik launched into a speech about the Muslim plot against Norway, and about the Knights Templar. The bouncers threw him out. On the street, he said to the celebrity: ‘In one year’s time, I’ll be three times as famous as you.’

…On the morning of 22 July 2011, Breivik uploaded his manifesto to his favourite websites, and emailed it to 1003 contacts in Europe and Israel. He’d timed the launch to coincide with the events he’d planned for later in the day: a bombing in central Oslo, followed by a strike on Utøya, an island 40 kilometres north of the city where the Labour Party Youth had their annual retreat. He’d been preparing the attack since 2002, he claimed when interrogated by the police. He had bought his Ruger rifle and Glock pistol legally; the rifle bore the inscription ‘Gungnir’, after Odin’s spear. He built the 950 kg bomb with fertiliser he’d purchased for a farm he set up in 2009 on land rented from elderly farmers north of Oslo. Five months before the massacre, a UN-directed anti-terror programme identified him as one of 41 Norwegians who had imported chemicals that could be used for fertiliser bombs, but the Norwegian security services didn’t investigate. They were worried about radical jihadists, not West End boys who lived with their mothers.[Adam Shatz in the London Review of Books, Vol. 36 No. 22 · 20 November 2014]

Home Secretary, the need of the hour in Britain is greater alertness on the danger to life and limb posed by the extreme right, before a tragedy of Brevik proportions befalls us.   The political rhetoric and media gives lavish coverage to Muslims, but it seems that the fascist and racist elements of British society receive a benign touch and the extent of their networks are down-played. There ought to be concern too with the number of Afghan veterans, battle-hardened, some traumatised – the number of veterans with mental health problems has surged and a proportion are homeless. They will be susceptible to the lure of  right-wing fanatics, be it Combat 18, the English Volunteer Force, Britain First or the EDL splinter group ‘Infidels’.

Our security agencies should learn from the parable of  Naseruddin Khoja, who spent time looking for his lost needle by the lamp post, because that was the spot well  illuminated.

Salaam Blogger

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