Let’s lose the kid gloves and get tough on in­ter­net giants

The Mail on Sunday - - Terror On The Tube - By MICHAEL BURLEIGH AU­THOR AND HIS­TO­RIAN

WEST­MIN­STER, Manch­ester, Lon­don Bridge, Par­sons Green – an alarm­ing spate of at­tacks in the course of a sin­gle year.

MI5 and the po­lice should be praised for thwart­ing numer­ous plots, par­tic­u­larly when you bear in mind that the au­thor­i­ties es­ti­mate there are no fewer than 23,000 peo­ple in the UK with the po­ten­tial to be­come ji­hadis.

It takes a min­i­mum of 30 peo­ple to keep a sus­pect un­der close 24/7 sur­veil­lance, so here we must be re­al­is­tic: it is not pos­si­ble to stop every at­tack and we must pre­pare our­selves for more.

Cer­tainly, in­creas­ing MI5’s man­power be­yond the cur­rent 4,000 is not the so­lu­tion since it takes a long time to train agents prop­erly. This is not a coun­sel of

We must do ev­ery­thing we can to dis­rupt these ji­hadis

de­spair, how­ever. There are things we can and must do bet­ter.

It is a dis­grace, for ex­am­ple, that de­spite the in­ci­dents in re­cent months, Par­lia­ment’s In­tel­li­gence and Se­cu­rity Com­mit­tee, chaired by Do­minic Grieve, has not met since April. This is thanks mainly to the de­mands of party pol­i­tics, to the dis­rup­tion of the Elec­tion and the ar­gu­ments about the com­po­si­tion of the com­mit­tee in the new Par­lia­ment. Yet this group is sup­posed to mon­i­tor the ef­fec­tive­ness of our strat­egy and tac­tics pre­cisely to de­fend our­selves against at­tacks such as this. Con­ti­nu­ity could have been guar­an­teed.

I be­lieve the Govern­ment should aban­don its kid-glove treat­ment of Google, Face­book and Twit­ter and com­pel the in­ter­net giants to re­move in­stantly any forms of in­cite­ment and sub­ver­sion, and poi­sonous ma­te­rial which Is­lamists can watch in the safety of their homes. Yes, there is a right to free speech, but there is also a right to life.

I am con­cerned that, since the end of the Cold War, the au­thor­i­ties have aban­doned mon­i­tor­ing those who ac­tively op­pose our broader way of life. And I re­gret the abo­li­tion of Spe­cial Branch, whose re­gion­ally based of­fi­cers have been swal­lowed up into ei­ther MI5 or the new po­lice SO15 counter-ter­ror­ist com­mand. A great deal of lo­cal knowl­edge has been lost in the process. Sit­ting be­hind com­puter screens at MI5 HQ is no sub­sti­tute for get­ting out and about on the streets.

It is also a fact that cuts to lo­cal govern­ment bud­gets mean that some rad­i­cal Is­lamists have been able to take over the role va­cated by youth work­ers in help­ing trou­bled young peo­ple.

There are en­cour­ag­ing signs that the Govern­ment is be­gin­ning to tackle ji­hadi re­cruit­ment in our pris­ons, es­tab­lish­ing spe­cial­ist units to iso­late the more de­vi­ous and in­flu­en­tial fig­ures. How­ever, we should also pay at­ten­tion to the known or sus­pected agents of in­flu­ence who are still at lib­erty.

The state should use the full force of its bu­reau­cracy to mon­i­tor their en­gage­ment with the ben­e­fits sys­tem, with visas, with driv­ing li­cences and so on. And where there are in­frac­tions, no op­por­tu­nity should be lost to bring the law to bear down on them. Their way of life should be dis­rupted.

Fi­nally, we must be hard of heart and mind to­wards the hun­dreds of IS killers now held in de­ten­tion in Iraq and Syria – and far too dan­ger­ous ever to be al­lowed back to these shores. These fight­ers would have enor­mous cred­i­bil­ity were they ever to re­turn to Birm­ing­ham, Lu­ton or Waltham­stow.

The French re­sponse to this has been sim­ple: the iden­ti­ties of its over­seas ji­hadis has been qui­etly shared with pro-Western lo­cal mili­tias. They will not be re­turn­ing to France.

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