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Government to spread sharing of terrorism data

11/12/17

Response to report on London and Manchester attacks points to role for local authorities in monitoring threats

More intelligence data will be shared with local authorities after a report revealed chances were missed to thwart the Manchester Arena attack that killed 22 people.

The home secretary revealed that “multi-agency pilots” will be launched to improve the management of “closed subjects” – terror suspects no longer under active investigation.

Amber RuddAmber Rudd (pictured) said she was already in discussions with Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, about a trial that would form part of an overhaul of Britain's fight against terrorism.

The move was announced as part of Rudd’s response to a report by the barrister David Anderson into this year’s spate of terror attacks in which a total of 36 people died.

Anderson found that the Manchester attack might have been prevented because MI5 had intelligence about the suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, “whose true significance was not appreciated at the time”.

The leader of the later assault at London Bridge struck while under investigation by MI5, his report said.

Meanwhile, the level of threat is assessed by counter-terrorism experts to have increased significantly, with warnings more attacks will get through Britain's defences.

New approaches

Announcing the overhaul in the Commons, the home secretary said: “First, there needs to be a concerted effort to enhance the ability of MI5 and the police to use data to detect activity of concern and to test new approaches in the acquisition, sharing and analysis of data.

“Secondly, MI5 should share its intelligence more widely, and work with partners such as local authorities on how best to manage the risk posed by closed subjects of interest in particular.

“We are considering undertaking multi-agency pilots in a number of areas, including Greater Manchester, and I have already started discussing how to take this forward with Andy Burnham.”

Under questioning, Rudd added: “There is already substantial sharing of data, but the report signals that more could be done. Learning from the actual attacks and from the attacks that have been foiled gives a particular momentum to that initiative.”

MI5 is dealing with a surge in jihadist activity, facing more plots in the first half of 2017 than in all of 2016. Nine have been thwarted since March, with two more people charged this week with an alleged plan to attack the gates of Downing Street.

Possible aversion

On the Abedi attack, Anderson said: “It is conceivable that the Manchester attacks, in particular, might have been averted had the cards fallen differently.”

In the weeks before the attack, on 22 May, an exercise to examine which of 20,000 former terror suspects were worth further inquiry identified Abedi as “one of a small number of individuals” meriting further examination.

But he was one out of a total of more than 20,000 “closed subjects of interest” - and the meeting to discuss this was not scheduled until 31 May, eight days after the attack.

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