Top spook says UK faces Islamist terror threat for 20 years
Former MI5 chief Jonathan Evans called Islamist terrorism a “generational problem”.world Updated: Aug 11, 2017 18:37 IST
Jonathan Evans, who headed intelligence agency MI5 from 2007 to 2013, believes that Islamist terrorism will remain a threat to the United Kingdom for the next 20 years, calling it a “generational problem”.
“We’re at least 20 years into this. My guess is that we will still be dealing with the long tail in another 20 years’ time – I think this is genuinely a generational problem,” he told the BBC’s Today programme.
“There’s no doubt that we are still facing a severe terrorist threat but I think it’s also important to put this in a slightly longer context because right the way back from the 1990s we have been experiencing difficulties from Islamist terrorists of one sort or another”.
“Over that period, the threat has come and gone but the underlying threat has continued. Since 2013, there have been 19 attempted attacks that have been disrupted and even since the attack at Westminster we are told there have been six disruptions, so this is a permanent state of preparedness,” he added.
According to him, the July 7, 2005 London bombings had an “energising effect on the extremist networks in the UK”, and thought the Westminster Bridge attack on March 22 would have a similar effect.
“We did see a huge upsurge in threat intelligence after July 7 and I suspect that there’s the same sort of feeling in the period after the Westminster Bridge attack – that a lot of people who thought ‘I’d like to do this’ suddenly decided ‘Yep, if they can do it, then I can do it’.”
Evans, however, said terrorism was not the only threat, and singled out the threat to cyberspace. Home secretary Amber Rudd last week asked major internet companies at the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism to cooperate in dealing with terrorism.
“The way in which cyberspace is being used by criminals and by governments is a potential threat to the UK’s interests more widely. It’s very important that we should be seen and be a country in which people can operate securely – that’s important for our commercial interests as well as our security interests, so encryption in that context is very positive.”
“As our vehicles, air transport, our critical infrastructure is resting critically on the internet, we need to be really confident that we have secured that because our economic and daily lives are going to be dependent on the security we can put in to protect us from cyber-attack,” Evans added.