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Context of 'December 1995: British Domestic Intelligence Tells Police that Islamist Militant Threat Is ‘Greatly Exaggerated’'

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A memo from MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, to the heads of police Special Branches says: “Suggestions in the press of a world-wide Islamic extremist network poised to launch terrorist attacks against the West are greatly exaggerated.… The contact between Islamic extremists in various countries appears to be largely opportunistic at present and seems unlikely to result in the emergence of a potent trans-national force.” [Daily Telegraph, 10/5/2009] MI6 is Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, and presumably, it would be more knowledgeable and concerned about Islamist militants world-wide than MI5 is.

Entity Tags: UK Security Service (MI5)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Reda Hassaine, an Algerian informer working for the Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch against Islamist extremists in London, is passed to MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence service. One of his tasks is to identify men who attend Finsbury Park mosque, a hotbed of radicalism, in photographs MI5 gives him. For the first six-month trial period, Hassaine is given £300 (equivalent of $450) per month plus £80 for expenses, but MI5 tells him to claim unemployment and housing benefit as well, “because, after all, we were dealing with the security of the country,” and “it would be a good cover story because everyone in Finsbury Park was foreign and on benefits.” In return for his work, Hassaine is promised he will obtain indefinite leave to remain in Britain, but in February 2000 he will only receive leave to remain for four years, which he will be unhappy about. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 138-9, 147-148]

Entity Tags: Finsbury Park Mosque, UK Security Service (MI5), Reda Hassaine

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The British intelligence service MI5 develops information showing that London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri has significant connections with radical militants, but fails to show this to Home Secretary David Blunkett. Blunkett apparently learns this information after Abu Hamza, who has been an MI5 informer (see Early 1997), is arrested in 2004 (see May 27, 2004). When Blunkett takes office in 2001, as he will later recall, there is an assumption that Abu Hamza “was a bigmouth and was worth tracking but wasn’t at the centre of events.” The security services have a “detailed trail” of networks, personal history, and high-level contacts showing that Abu Hamza is “a real threat and a danger,” but they do not tell Blunkett. He will reportedly be angry when he learns MI5 failed to inform him of the material. What material is provided to Blunkett and what is kept from him is unknown; MI5’s explanation for withholding the information is also unknown. Blunkett will later indicate that action should have been taken against Abu Hamza earlier: “It is clear now—and I think that those close to this would acknowledge it—that there were opportunities for having taken action. By putting the jigsaw together, it is possible for us to realize that this man was a danger becuase he was at the heart of organizing, glorifying, and persuading.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 284, 291]

Entity Tags: Abu Hamza al-Masri, UK Security Service (MI5), David Blunkett

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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