LONDON, U.K. - Following last year’s wave of terror attacks in the United Kingdom, the country’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid has now revealed that the MI5 is planning a change of strategy.
In his first speech on security since replacing Amber Rudd as Home Secretary, Javid said on Monday that for the first time ever, Britain's homeland secret service is planning to declassify and share information on U.K. citizens that are suspected of having terrorist sympathies.
Javid said, “This Government is absolutely committed to doing everything possible to tackle terrorism. One of the lessons from 2017 was that we need to work more broadly and share that data more locally.”
The Home Secretary revealed that as part of this plan, key biographical data will be given to neighbourhood police, councils and the charity commission in London, Midlands and Manchester trial schemes.
He added that last year's wave of terror attacks showed the need for wider and more local exchange of information and that officials were now planning in a way to not leave any "safe spaces" for terror suspects anywhere.
He said that there must be "no safe spaces in the U.K. for terrorists to spread their vile views, or for them to plan and carry out attacks and no safe spaces online for terrorist propaganda and technical expertise to be shared, and for people to be radicalised in a matter of weeks.”
Javid added that there had been a "step change" in the threat to the U.K., revealing that 25 Islamist-linked plots had been foiled in the last five years and four extreme right plots had been stopped since March 2017.
He said that to counter this, he was calling for increased - and faster - sharing of information between security services and the police as well as local authorities and other public agencies including the Probation Service, the Charity Commission and the Communities department.
According to recent data revealed by the MI5, the security services currently hold information on around 20,000 people that are labelled “closed subjects of concern.”
These individuals have previously been investigated and officials believe they could pose a threat in the future.
Further explaining the strategy, Javid said that examples of co-operation could lead to "faster alerts for suspicious purchases, improving security at crowded places across the U.K., and reducing the vulnerability of our critical infrastructure.”
According to the country’s ministers, firms should raise an alarm as quickly as possible if they have evidence of unusual transactions - including stockpiling of large amounts of chemicals or suspicious behavior when hiring a vehicle.
Ministers said that the move emerges from concern over a sharp reduction in the timeframe between the conception and execution of terror plots.
Javid further noted that other proposals include increasing maximum sentences for some offences and enhancing the use of data to track terrorism suspects.
Javid has also argued that the Islamic State group and right-wing extremists were "more similar than they might like to think.”
Adding, "They both exploit grievances, distort the truth, and undermine the values that hold us together.”
The Home Secretary unveiled detailed plans a day after he confirmed that the security services were to get 2,000 extra officers.
Further, the MI5, MI6 and GCHQ is now said to be planning to recruit up to 2,000 spies to help survey more potential terrorists, while police and security services will be handed tough powers to arrest suspects before they have finalised their plans.
Commenting on the plans discussed by Javid, Security minister Ben Wallace reportedly said that classified information would be divulged where "proportionate and necessary.”
He added in an interview with BBC that the move was not aimed at "hardened plotters,” but the "large pool" of people who might assist them in different ways, including by lending money.
Security officials believe that early intervention could protect those potentially vulnerable to radicalisation.
Yet, they have pointed out that there was a risk that entirely innocent people could find themselves "effectively blacklisted.”
On Sunday, U.K. Security services said that they expect the threat from Islamist terror to remain at its current heightened level of "severe" for at least another two years - meaning the police and secret services expect there could be a terror attack at any time.
The newly unveiled plans come after the Government launched a shake-up of the U.K.’s counter-terrorism strategy after extremists carried out atrocities in Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge, Parsons Green and Finsbury Park, leading to the loss of 36 lives.