MI5 website will analyse threat of terrorist attack




By Mark Huband, Security Correspondent

Financial Times, 18 November 2003

MI5 is to launch a web-based service setting out information on the terrorist threat.

The service, which will be launched by March 2004, will analyse the threat and suggest preparations to mitigate the impact. The launch will draw the Security Service further into the public arena.

Although there is already a substantial amount of advice and information on terrorism on the Home Office website, Whitehall felt it was not being fully used.

“People are not looking at websites unless they are directed to,” said a Whitehall official. “Security concerns are far down the food chain of companies, and they need to treat terrorism as they treat other kinds of corporate risk.”

Most of the Home Office material related to security issues is written by MI5 but Whitehall hopes more people will be drawn by allure of the agency’s Security Service stamp. The Home Office will remain solely responsible for issuing alerts, while the MI5 service will explain how to understand the threat.

The strategy is part of a process to raise MI5’s public profile and prevent complacency about the threat of terrorism. There is also the realisation that a better-informed public and more security-conscious business sector are main elements in the government’s counter-terrorism strategy.

In a recent speech to London police officers, Eliza Manningham-Buller, MI5 director-general, said: “I firmly believe that the public are sensible and realistic in their expectations of both the Security Service and our partners in countering this threat. We need to continue to tell them about the threat, explain the nature and extent of it and be clear about what can be expected of us by the public. We need and rely on public co-operation and support for our work.”

Public knowledge of what MI5 does has remained limited, however, and expectations of the service are probably not as clear as the MI5 head suggests. The aim of the service’s decision to adopt a higher profile is to create a direct link with the public.

The aim of the web service is to provide “authenticated descriptions of the threat”, said the Whitehall official. The service intends to be- come the definitive source of information, based on intelligence-gathering. “The information isn’t going to be specific because it couldn’t be done without endangering sources. But it will be authoritative,” he added.


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.