A specialist unit set up by Britain’s security agency MI5 has been helping the intelligence service get into the minds of terrorists and has helped foil at least seven attacks in the past year, a repo
A specialist unit set up by Britain’s security agency MI5 has been helping the intelligence service get into the minds of terrorists and has helped foil at least seven attacks in the past year, a report said on Sunday.
The Behavioural Science Unit (BSU) is based at Thames House, headquarters of the UK’s domestic counter-intelligence and security agency — MI5.
“It takes some doing to go from talking about carrying out a violent act like killing to actually doing it. We deal with probabilities and that is the nature of our work,” said Neil, an Arabic and Norwegian speaker who has worked for the unit for six years.
“We provide an assessment of the subject of interest but the final decision lies with the [investigating] officer,” Neil told The Sunday Times which reports that it was granted “unprecedented access” last week to some of the staff who work at the unit.
He said the officer’s team is passed intelligence by officers that is gleaned from a network of informants and the public.
“The BSU then looks for signs of unusual activity, such as an increasing sense of grievance, a desire to acquire skills and tactics. An attempt to identify material for their plans and logistical practice and trial runs,” Neil said.
Research by MI5 shows more than 60 per cent of so-called lone wolves unwittingly provide clues that they are preparing to strike.
In a quest to determine the intention of its “subjects of interest” the BSU team pays close attention to “lone-actor” terrorists.
Sources might include surveillance logs, records of online activity or tips from the public about suspicious activity.
“When it comes to their capability, we look at what they are doing to overcome their inhibitions to kill,” said Charlotte, a former prison psychologist who joined the BSU team three years ago.
“They may be watching beheading videos, have a history of violence, either as perpetrators.. Or because they have been exposed to violence and have become desensitised to the harm it has caused them,” Charlotte said.
People who become lone actors develop intent, develop capability and plan and prepare for their act. Some of these processes can be very rapid, while others may take years, Charlotte added.
The number of experts working in the BSU, which was created in 2004, has more than doubled since the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013 by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, two Muslim converts who had shown subtle signs of becoming more radical, a subsequent report by UK Parliament’s intelligence and security committee found.