Britain’s spy chief has warned that dreaded terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS) is planning mass casualty attacks in the country as he underlined the need for greater surveillance power’ to avert any possible attack.
“In a range of attacks in Europe and elsewhere, this year we have seen greater ambition for mass casualty attacks. All of this means that the threat we are facing today is on a scale and at a tempo that I have not seen before in my career,” MI5 director-general Andrew Parker said here on Wednesday evening.
He also said that his agents had “thwarted six attempts at terrorist attacks in the UK in the last year, and several plots overseas.
“We are seeing plots against the UK directed by terrorists in Syria; enabled through contacts with terrorists in Syria; and inspired online by ISIL’s [ISIS] sophisticated exploitation of technology.
“It uses the full range of modern communications tools to spread its message of hate, and to inspire extremists, sometimes as young as teens, to conduct attacks in whatever way they can,” he said.
“More than 750 extremists from this country have travelled to Syria, and the growth in the threat shows no sign of abating,” he said.
Parker also sought to underline the importance of communications interception, in a direct reference to a new investigatory powers bill planned by the UK government and highlighted the need for greater powers of surveillance in averting terrorist attacks.
“We do not seek sweeping new intrusive powers in that legislation, but rather a modern legal framework that reflects the way that technology has moved on, and that allows us to continue to keep the country safe,” he said.
The scale of the threat meant MI5 had to update its “toolbox” of methods to fight terrorists, including using computer attacks, according to the spy chief.
He said: “This includes the ability to conduct operations online and to mount IT attacks (known as equipment interference), under a warrant authorised by the Home Secretary, against terrorist networks, so that we can access their communications.