Amber Rudd – Abedi operation is still at ‘full tilt’
In the wake of Monday’s horrific attack in Manchester, Andrew Marr interviewed the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, about what action the government was taking in the aftermath of the attack, and whether the government and security services had done enough to prevent the attack happening in the first place:
AM: You’ve downgraded the threat level one point, and we hear that a large part of the group around this terrorist have been apprehended and taken. Does that mean that some of the group are still out there?
AR: Potentially. I mean, it’s an ongoing operation, there are 11 people in custody. The operation is still really at full tilt in a way, and so until the operation is complete, we can’t be entirely sure that it is closed.
AM: Now clearly, as you said, the security services do a great job and all the rest of it. Nonetheless, there are questions that must be asked. Can I ask you how many times the security services were tipped off about Salman Abedi before he attacked?
AR: Well, it’s not for me to be drawn in on what the intelligence services did or didn’t know, particularly at this stage Andrew.
AM: The trouble is, we do know some stuff about this.
AR: We do, but the fact is, this is an ongoing operation. The fact that you’ve already asked me ‘are there other people that are going to be potentially pursued’, that is because [of] the strong relationship between the intelligence services and the counter terrorism policing. Of course, people will want to look afterwards to see whether there are signals that could have been… how could we do this better? But can I also point out that since 2013, they have foiled 18 separate plots. They do a good job. we’re not frightened though, of learning lessons and improving.
AM: I don’t want in any way to diminish what they do. Nevertheless, what we do know is that Salman Abedi was identified as a dangerous man by friends and family, his community doing exactly what we asked them to do. They phoned the terror hotline five years ago and then again last year. We know that the imam in his local mosque used the Prevent strategy, again to get in touch and say ‘this guy’s out of control, he’s dangerous’ and apparently nothing happened. Can I ask you directly, was Salman Abedi on a surveillance list?
AR: I don’t know those details that you’ve just said out to me because the intelligence services are still collecting information about him and about the people around him, but I wouldn’t rush to conclusions as you seem to be, that they have somehow missed something.
Rudd continued that the government would be setting up a commission on extremism and mentioned that MI5 were looking at 500 different plots, with 3,000 individuals on a ‘top list’ for surveillance, with 20,000 people on lower tiers. She stated that government was recruiting 1,900 new staff for MI5 and that ‘we will make sure that we put the right resources in to keep people safe, always’.
Jeremy Corbyn – My votes against anti-terror laws are down to judicial oversight
Unsurprisingly, security issues continued to be on the agenda throughout the day. Appearing on Peston on Sunday, Jeremy Corbyn was quizzed about his record on anti-terror legislation. Peston began by declaring that he knew of at least 17 occasions in which Corbyn had voted against anti-terror laws.
RP: Do you now regret voting in that way?
JC: …I have been assiduous in my scrutiny of anti-terror laws whilst in Parliament, and voting against in common with David Davis, on occasions Theresa May and others on the basis that anti-terror laws are important but they must be subject to judicial oversight. My concern was always [that] we were going down the road of executive orders, executive detention and executive control. Everything must be subject to a judicial process. Why did I form this opinion? Because I represent a constituency that had and still has a large Irish population, many of whom were detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act of the 1970s, again without judicial oversight. It was the attempted criminalisation of large numbers of young people, which of course drives them in a very bad direction. So my point on the anti-terror laws was not that you don’t need an effective anti-terror strategy. You must have an independent judicial oversight of what goes on.
RP: But you have been vocal in your opposition to the monitoring of suspected terrorists. Was that a mistake?
JC: I’ve been vocal in my opposition to executive control orders that are not subject to judicial oversight…
RP: On T-PIM notices on which actually the former terrorist tsar Alex Carlile said don’t go far enough in providing us with restrictions on the behaviour of suspected terrorists, you said that they were a very very serious attack on our liberty and it’s important we oppose them.
JC: Yes, because of the question of judicial oversight. That was the point. I do support and work with the police and our security services on intelligence led actions…
RP: But [the government] would argue that if they have to act swiftly, there are times when judicial oversight is not appropriate.
JC: Well, they can intervene on the basis of suspicion at any time of a criminal intent taking place. They can do that anyway, that’s what the police are for.
RP: But just to be absolutely clear, were you to become Prime Minister, you would if necessary enact more restrictive laws to monitor, restrict the activities of potential terrorists? Because MI5 says there are as you know at least 3000 individuals who are a direct threat to our security and possibly 23,000 in total who could be a great threat to the security and lives of our people.
JC: Yes, and those people are presumably, I hope, being monitored on an intelligence led basis, but it seems that the cuts in police numbers have led to some very dangerous situations emerging. It’s also a question of a community response as well, so that where an imam for example alerts the police that he’s very concerned about somebody I hope they would act. And I hope they would have the resources to act as well.
Ben Wallace – We won’t expand MI5 any further
On the Sunday Politics, Jo Coburn challenged Security Minister Ben Wallace about the current national security situation and asked him whether he would consider doubling the size of MI5 in the wake of Monday’s attack:
JC: The government says there are up to 23,000 potential terrorist attackers in this country, 3,000 of those considered to pose a serious threat and are under investigation or being monitored in 500 separate operations. 20,000 others are considered as a residual risk. That’s pretty disturbing. These are big numbers
BW: They are big numbers and I think what the tragedy of Manchester shows us is that this is not about failure. This is about the scale of the challenge we face, and it’s why it’s absolutely important that alongside people is powers…
JC: Right. Would you double the size of MI5 for example, which has been called for?
BW: We have increased year on year in real terms not only the money but also the numbers of people in MI5. We’ve now… it’s actually 2,000 that we’ve committed to… before the attack, not just Jeremy Corbyn’s response to this attack. Before our manifesto, we have recruited, we have increased the whole of government spending on counter terrorism from £11.7 billion in 2015, up to £15.7 billion.
JC: Would you do something radical like double the size of MI5? Expand the number of intelligence led police by a thousand?
BW: In my discussions with the Director General of MI5 and his deputies and all the other people I meet, I ask them on a regular basis if they have the resources they are happy with. And their answer comes back, time and time again – ‘Yes, we are’.
Nicola Sturgeon defends Corbyn’s foreign policy speech
Scottish First Minster Nicola Sturgeon joined Sky’s Sophy Ridge in a special Scottish leaders’ edition of the programme. Ridge asked the First Minister about Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on Friday where he linked the Manchester attack to UK foreign policy:
NS: Firstly nobody, and I don’t believe Jeremy Corbyn was saying that there is anybody other than the terrorist to blame for acts of terrorism. There are terrorists who will always look for reasons to justify their actions but there is no justification, there’s no excuse, there’s nobody else to blame. The person responsible for the attack in Manchester was the man who blew himself and unfortunately others up on Monday night. But the second point I would make, I think we must we must be free, particularly in a general election campaign to have honest debates about foreign policy, and to have honest debates about security and how we keep the population of the country safe. And I think we should be able to do that without anybody suggesting that anybody that criticises UK foreign policy, and I’ve got many criticism of UK foreign policy, is in any way shape or form trying to justify the horrific and dreadful actions of terrorists.
SR: So with that in mind, do you agree then that there are links between what happened in the past in UK foreign policy and terrorist attacks that we’re seeing now?
NS: Let me repeat, it’s not an excuse, it’s not a justification, but I remember when the former head of MI5 herself said that the war in Iraq had lead to greater radicalisation in the UK and had raised different issues about different threats and different issues in terms of keeping the country safe. So I think any healthy democracy, and remember, terrorists are trying to undermine our democracy. We’ve got to protect our ability in a healthy democracy to have these debates. I’ve been a long critic of the war in Iraq. I don’t think it helped the situation in Iraq and it had implications at home. I’ve been a critic of the air campaign in Syria, not because I question the motivations of people wanting to find a solution in Syria, but I question the efficacy of a campaign from the air. We must be able to have those debates
SR: So you agree with Jeremy Corbyn that it’s made us less safe and it’s made these attacks more likely?
NS: I think there are issues about foreign policy and the implications and the implications for radicalisation here but where I would disagree with anybody and I’m not here to advocate for Jeremy Corbyn but where I think it is probably slightly unfair is to say that he was somehow saying that meant… we only had ourselves to blame for what happened in Manchester. I don’t think that’s what he was saying. I don’t think it is what any right thinking person would say. But we must have the ability to have honest debates about foreign policy and security here, and that would include the reductions to police cover that we’ve seen not here in Scotland, but in England.
Ridge countered that there had been cuts to police services in Scotland and that Scottish police were facing a funding black hole of £188 million by 2021. Sturgeon replied that Scottish police faced pressures but that police numbers in Scotland had not declined and that there had been sufficient investment in the number of armed officers in the country.
Diane Abbott – ‘I’ve moved on’
After Jeremy Corbyn landed himself in hot water over denying that he had met with members of the IRA at the height of their bombing campaign, Andrew Marr confronted Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott about her previous comments on the paramilitary organisation. Abbott’s response was that she had ‘moved on’, suggesting that as her hairstyle had changed over the years, so too had her views:
AM: Jeremy Corbyn got into some trouble in his Andrew Neil interview when he said he had not met the IRA and he was then photographed with lots of people from the IRA. You yourself said that it would a defeat for the British state would be a great liberation, a great move forward. Do you regret your support for the IRA back in the eighties?
DA: That particular quote you’re referring to comes from a now defunct left [wing] newspaper…
AM: But you said it didn’t you?
DA: … but what I’m saying to you is this: it was 34 years ago, I had a rather splendid afro at the time. I don’t have the same hairstyle and I don’t have the same views. It is 34 years on. The hairstyle has gone and some of the views have gone.
AM: So you no longer… you regret the fact of what you then said about the IRA?
DA: The hairstyle has gone, the views have gone. We’ve all moved on in 34 years, haven’t you Andrew?
AM: We’ve all moved on. I was just wondering, do you regret what you said about the IRA at the height of the bombing?
DA: What specifically do you want me to regret?
AM: I can read the quote for you… basically what you said was that the defeat of the IRA would be devastating for the British people and that a defeat for the British state was a good thing, you said at the time when the IRA was attacking the British state. And you said the reason for the violence was entirely caused by the British presence in Northern Ireland. I’m saying do you think now that those statements are wrong?
DA: It was 34 years ago. I’ve moved on.
When asked about if she would sign orders of surveillance on suspected terrorists as Amber Rudd currently does, Abbott replied ‘Of course, if the evidence was presented to me. Remember, I was a Home Office civil servant, I know how these things work. So, if the files were put in front of me, evidence was put in front of me, of course I’ll sign orders of surveillance’.