Disrupting Plots and Countering Ideology: Successes, Obstacles and Future Challenges for Intelligence Sharing in the United Kingdom

Publication Type:

Book Chapter


Sajjan Gohel


The Dangerous Landscape, p.19-36 (2013)


Some time ago, before the death of Osama bin Laden, I gave a run-down of the intelligence cycle, the different intelligence and security agencies, how they op-erate and how they cooperate. To briefly reiterate, the British intelligence cycle consists of four main phases: direction, collection, analysis, and dissemination. To achieve greater effectiveness in identifying and disrupting international ter-rorist networks, the UK’s current approach necessitates an unprecedented level of inter-agency cooperation and, most importantly, information sharing. After all, as an island nation we are alone. For the UK, the significance of intelli¬gence in counter-terrorism stems from three main drivers: • Its role in pre-emption and disruption of terrorist activity • Its role in post-incident investigations • Its contribution to preventive/protective security measures. Since we met in Albania, there have been significant developments in the UK. In fact mostly within the last six weeks. Fortunately, there was not a ter¬rorist attack but two major terrorist trials which gave great insight to the way intelligence agencies cooperate, share information and ultimately foil and dis-rupt plots and save lives. I want to look at this in more detail which hopefully will illustrate the level of intelligence cooperation—not just internally but also with foreign partners—and look at the benefits and advantages as well as the weakness and challenges that still exist. Certainly controversy has emerged from both the trial of three men accused of conspiring with the 7/7 bombers and the Liquid Bomb Plot trial which was allegedly about bringing down an airliner. It is widely accepted that obtaining “good” intelligence is the most effective way to prevent or pre-empt acts of terrorism. Since surprise is the cornerstone of successful terrorist operations, it is the primary function of the intelligence and security services to detect them and to thereby provide sufficient warning to enable counter-operations to be conducted. Current, accurate secret intelli-gence is indispensable for the prevention or pre-emption of terrorist activities. However, as can be seen, the global nature of the international threat poses some unique challenges for the UK’s intelligence and security services particu-larly through our legal systems. For the UK, the significance of intelligence in counter-terrorism stems from three main drivers: (1) its role in pre-emption and disruption of terrorist ac-tivity; (2) its role in post-incident investigations; and (3) its contribution to preventive/protective security measures.