On March 29, the day after the key ECJ ruling about citizens rights (see http://spyingtoday.com/2019/04/10/zombie-rights/), Andrew Parker, Director-General of MI5 and Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner who was responsible for the Jean Charles de Menezes killing, issued a joint statement.
They said that “we do not have the resources or legal justification to actively monitor those many thousands of individuals” who may “re-engage with terrorism”. They intend to make greater use of “behavioural science experts” and noted in particular “that there are valuable gains to be made by going further in data analytics and related technologies with parts of the private sector. We have made important progress already.”
Use of private companies to enhance the data mining capabilities of the intelligence services is not new (see for instance: http://spyingtoday.com/2019/02/19/27/), but it can also be a cause for concern. Taken together with the recent decision of the ECJ (above), we are facing a the prospect of a world where predictive policing becomes ever more important, where arrest of citizens without evidence of criminal activity becomes legitimate and where private companies are increasingly involved in making those decisions. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but in an age of increasingly populist governments who can access an unprecedented amount of intelligence about their citizens, these changes must require careful monitoring.
On a slightly different tack, the joint announcement also raised one other question: why does the UK still have a separate police and security service? There is nothing that MI5 does that the police do not already do, including undercover penetration and agent running. Many police officers are already vetted to receive top secret intelligence as it is such an important part of modern counter-terrorist and counter-extremist policing. Meanwhile MI5 cannot take any action without the involvement of the police as they have no power of arrest. MI5 officers spend most of their time behind desks providing intelligence for the police to act upon. The existence of two separate organisations is an historical accident and leads to an immense waste of money and resources in duplication of organisational structures. It is time that the two organisations were unified in one body. It would lead to greater efficiency and savings all round.