Entries Tagged "MI5"

Page 1 of 1

Stories from MI5

This essay is filled with historical MI5 stories — often bizarre, sometimes amusing. My favorite:

It was recently revealed that back in the 1970s — at the height of the obsession with traitors — MI5 trained a specially bred group of Gerbils to detect spies. Gerbils have a very acute sense of smell and they were used in interrogations to tell whether the suspects were releasing adrenaline — because that would show they were under stress and lying.

Then they tried the Gerbils to see if they could detect terrorists who were about to carry a bomb onto a plane. But the gerbils got confused because they couldn’t tell the difference between the terrorists and ordinary people who were frightened of flying who were also pumping out adrenaline in their sweat.

So the gerbils failed as well.

Posted on August 14, 2013 at 12:06 PMView Comments

Explosive Breast Implants — Not an April Fool's Joke

Is MI5 playing a joke on us?

Female homicide bombers are being fitted with exploding breast implants which are almost impossible to detect, British spies have reportedly discovered.

[…]

MI5 has also discovered that extremists are inserting the explosives into the buttocks of some male bombers.

“Women suicide bombers recruited by Al Qaeda are known to have had the explosives inserted in their breasts under techniques similar to breast enhancing surgery,” Terrorist expert Joseph Farah claims.

They’re “known to have” this? I doubt it. More likely, they could be:

Radical Islamist plastic surgeons could be carrying out the implant operations in lawless areas of Pakistan, security sources are said to warned.

They also could be having tea with their families. They could be building killer robots with lasers shooting out of their eyes.

I love the poor Photoshop job in this article from The Sun.

Perhaps we should just give up. When this sort of hysterical nonsense becomes an actual news story, the terrorists have won.

Posted on April 1, 2010 at 1:33 PMView Comments

How Not to Carry Around Secret Documents

Here’s a tip: when walking around in public with secret government documents, put them in an envelope.

A huge MI5 and police counterterrorist operation against al-Qaeda suspects had to be brought forward at short notice last night after Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism chief accidentally revealed a briefing document.

[…]

The operation was nearly blown when Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick walked up Downing Street holding a document marked “secret” with highly sensitive operational details visible to photographers.

The document, carried under his arm, revealed how many terrorist suspects were to be arrested, in which cities across the North West. It revealed that armed members of the Greater Manchester Police would force entry into a number of homes. The operation’s secret code headed the list of action that was to take place.

Now the debate begins about whether he was just stupid, or very very stupid:

Opposition MPs criticised Mr Quick, with the Liberal Democrats describing him as “accident prone” and the Conservatives condemning his “very alarming” lapse of judgement.

But former Labour Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said it would be wrong for such an experienced officer to resign “for holding a piece of paper the wrong way”.

It wasn’t just a piece of paper. It was a secret piece of paper. (Here’s the best blow-up of the picture. And surely these people have procedures for transporting classified material. That’s what the mistake was: not following proper procedure.

He resigned.

Posted on April 10, 2009 at 7:06 AMView Comments

MI5 on Terrorist Profiling

There’s no profile:

MI5 has concluded that there is no easy way to identify those who become involved in terrorism in Britain, according to a classified internal research document on radicalisation seen by the Guardian.

[…]

The main findings include:

• The majority are British nationals and the remainder, with a few exceptions, are here legally. Around half were born in the UK, with others migrating here later in life. Some of these fled traumatic experiences and oppressive regimes and claimed UK asylum, but more came to Britain to study or for family or economic reasons and became radicalised many years after arriving.

• Far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could actually be regarded as religious novices. Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households, and there is a higher than average proportion of converts. Some are involved in drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes. MI5 says there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation.

• The “mad and bad” theory to explain why people turn to terrorism does not stand up, with no more evidence of mental illness or pathological personality traits found among British terrorists than is found in the general population.

• British-based terrorists are as ethnically diverse as the UK Muslim population, with individuals from Pakistani, Middle Eastern and Caucasian backgrounds. MI5 says assumptions cannot be made about suspects based on skin colour, ethnic heritage or nationality.

• Most UK terrorists are male, but women also play an important role. Sometimes they are aware of their husbands’, brothers’ or sons’ activities, but do not object or try to stop them.

• While the majority are in their early to mid-20s when they become radicalised, a small but not insignificant minority first become involved in violent extremism at over the age of 30.

• Far from being lone individuals with no ties, the majority of those over 30 have steady relationships, and most have children. MI5 says this challenges the idea that terrorists are young men driven by sexual frustration and lured to “martyrdom” by the promise of beautiful virgins waiting for them in paradise. It is wrong to assume that someone with a wife and children is less likely to commit acts of terrorism.

• Those involved in British terrorism are not unintelligent or gullible, and nor are they more likely to be well-educated; their educational achievement ranges from total lack of qualifications to degree-level education. However, they are almost all employed in low-grade jobs.

Posted on August 22, 2008 at 6:18 AMView Comments

MI5 Sounds Alarm on Internet Spying from China

Someone in MI5 is pissed off at China:

In an unprecedented alert, the Director-General of MI5 sent a confidential letter to 300 chief executives and security chiefs at banks, accountants and legal firms this week warning them that they were under attack from “Chinese state organisations.”

[…]

Firms known to have been compromised recently by Chinese attacks are one of Europe’s largest engineering companies and a large oil company, The Times has learnt. Another source familiar with the MI5 warning said, however, that known attacks had not been limited to large firms based in the City of London. Law firms and other businesses in the regions that deal even with only small parts of Chinese-linked deals are being probed as potential weak spots, he said.

A security expert who has also seen the letter said that among the techniques used by Chinese groups were “custom Trojans”, software designed to hack into the network of a particular firm and feed back confidential data. The MI5 letter includes a list of known “signatures” that can be used to identify Chinese Trojans and a list of internet addresses known to have been used to launch attacks.

A big study gave warning this week that Government and military computer systems in Britain are coming under sustained attack from China and other countries. It followed a report presented to the US Congress last month describing Chinese espionage in the US as so extensive that it represented “the single greatest risk to the security of American technologies.”

EDITED TO ADD (12/13): The Onion comments.

EDITED TO ADD (12/14): At first, I thought that someone in MI5 was pissed off at China. But now I think that someone in MI5 was pissed that he wasn’t getting any budget.

Posted on December 4, 2007 at 12:34 PMView Comments

MI5 Terror Alerts by E-mail

Sounds like security theater to me:

But he added that one of the difficult questions was what people should do about the information when they receive it: “There’s not necessarily that much information on the website about how you should act and how you should respond other than being vigilant and calling a hotline if you see anything suspicious.”

The first, called Threat Level Only, will inform the recipient if the nationwide terror threat level changes. The condition is currently listed as severe.

The second more inclusive service is called What’s New, and will be a digest of the latest information from MI5, including speeches made by the director general and links to relevant websites.

I’ve written about terror threat alerts in the UK before.

EDITED TO ADD (1/15): System is in shambles and being overhauled:

Digital detective work by campaigners revealed that the alerting system did little to protect the identities of anyone signing up.

They found that data gathered was being stored in the US leading to questions about who would have access to the list of names and e-mail addresses.

Posted on January 10, 2007 at 6:31 AMView Comments

Ex-MI5 Chief Calls ID Cards "Useless"

Refreshing candor:

The case for identity cards has been branded “bogus” after an ex-MI5 chief said they might not help fight terror.

Dame Stella Rimington has said most documents could be forged and this would render ID cards “useless”.

[…]

She said: “ID cards have possibly some purpose.

“But I don’t think that anybody in the intelligence services, particularly in my former service, would be pressing for ID cards.

“My angle on ID cards is that they may be of some use but only if they can be made unforgeable – and all our other documentation is quite easy to forge.

“If we have ID cards at vast expense and people can go into a back room and forge them they are going to be absolutely useless.

“ID cards may be helpful in all kinds of things but I don’t think they are necessarily going to make us any safer.”

Posted on November 18, 2005 at 6:48 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.