Tuesday, 28 May 2013


Simon Bennett has written the First Person column in today's Leicester Mercury:

We must "box" clever to beat the extremists
Dr Simon Bennett, an expert in safety and security, examines the aftermath of Lee Rigby's murder
The murder last week of Drummer Lee Rigby shocked all right-minded people, whatever their faith or ethnicity. What impressed me was the country's determination not to be intimidated or demoralized by the misguided act of two disturbed individuals.
The public's response reminded me of a poster issued by the government in 1939: Keep Calm and Carry On. This is always the best response to threats and intimidation. By keeping calm and carrying on we prove terrorism doesn't work.
I'd like to make two comments: First, I believe ethnic, religious and cultural diversity is a strength, not a weakness.
As societies develop, the problems they face become ever-more complex and difficult to solve. Bringing a range of views and experiences to bear on problems improves our chances of solving them.
The Government has put its faith in the Big Society as a means of filling the gaps left by cuts. The social support offered by Britain's mosques, temples and cultural centres is an example of the Big Society in action.
I am old enough to remember Britain in the 1950s - a monochrome and stuff land of skiffle, football and fish and chips. Social diversity has made Britain a more enjoyable place to live.
Secondly,. the way to beat extremists is to "box" clever, by which I mean gather high quality intelligence and act on it in a timely manner in the context of laws that are fit for purpose.
After the September 11, 2001 attacks I wrote to the Prime Minster: I suggested he increase the budget for Britain's security services by one third.
In a 2006 article in Public Services Review, I suggested MI5 put more resources into recruiting members of extremist organisations, whether of the far-right, far-left or faith-based.
Needless to say, the Prime Minister did not respond to my letter. Nevertheless, in the years since 9/11 the Security and Intelligence Services (SIS) have put more resources into gathering intelligence organically.
Parachuting operatives into communities is a recipe for failure. Getting those communities to self-monitor is a recipe for success.
Last week, I met with a retired senior Metropolitan Police Service officer: We discussed the case of Mark Kennedy, the policeman who spent too long undercover.
The Kennedy case illustrates the difficulties of undercover work. While the murder of Lee Rigby was shocking we must remember how many plots have been foiled by the police with the support of SIS and the British public.
Intelligence gathering is not glamorous. It's dirty, dangerous and stressful. But it helps keep all of us safe.

Dr Simon Bennett is Director of Civil Safety and Security Unit at the University of Leicester

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