The threat of an Islamist terror attack on Britain will remain high for at least another two years and may get even worse, security service chiefs have revealed.
The chaotic collapse of so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, combined with more online radicalisation, means that the risk of terrorism on UK soil could increase further, according to the new National Security Capability Review (NSCR) to be published on Wednesday.
In the foreword to the document drafted by intelligence and security officials, Theresa May warned Britain’s enemies – both states and terror groups – that she “will use every capability at our disposal to defeat them”.
The Prime Minister’s remarks were a clear signal that the UK will deploy economic, military, cyber and wider diplomatic and cultural resources to hit back at those threatening the safety of the public.
After a year in which Britain has also been targeted by four Islamist terror attacks in London and Manchester, senior intelligence chiefs have concluded that the problem could get worse in coming months.
The UK suffered jihadist outrages in Westminster, London Bridge and Manchester Arena and MI5 Director General Andrew Parker has revealed that multiple plots have been foiled since.
The new capability review will explicitly state: “We expect the threat from Islamist terrorism to remain at its current heightened level for at least two years and it might increase further.”
As it is driven out of Iraq and Syria, so-called Islamic State is splintering into smaller terror groups and cells, intelligence shows.
The ease with which radicalisation can be conducted online via the internet, remotely from another country, is another key factor in the heightened threat.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the new threats underlined why a fresh approach was needed in the security review.
“The document is clear on a number of threats which the country faces in terms of terrorism, extremism, instability, the resurgence of state-based threats, the erosion of the rules-based international order, and the impact of technology such as cyber threats,” he said
The NSCR is an update of the last review of national security in 2015, prompted by the wave of new terror attacks and Russia’s increasingly aggressive stance, as well as other changing threats.
The recent international response to the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal was the first example of the new whole-government approach, senior Whitehall sources told HuffPost UK.
As 25 countries confirmed on Tuesday they were expelling more than 118 Russian diplomats over the use of nerve agent, a senior Whitehall source said that one main reason for the united front was because “we have shared unprecedented levels of intelligence with partners”.
Usually, the UK only shares its most prized intelligence with the very close allies in the so-called ‘Five Eyes’ countries of the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Sources also revealed that Jeremy Corbyn had been given confidential intelligence briefings on the basis of the same material that was shown to EU and Nato leaders by National Security Adviser Mark Sedwill in recent weeks.
After seeing the intelligence, many countries agreed with the UK that there was “no plausible alternative explanation” than Moscow was directly responsible for the poisoning.
Corbyn, who has pointed to intelligence dossier failures over Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, insisted this week that while Russia was ultimately to blame, there was still the possibility that it could have lost control of the weapons stocks.
As a senior Privy Council member, the Labour leader along with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, gets confidential security briefings.
It is understood that security chiefs often discuss the policy responses as well as the underlying intelligence, if appropriate.
The security review, which will include 12 separate projects to improve counter-terrorism, tackling economic crime and expand the UK’s diplomatic network, is part of a £56bn package of measures to reflect the new threats.
Following the use of Russian ‘Novichok’ nerve agent, May has already warned that expulsion of diplomats is one of a range of other actions that will be taken to effectively raise the price paid by Moscow for its aggression, sources said.
In her foreword to the new document, the PM said: “Over the past year in the UK we have witnessed appalling terrorist attacks in London and Manchester.
“But also a brazen and reckless act of aggression on the streets of Salisbury: attempted murder using an illegal chemical weapon, amounting to an unlawful use of force against the UK.
“Crucially what all of these incidents have made clear is that our national security is conditional on not only the police and security services who work so hard to keep us safe at home, or on the brave men and women of our Armed Forces working tirelessly around the world – but on our ability to mobilise most effectively the full range of our capabilities in concert to respond to the challenges we face.”
A new ‘fusion doctrine’ will be applied, with all parts of government – from cyber warfare to cultural ‘soft power’ through the British Council – taking part.
“This approach will ensure that in defending our national security we make better use of all of our capabilities: from economic levers, through cutting-edge military resources to our wider diplomatic and cultural influence on the world’s stage,” May said.
“As long as we defend our interests and stand up for our values, there will continue to be those who seek to undermine or attack us. But these people should be in no doubt that we will use every capability at our disposal to defeat them.”