In the surroundings of a high-security Old Bailey court docket, a senior MI5 officer offered his “profound non-public sympathies” to the households of the eight victims of the London Bridge terror attack as he gave evidence at the inquest into their deaths.
But the man identifiable handiest as Witness L stopped quick of creating a complete apology, arguing that even as each member of MI5 “comes to work every day to forestall attacks like this”, unluckily some terrorists slipped thru the net.
“We recognize we cannot prevent all of them, as we did not stop this one,” Witness L declared, his voice rising from behind a green curtain in the dock. “But it’s our activity to try and squeeze the most learning out of it.”
It changed into a key moment in his two days of proof, where the agent become repeatedly pressed as to how Khuram Butt and two buddies were capable of perform the frenzied knife attack on a Saturday evening in the capital in June 2017.
Butt had been considered one of MI5’s 3,000 “topics of interest” due to the fact that mid-2015. The Londoner’s involvement in the terror attack at London Bridge is the first time such a person were capable of slip thru the organisation’s internet.
A string of examples emerged of ways critical portions of facts about Butt have been now not accumulated or not absolutely liked. However, nearly each time Witness L said they would now not have made any distinction.
At one factor in 2016, police had discovered a video on Butt’s laptop of him clutching a knife and slitting the throat of a cow after he have been arrested on fraud expenses in 2016, which he in comparison to the bloodbath of 600 Jewish men and shared with MI5.
Yet, it was no longer sufficiently sizeable to offer rise to alarm, Witness L said, adding: “I suppose that’s a completely sturdy interpretation of that specific piece of video.”
Critically, MI5’s investigators did now not draw close Butt’s growing affiliation with the opposite attackers: Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba, which advanced at the Ummah Fitness Centre in Barking, east London. Consideration become given to similarly coverage of the gymnasium, however it became by no means focused for research.
As a result neither Redouane or Zaghba were recognized to the safety provider at the time of the assault. Yet, Witness L said, although MI5 had picked up the connections the company could only have assumed they were “in basic terms social contacts” – now not might-be plotters.
Butt turned into assumed to be appearing in isolation and turned into two times assessed as such. The second evaluation, in May 2017 – weeks before the attack – concluded he became an “unresolved danger”, but at the identical time consideration was given to finishing the research.
MI5 is “the largest it has ever been in its a hundred and ten-yr history” in keeping with Witness L. But it did now not have the assets to keep a close eye on Butt; he become not, for example, below surveillance while he tried to hire a truck (although he only were given a van) at the day of the attack itself.
In fact, the company’s investigation into Butt had to be suspended two times in the spring of 2016 and 2017.
The first time, Witness L stated, changed into due to the “broader stress” inside the aftermath of the Paris attacks. The 2d time, among 21 March (a day earlier than the Westminster assault) and four May 2017, changed into due to a much broader “unheard of degree of chance which we have been going through”.
Witness L discovered that if the general public felt that terrorist attacks like this had be averted in any respect price, then something different could be required, which include “a much wider conversation about how large the safety service need to be,” he said.