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 London Bridge terror attack victims as he gave evidence at the inquest into their deaths.
But the man identifiable handiest as Witness L stopped quickly, 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 through 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 critical moment in his two days of proof. The agent became repeatedly pressed as to how Khuram Butt and two buddies could 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” because of mid-2015. The Londoner’s involvement in the terror attack at London Bridge is the first time such a person could slip through the organization’s internet.
A string of examples emerged of ways critical portions of facts about Butt have not been accumulated or liked. However, nearly each time, Witness L said they would not have made any distinction.
At one factor in 2016, police discovered a video on Butt’s laptop of him clutching a knife and slitting a cow’s throat after he had been arrested on fraud expenses in 2016, which compared to the bloodbath of 600 Jewish men and shared with MI5.
Yet, Witness L said it was no longer sufficiently sizeable to offer rise to alarm, adding: “I suppose that’s a completely sturdy interpretation of that specific piece of video.”
Critically, MI5’s investigators did now not draw close to 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 became given to similar coverage of the gymnasium. However, it became by no means focused on research.
As a result, neither Redouane nor Zaghba were recognized by 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 same time, consideration was given to finishing the research.
MI5 is “the largest it has ever been in its a hundred and ten-yr history,” keeping with Witness L. But it did now not have the assets to keep a close eye on Butt; he became not, for example, below surveillance while he tried to hire a truck (although he only was given a van) on the day of the attack itself.
The company’s investigation into Butt was suspended twice in the spring of 2016 and 2017.
The first time, Witness L stated, changed due to the “broader stress” inside the aftermath of the Paris attacks. The 2nd time, between 21 March (a day earlier than the Westminster assault) and four May 2017, changed 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 been averted in any respect price, something different could be required, including “a much wider conversation about how large the safety service needs to be,” he said.