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Improving Anti-Terrorism Intelligence

JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

Joining us now from London is Anthony Glees. He directs the Brunel Center for Intelligence and Security Studies just outside London.

Thanks for speaking with us.

Mr. ANTHONY GLEES (Director, Brunel Center for Intelligence and Security Studies): It's a pleasure.

LUDDEN: Since the US attacks of 9/11, we in this country have certainly had a debate over treating terror as a matter of intelligence or law enforcement and whether you can actually separate the two. Can I ask you, in Britain with an attack of the magnitude of this week's, what is the approach?

Mr. GLEES: Well, there are certainly some people who say that we should regard the people who perpetrated this terrible outrage as simple murderers, that we shouldn't use anti-terror laws in order to try and get hold of these people, but most informed opinion realizes that there is more to them than just simple criminals, and if we're to deal with this problem at its root, we need to understand that.

LUDDEN: And does the British government take that approach then, it--this is intelligence?

Mr. GLEES: Well, it's true that where the government has tried to propose stringent new anti-terror legislation, the opposition parties have contested this fiercely. I mean, even a week ago, you would find many people in Britain who supported the view of one of our most senior law lords, Lord Hoffman, who said in December the real threat to the British way of life does not come from terror groups, it comes from the government anti-terror legislation.

LUDDEN: So do you see changes that might come out of this week's bombings?

Mr. GLEES: There needs to be a review. I think it is absolutely vital that there should be major changes. This is the second serious intelligence failure that we have had since 9/11 in the United Kingdom. We didn't find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but our intelligence service told that they existed, and it was not rocket science to believe that at the time of Gleneagles and in the aftermath of the 2012 Olympic decision when all of London, all of Britain was exuberant, that this might be the spark that would tip some of these crazy people over. It is not understandable why the threat rate was downgraded just a few weeks before this.

LUDDEN: Although we're talking about the underground system there in London, I mean, it's my understanding there are cameras throughout the system. There's been a history of attacks in the underground. What more concretely could one do to protect the underground system?

Mr. GLEES: Well, for one thing, if the threat level had been at point number two instead of being at point number four, people may have agreed to having their bags searched before they went on the Tube. People will put up with much more stringent checks for their own security if they realize that there is a real threat of a terrorist incident.

LUDDEN: As we speak, we don't know who carried out these attacks or where they are, if they're still in England, if they've maybe left for another European country, part of the European Union where they wouldn't even have to show a passport, which brings me to a question about a pan-European intelligence operation. Do you think there will be more calls for such a thing?

Mr. GLEES: There's no question about this. The trouble with the European Union is there will member states who will say, `Well, we don't want to share this intelligence with our European partners because we don't trust X and we don't trust Y.' Today, again, I think this will be re-examined. What went on in London on Thursday mirrored what went on in New York. It also mirrored what went on in Madrid on 3/11. And this makes the logic for meaningful intelligence and security cooperation Europe-wide absolutely unimpeachable.

LUDDEN: Anthony Glees is director of Brunel Center for Intelligence and Security Studies just outside London.

Thank you so much.

Mr. GLEES: It's been a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.