What MI5 Can Tell the FBI About Homegrown Terror
The FBI isn’t the first intelligence agency to come under scrutiny for ignoring leads on young men who later proved to be terrorists. The U.K.’s MI5 faced similar questions after Islamist suicide bombers struck London’s subway system on July 7, 2005.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is under fire for not keeping Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who is accused bombing of Boston Marathon, under surveillance, despite a tip from Russia that he was interested in extremist Islamic groups.
There’s a lot we still don’t know about that episode and, as my colleague Tobin Harshaw writes, the agency needs to tell us more. Still, MI5 probably had a tougher case to answer in 2005.
While successfully tracking and preventing another bomb plot a year earlier, the U.K.’s domestic intelligence agency had monitored four phone conversations and taped two physical meetings between their top suspect, Mohammed Qayum Khan, and two unidentified young Britons who would later carry out the so-called 7/7 bombing. MI5 did almost nothing to find out who they were.
MI5 also had information that two men had traveled from the U.K. to train with Islamist militants in Pakistan and was looking for them. Yet M15 agents weren’t able to link the two unidentified 7/7 bombers to the aliases that they used on their trip to Pakistan until it was too late.