attends OSPAs Thought Leadership Summit 2019 – Part 3 – Ch Supt Nick Aldworth, Counter Terrorism National Coordinator

Ch Supt Nick Aldworth, Counter Terrorism National Coordinator

On Thursday, 28th of February, attended the OSPAs UK Thought Leadership Summit 2019 at the Royal Lancaster Hotel. In a Four-Part Series, summaries on each of the four speakers are being released over the course of this week. As with last year, the event was attended by key figures in the security industry, bringing them together with a collection of speakers drawn both from within and from outside the UK security industry.

Ch Supt Nick Aldworth spoke about, “The Challenges of working together to Counter Terrorism”, outlining the current state of counter-terrorism activity and the development of public/private sector collaboration in combating terrorism.

The Counter-Terrorism Policing Network is currently made up of a Partnership between the following entities: Local Police Forces, Counter-Terrorism Policing, The Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (Part of the Home Office), MI5, The National Security Council (NSC), GCHQ.

“The Counter Terrorism Policing Network is not just made up of Counter-Terrorism Policing. It is genuinely a partnership. We only work effectively if the security services, civil servants are all doing their bit”.

Alluding to the first terrorist attack of 2017 (Westminster Bridge), Mr Aldworth explained that this sparked a dawning shift in attitude, to one of realising a need to focus on questions of “resilience.” This yardstick would become a flint for “the Step-Change programme,” in essence a phrase reflective of “the realisation that we need to do things differently … to be more open and engaged with the business and security communities”.

“2018 in terms of attacks, was quite limited but there were a significant number of disruptions … these ranged from everything from the use of chemicals weapons, through to plans to drive down Oxford Street.”

To outline what has contributed to the Current threat level – Severe Mr Aldworth outlined the following:

– 2017 – five successful attacks within six months – four Islamist and one Extreme Right Wing
– 2018 – another vehicle attack at Westminster on 14th August
– Since the March 2017 Westminster attack, 18 other attack plots have been disrupted – thirteen Islamist, four Extreme Right Wing and one Tamil Tiger-related
– Over 700 counter-terrorism investigations at any one time involving ‘3,000 subjects of interest’
– 441 CT related arrests in the year to March 2018, compared 378 in the previous 12 months, marking a 17% increase
– Over 300,000 pieces of material removed by the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit since its launch in 2010
– Potential new methodologies – CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) and Drones.

The overriding theme that Mr Aldworth stressed in discussing the above was the concern that anyone can be radicalised, for a wide variety of causes online, on a short time-scale and through “means that for us, are very hard to observe”.

Security Services’ Relationship with Business

As part of the new “Step-Change” Programme that Mr Aldworth alluded to earlier in his talk, there are five conferences which typically include around 400 people, and each covers the following pertinent topics: Transport, Travel & Tourism, Crowded Places, Security Resilience and lastly, Cyber & Finance. These conferences are organised in collaboration with the British Security Industry Association (BSIA).

Importantly, it is understood that there is soon to be an announcement by the Home Secretary. Sajid Javid it is believed will be announcing a centralised National platform for intelligence sharing, available through the counter terrorism network. What this is to look like and how it is to be implemented remains to be seen although this will, but it is understood will be part of an upcoming £9.4Bn investment. Editor’s Note: Up till the date of publishing this announcement is yet to be made by the Home Secretary.

During his first public speech after taking over as Home Secretary from Amber Rudd on 4th June 2018, Mr Javid revealed his plans for MI5 to declassify and share information on 20,000 UK citizens suspected of having terrorist sympathies, labelled “subjects of concern,” in a pilot scheme named “The multi-agency centres” in his speech. Suggesting that planned developments involved greater sharing of information between the state and the private sector. (For more information please click here)

It is significant that Government agencies already share a significant amount of sensitive information in their counter-terrorism work. Up till this point, however, this has not included classified information from MI5.

“We see the future of Counter Terrorism Policing, being more in the domain of the private sector than the public sector, plain and simple. The reality is that against the sort of threat we are talking about now, the state cannot operate alone. We have to look after ourselves, we have to look after each other. The best way to that is via the private sector and particularly, the private security sector.”

“A large part of what we are attempting to do, is to build that collaboration and that mobilisation, so that the security industry can act in a way that they are comfortable with and that the security services are comfortable with.”

“What we are looking at here is a quantum shift of responsibility from the public sector to the private sector, in the field of counter-terrorism. That can to some be to some people very uncomfortable to hear … It’s a societal shift, but I think it is one we have to take.”

“The private security industry will make all the change in the next decade.”