CIA conducting ‘unprecedented’ operations in Britain

British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph has published an article (reprinted in Australia’s The Age) discussing what it describes as CIA’s “unprecedented intelligence-gathering operation in Britain”. The paper cites “security sources in Washington and London” in revealing that the US spy agency is “recruiting and handling a record number of informers within the British Pakistani community”. Security circles in Washington have been known to express concerns about militant tendencies in that community, which is nearly one-million-strong. Bruce Reidel, a 26-year CIA veteran and al-Qaeda expert, who now advises US President Elect Barack Obama’s transition team, says that Britain’s Muslim community (whose members can travel to the US without visas) is “regarded by the American intelligence community as perhaps the single-biggest threat environment.”

CIA’s activities in Britain appear to be silently sanctioned by the British government. The Sunday Telegraph article quotes an unnamed British official who says that “[t]here is a great deal of CIA activity inside the UK” and that the CIA “has been given a free rein to raise, handle and process from intelligence sources inside the UK” (incidentally, the article mentions that Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, enjoys similar liberties in the UK as it “briefs members of the London Jewish community on threats to their security”).

The article notes, however, the inevitable friction between British and American spies: one CIA veteran is quoted as describing Britain as “an Islamist swamp” that drains CIA intelligence resources. On the other hand, British intelligence operatives complain of often being kept in the dark about CIA’s tactics and the identity of its local informants, and are said to be “uneasy about some of the uses to which the intelligence has been put” by their American counterparts. [JF]

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About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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