Security services should have the power to access everyone’s emails and messaging apps, according to a Devon MP. Plymouth Moor View MP Johnny Mercer was speaking after the Home Secretary called on companies such as WhatsApp to allow security services access to their encrypted messages. Mr Mercer told BBC Daily Politics: “We all understand the points around civil liberties and how important they are, but freedom isn’t free . We have to protect our way of life, and if those we are going to ask to do that require extra powers in a digital age which is becoming more complex, I think we should give them to them. “I know from intelligence and security services that I’ve worked with in the past, we need the tools at our disposal in order to be able to do the job . One of those is electronic surveillance of individuals to try to identify these attacks, which are really difficult to identify.”
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Lord Brian Paddick said “not every single innocent member of the public” should be subjected to increased surveillance. He also accused the Government of cutting police budgets, but Mr Mercer said spending on tackling “digital threats” is going up. “The spend around counter-terrorism, the visible part of policing that is so important in our communities, is as important as it has ever been,” he said. “But this digital threat, around technology and so on, that is exponentially growing all the time and that requires the resources . If you actually look at what this Government is doing from 2015 to 2020 increasing that by 30 per cent and protecting counter-terrorism budgets this is a team effort across Government to try to counter these threats.
“We defeat this as a team, as politicians, as police, as community providers . I don’t really think it’s the time for cheap political points above what is an existential threat that is really difficult to get a hold of . We have a very challenging set of threats which are getting greater all the time, I think the police are doing a good job and we should get behind them.”
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A security guard has described how he disarmed a knifeman who said he was going to behead a man at a Hull mosque. Haidar Hamid, 22, “frog-marched” a neighbour to Hull Mosque and Islamic Centre while holding a serrated knife to his throat and a Stanley knife in his other hand. With his victim bleeding from cuts to his cheek and chin, Hamid forced his head down in the mosque and asked: “Are you going to pray now?”
But he was spared further injury in a dramatic rescue by worshipper Ebrima Touray, 45, who put himself in harm’s way to disarm Hamid.
Read more: Jeremy Kyle Show couple’s argument lands David Fuller in court1 Recalling the incident, Mr Touray, a security guard at St Stephen’s shopping centre, told the Mail: “I was at the mosque praying when I saw this guy walk in with his shoes on. “Shoes are not allowed to be worn in any mosque and one of my friends kept telling him, ‘No shoes, no shoes’.
“When I looked back he hadn’t left but instead closed the door and that’s when I saw the knife in his hand. “I saw the guy with him had a slice on his face, so I asked him, ‘Who did that to you ? Did he do this to you?’
“He nodded, so I told Hamid to put the knife away . At that point he said, ‘This is my knife’, and put it in his pocket. “My friend at the mosque was speaking Arabic to Hamid so I told him to keep his concentration and keep talking to him .
That’s when I managed to grab the knife off him. “He ran off so I called the police2, and I saw a guy pull up in a car shouting his name, and I told him he wasn’t taking him anywhere. “He said he was from his hostel, but I wasn’t having that . He hadn’t protected him when he left with this guy with a knife, so I wasn’t going to let him protect him now.” Asked by police why he had the knife, Hamid said “to cut off his head”.
Hamid, of Albany Street, west Hull, has now been jailed for ten years as a judge commended Mr Touray and fellow worshipper, Taha Mohammed, for their “extremely remarkable courage”. Mr Mohammed comforted the victim until police arrived, arrested Hamid and recovered the knives from the mosque in Berkeley Street, west Hull. Mr Touray believes his 14 years’ experience as a security guard helped him talk Hamid out of further harming the victim.
“I knew I had to help when I saw what was happening,” he said. “If I didn’t he could have easily gone out and hurt someone in the street. “My job helped me in the situation, because I knew what to do . I don’t think I would have gone as near him if not. “But I think everyone needs to help out in some little bit when these things happen. “I have been visiting this mosque for years and this is the first time anything like this has happened.
“This is a community we all have to live in.” Hamid and his victim were followed to the mosque from Albany Street by another neighbour, who believed the man was in “grave danger”.
Read more: Hull looks to host more ‘big attractions’ and a winter festival when City of Culture finishes3 When Hamid was interviewed by police the day after the incident on September 9, last year, he said he was going to kill the man with one of the knives, and asked why, said: “To stop him doing bad things to me.” He admitted kidnap, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and threatening with an offensive weapon.
Imam Hafiz Salik said: “We have never had anything like it and we have been there for more than 30 years.”
Security services thwarted 13 potential terrorist attacks on the UK in less than four years and are running more than 500 live investigations at any time, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer has revealed. Assistant commissioner Mark Rowley disclosed the figures as he launched a major appeal for the public to report any suspicions and act on their instincts, stressing that help is critical to foiling atrocities. The Metropolitan Police officer said that since June 2013, police and intelligence agencies have disrupted 13 terrorist attack plots. The figure is one higher than the last tally given in October. Information from members of the public has contributed to stopping some of those attacks, while figures show it has assisted counter-terrorism police in a third of the most high-risk investigations. Describing the contribution as ‘extraordinary’, Mr Rowley said: “Some of that information is a change in someone’s behaviour, some of that’s about suspicious activity. “Sometimes that public information has actually started an investigation .
Other times it’s part way through and it corroborates some things or adds to things we already know. “The public are making a great contribution which is critical to us all working together to protect ourselves from terrorism.” Investigators have been making terror-related arrests at a rate of close to one a day on average since 2014, he said. The official threat level for international terrorism has stood at severe – meaning an attack is ‘highly likely’ – for more than two years. Mr Rowley said that ‘tempo’ of activity continues . He identified a host of challenges including encrypted communication methods, propaganda and the range of possible attack methods.
“Now we worry about everything from fairly simple attacks with knives or using vehicles all the way through to the more complex firearms attacks,” he said. “All of that means that our job remains difficult . We’ve got over 500 investigations at any one stage.”
In the year to March, the anti-terrorist hotline received more than twice the number of calls on the previous 12 months, with 22,000 people making contact. Mr Rowley said: ” Even though the public are doing a great job, we want more help.” As part of the Action Counters Terrorism campaign, a podcast has been produced revealing previously untold stories of how terrorist attacks on UK soil were prevented, featuring accounts from detectives, bomb disposal and surveillance officers. Mr Rowley said the aim of releasing new material was to give an insight into how terrorists might prepare and provide more confidence for the public to report any suspicions. He said: ” I think what often happens is a member of the public will see something, or hear something, and think ‘well that’s a bit odd, but maybe I’m overreacting and I won’t bother telling anybody’. “Us putting more information out there, the aim is that it gives that bit more confidence for the public.
“We will respond carefully, we won’t overreact. “If it turns out to be a call where you made it with good intent but actually there was no problem at the end of it, that’s fine. “We’d rather have many calls like that, rather than miss out on the critical one that helps us stop an attack.”
Security minister Ben Wallace welcomed the campaign, saying: ” The horror of recent terrorist attacks in Europe and beyond is a shocking reminder of the threat we all face.”