HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Turning now to issues of security following last night’s attack, I’m joined from London by Peter Neumann, a professor at King’s College London who is also with the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence.
Peter, Prime Minister Theresa May, said things are going to have to change. What has to change?
PETER NEUMANN, KING’S COLLEGE LONDON: So, she didn’t actually announce any specific measure. She said enough is enough, and she said that we have to fight against the ideology that she declared to be Islamist extremism, but she didn’t outline any specific actions that could be taken. And I don’t think there is necessarily a lot she can do. I think as far as known networks are concerned, I think they could intervene a little bit earlier.
In the case of Manchester, for example, all the suspects were known. They were known to the authorities, and for some reason, they weren’t arrested, probably because the authorities thought they were under control and they wanted to wait and observe a little bit longer. I think the threshold has become a little bit lower and they’re going to intervene a little earlier now.
SREENIVASAN: Given the three attacks in just a couple of weeks here, do the security forces, the intelligence forces start the take proactive measures to prevent this?
NEUMANN: On the whole, the Brits have had a reputation for being very well-positioned. They had a good strategy. They’ve invested very consistently into counterterrorism since 2005, since July 7 attacks. And they have a great reputation in Europe. So, it’s going to be very hard for them to level up and to make great improvements because perhaps somewhat overconfidently, they believe they’re pretty good already.
SREENIVASAN: Right. Prime Minister May also called for regulation of the Internet and social media as a way to try and fight this. Is this possible to contain? I mean, in the sense that if it was not directed by ISIS, let’s say, it was inspired by them. How do you stop people from communicating and being inspired by something so horrible?
NEUMANN: I think it’s very politically convenient for her to say that. It’s true that in 2014, there was a massive problem on mainstream social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. All the jihadists were basically there and trying to radicalize and recruit. But those mainstream social media platforms have acted since.
So, the problem that we have today no longer one of jihadists being on Facebook and Twitter, they are no longer there. They are in private messaging services like Telegram which are end to end encrypted and which are much more difficult to regulate.
SREENIVASAN: Peter, how do the U.S. — I should say the U.K. intelligence agencies get their arms around such a sizable population of people that they’re already concerned about? I have heard numbers as large as 3,000 people who are actively engaged in the ideology, maybe 20,000 more people post-9/11 that they’ve had their eyes on.
NEUMANN: Over the past five or six years, the numbers of people who are supposed to be involved in violent extremism have in some cases quadrupled and capacity of many security agencies is no longer sufficient to monitor and to manage them. So, the greater the numbers are in Britain, for example, is 3,000 people who are considered to be potentially violent extremists, the greater and the more difficult the judgment calls, who do you monitor, who do you arrest, who do you consider to be dangerous, and the greater the number, the more likely it is that mistakes are happening.
And this could very well be what’s caused the three attacks over the past three months, in England, that the wrong judgment calls were made.
SREENIVASAN: All right. Peter Neumann of King’s College — thanks so much for joining us.
NEUMANN: Thank you.