SHAFAQNA -Â UK intelligence agency MI5 is paying Muslim informants for controversial short-term spying missions targeting homegrown Islamist extremists.
Individuals across Britain, including in Manchester and London, are being employed on temporary assignments to acquire intelligence, according to sources within the Muslim community.
One said they knew of an informant recently paid 2000 ($4900) by the security services to spy on activities relating to a mosque over six weeks.
However, the use of payments to gather intelligence prompted warnings the system risked producing information “corrupted” by the money on offer.
The initiative is being co-ordinated under the British Government’s post-9/11 counter-terrorism strategy, specifically the strand known as Pursue, which has an official remit to “stop terrorist attacks in this country and against our interest overseas. This means detecting and investigating threats at the earliest possible stage”.
A source, not from Whitehall but with knowledge of the payments, said: “It’s been driven by the [intelligence] agencies, it’s a network of human resources across the country engaged to effectively spy on specific targets. It’s decent money.” They did not divulge the number of informants receiving funding or how much of the agency’s budget was devoted to it.
The use of payments to gather information prompted calls for caution from senior figures in the Muslim community, who warned that they could produce tainted intelligence.
Salman Farsi, spokesman for the East London Mosque, the largest in Britain, said: “We want our national security protected but, as with everything, there needs to be due scrutiny and we need to ensure things are done properly.
“If there’s money on the table, where’s the scrutiny or the oversight to ensure whether someone has not just come up with some fabricated information? Money can corrupt.”
Farsi said the Government’s central counter-radicalisation programme, Prevent, had seen tens of millions of pounds spent but faced criticism for failing to achieve its goals.