MI5 Tells Government to Help ISIS Jihadi Children Ease Back Into British Society

A surge in the number of "high-risk" terror suspects represents a "striking shift" in the nature of MI5's workload, placing greater pressure on the agency's resources, a report has warned.

The annual assessment published by the Parliament Intelligence and Security Committee said: "MI5 told us that 'the most striking shift in the composition of [counter terror] casework in the last five years was the proportion of what we refer to as high-risk casework.'"

"Typically, 'high-risk casework' refers to individuals who have received terrorist training or are attempting to procure the means to carry out an attack, but who may not yet have a current attack plan.

"Previously, these sorts of cases represented a smaller share of MI5's work, with a greater proportion of cases being 'slower burn' in character and requiring less resource-intensive monitoring.

Manchester Attack Memorial
People attend a vigil for the victims of an attack at a pop concert at Manchester Arena, in central Manchester, Britain May 29, 2017. REUTERS/ Andrew Yates/Reuters

The spy agency also told the committee it was aware of 3,000 "subjects of interest," and a further 20,000 people who had previously been subjects of interest. The agency monitors these subjects for any re-engagement in suspicious or extremist activity.

Meanwhile, spies are also concerned about the threat posed by approximately 300 British fighters, now in Syria or Iraq, who left the country to join the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), and are liable to return to the U.K. now that the group is significantly weakened in its home territory.

"I am very concerned about it... A year from now most of them will not be in Syria and Iraq, probably. Who can say how this will unfold?" MI5 told the committee.

MI5 said: "Individuals returning to the UK after having been fighting in Syria and Iraq represent a significant threat to UK security. We recognise the efforts being made to identify, assess and respond to the return of these people to the UK, and urge the Government to ensure that every returnee is fully assessed, that resources are made available such that appropriate monitoring continues on an ongoing basis, and every effort is made to reintegrate children."

Home Secretary Amber Rudd also told the committee that the children of these fighters could also be a risk to British security.

"The families coming back will be potentially having children who are going to be vulnerable, who are going to need protecting," she said, "but also potentially fighters themselves who could be a danger to society and could radicalise other people. It is absolutely a serious threat."

Elsewhere in the report, spies warned that, while they viewed this as unlikely, any move by President Trump to lower standards in the U.S. treatment of detainees could be very problematic for the U.K.-U.S. relationship.

During his election campaign, Donald Trump claimed at one point that "torture works."

"I think it's early days and obviously if some of the more extreme talk in the campaign was translated into policy or legislation, then that would be difficult," GCHQ told the committee. "But we have no reason to think that will happen," the agency continued.

"I think the most important thing for us is that we know what's going on, and that our staff continue to talk to each other, our lawyers continue to talk to each other and that we are aware of any fundamental changes in the legal position.

MI5 added: "Whether this signals a likelihood to return to forms of abuse of detainees, I think we spent enough time in this room talking about that for you to know I would be very highly alert to any sort of changes like that," MI5 said.

"I have communicated internally already about this in MI5, that, you know, whatever happens, MI5 will operate within the law and by our values. So if any of that changes on the US side, there will be a consequence in the relationship."