NewsUK shifts focus to counter Russian, Chinese, Iranian spies

UK shifts focus to counter Russian, Chinese, Iranian spies

British police
British police
Images source: © Getty Images | BrianAJackson

7:36 AM EDT, June 2, 2024

Ministers are warning the heads of British intelligence about Russian, Chinese, and Iranian spies. The fight against this threat is to be considered as important as the fight against terrorism.

The British newspaper "The Telegraph" revealed that British intelligence (MI5) has been ordered to shift its activities toward detecting spies from Russia, China, and Iran.

Combating espionage should be as high a priority as fighting terrorism. Although domestic and international terrorism remain important concerns for the services, government sources report that intelligence is currently allocating more resources to operations targeting counterintelligence from Russia, China, and Iran.

A government source said MI5 has limited resources, so the fight against spies must be a priority. The level of the terrorism threat remains "significant," but the challenges currently posed by China and Russia are "more pressing."

The source added that as many as 20 officials from the Chinese embassy in the United Kingdom were likely operating as spies. "But the numbers of agents, civilians who have been recruited by the Chinese intelligence services may run into the hundreds of thousands," it reads.

Chinese agents are active in academia, among students and professors, in business, and even in the arts. In some cases, individuals gathering information may not be aware that the Chinese state is using them for intelligence. According to Colonel Philip Ingram, a former military intelligence officer, it is impossible to determine the number of Chinese intelligence sources in the United Kingdom.

"Article 7 of the Chinese act"

"Article 7 of China's national intelligence law states that all Chinese organizations and citizens should 'support, assist and cooperate' with Chinese intelligence efforts, meaning every citizen could be used overtly or without their knowledge by the Chinese state to gather information," reminds "The Telegraph."

Ken McCallum, Director General of MI5, said last year that Chinese state entities had contacted 20,000 Britons on LinkedIn, hoping for cooperation in stealing industrial or technological secrets.

The head of MI5 added that industrial espionage occurs on a "large scale." It estimated that 10,000 British enterprises are at risk, especially in sectors where China has attempted to gain an advantage, such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, or synthetic biology.

Warnings about Russia, Iran, China

In May, it was revealed that Russia is recruiting violent right-wing extremists to carry out sabotage attacks in Europe and the United Kingdom, causing additional concern among intelligence chiefs.

Iran is also using organized criminal gangs to conduct intimidation operations and plan assassinations in the United Kingdom.

Last year, McCallum warned that Iran-supported terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom are more likely following the outbreak of war in Israel.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on National Security Strategy warned that the UK "must be prepared for the possibility of foreign interference" from China, Russia, and Iran during general elections.

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