The big news from the UK today is that one of ISIS's executioners has been identified as a London man known who was being monitored by MI5. But in addition to raising questions about MI5's competence, its also raising questions about their role in his radicalisation:
Emails and other documents that emerged on Thursday also showed that security services had been tracking Emwazi since 2009, starting when he was refused entry to Tanzania, until the middle of 2013 when they informed his family that he had crossed over to Syria.
During that period Emwazi complained on occasion that he had been harassed by MI5, but the Kuwaiti-born Briton eventually disappeared before arriving on the world stage as the murderous public face of Isis in August 2014.
Asim Qureshi, the research director of Cage, an advocacy group working with victims of the “war on terror”, said Emwazi’s repeated detention and interrogation by the security services would have ended up making him susceptible to radicalisation. Cage had previously advised Emwazi when he was complaining about his treatment five years ago.
Emwazi was refused permission to enter Tanzania in August 2009, and he told Cage that he was put on a plane to the Netherlands where he was questioned by MI5. In a subsequent series of emails sent to Cage, Emwazi said the British officer knew “everything about me; where I lived, what I did, and the people I hanged around with”.
He said that he was asked to become an informant but refused – and the MI5 officer was alleged to have said that “life would be harder”.
There's no question that Emwazi was an extremist - that's why MI5 was interested in him. But in this case, as in others, their heavy-handed tactics seem to have made things worse, not better, and pushed him over the edge into murder. Its the war on terror in miniature, where the US/UK's abuses simply drive more people to terrorism. we've seen it over US torture, which is a recruiting poster for radicals. We've seen it over Iraq and Afghanistan, where the US invasion provided an endless stream of atrocities. And we're seeing it in Australia at the moment, where Tony Abbott's war on Muslims is fuelling rather than quenching domestic radicalism. And sadly, John Key seems to be marching us down exactly the same path. And the only people who do well out of such tactics are spies and terrorists, who seem to paradoxically need each other to survive.