British intelligence agency MI5 is paying Muslim informants across the UK for short-term spying missions to help avert terrorist attacks by homegrown Islamist extremists, according to a media report.
Individuals across the UK are being employed on temporary assignments to acquire intelligence on specific targets, The Guardian reported, citing sources within the Muslim community.
One such source said an informant was recently paid as much as 2,000 pounds (more than Rs 200,000) by the British security services to spy on activities relating to a mosque over a six-week period.
However, the use of payments to gather intelligence prompted warnings that the system risked producing information “corrupted” by the money on offer, the report said.
The initiative is being coordinated under the government’s official post-9/11 counter-terrorism strategy.
The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 (Military Intelligence, Section 5), is the Britain’s domestic counter- intelligence and security agency – part of the intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS; also known as MI6) focused on foreign threats, Defence Intelligence (DI) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).
The sources did not divulge on the number of informants receiving government funding or how much of the agency’s national security budget is allocated to such transactions.
However, the use of payments to gather information resulted in prompt calls for caution from senior figures in the Muslim community, who warned that such transactions could produce tainted intelligence.
East London Mosque Spokesman Salman Farsi 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.”