Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre

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Group.png Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre   PowerbaseRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
FormationJune 2003
Parent organizationMI5
HeadquartersThames House
LeaderDirector General of MI5
Typeintelligence agency
The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre reports to the head of MI5 although it is not formally part of the Security Service.

Official narrative

The MI5 website stated in 2009 that "The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, or JTAC, was created as the UK's centre for the analysis and assessment of international "terrorism". It was established in June 2003 and is based in the Security Service's headquarters at Thames House in London."[1]

Spying on students

Vikram Dodd, writing in The Guardian, reported in October 2006 that "Lecturers and university staff across Britain are to be asked to spy on "Asian-looking" and Muslim students they suspect of involvement in Islamic extremism and supporting terrorist violence." The Guardian's source was a Department of Education document. According to Dodd, the document suggests that "checks should be made on external speakers at Islamic society events: "The control of university or college Islamic societies by certain extremist individuals can play a significant role in the extent of Islamist extremism on campus." The document, Dodd continues, "gives five real-life examples of extremism in universities. The first talks of suspicious computer use by "Asian" students, [and] … it talks of students of "Asian appearance" being suspected extremists."[2]

Sponsoring academic research

This approach is exemplified in the conduct of MI5’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC). In 2006 the Centre came under fire for its attempts to fund a research initiative through the offices of the Economic and Social Research Council which would examine Muslim communities in Britain. According to the Times Higher Education Supplement, the initiative

provoked a furious response from academics who claimed it was tantamount to asking researchers to act as spies for British intelligence. Critics claimed the move endangered the lives of researchers, particularly social scientists and their sources in Muslim countries, whether working on the project or not. ... Academics would be asked to "scope the growth in influence and membership of extremist Islamist groups in the past 20 years", "name key figures and key groups" and "understand the use of theological legitimisation for violence".
"Key topics" include "radicalisation drivers and counterstrategies in each of the countries studied" and "future trends likely to increase/decrease radicalisation". ... John Gledhill, chair of the Association of Social Anthropologists, said: "This raises fundamental ethical issues. People feel that it smacks of the Cold War use of academics in counter-insurgency activities - essentially using academics as spies."[3]

According to Dr David Miller of the University of Strathclyde, reporting for Spinwatch on a 2006 conference in Manchester entitled, "Is it time for a Critical Terrorism Studies?"[4], discussion at the conference[5] indicated that the FCO/JTAC had originally approached at least one UK academic "terrorism" studies institute to give the money direct to a research team. But the institute concerned turned this overture down partly on the basis of ethical concerns about whether it was ‘research’ or intelligence gathering. JTAC then seems to have gone to the ESRC, with the results detailed above.[6]

Miller reports that a JTAC representative was at the conference and seems to have been surprised by the level of criticism of government from some participants. Julia Eastman was able to discuss her views in one to one sessions, but it seems that she had been banned by the Foreign Office – even under Chatham House rules – from speaking publicly at the conference.[7]

Blackburn report and Jack Straw

In August 2008, the Centre produced a report on Islamic extremism in Blackburn. The reported was highlighted in September 2009 by a 'security figure' briefing against Blackburn MP and Justice Secretary Jack Straw to the Sunday Times:

A senior security figure who has seen the report said it underlined concern among cabinet colleagues that Straw could be “too close” to the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), a prominent Muslim umbrella group. The government formally severed links with the group after a blazing row over extremism earlier this year.
“Jack’s a bit too close to the MCB — he sometimes appears to suggest they are the only game in town. There is a concern that proximity to them may colour [his] judgment,” the insider said.[8]


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Unthinking extremism - Radicalising narratives that legitimise surveillancepaper26 October 2015Ben Harbisher
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  1. Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, MI5 website, accessed January 2009
  2. Vikram Dodd, Universities urged to spy on Muslims, The Guardian, 16 October 2006, accessed January 2009
  3. Phil Baty, Life-risking 'spy' plan pulled, Times Higher Education Supplement, 20 October 2006, accessed January 2009
  4. "Is it time for a Critical Terrorism Studies?", 27–28 October 2006, accessed January 2009
  5. David Miller, "Terrorism studies" and the war on dissent, Spinwatch, 7 November 2006, accessed January 2009
  6. David Miller, "Terrorism studies" and the war on dissent, Spinwatch, 7 November 2006, accessed January 2009
  7. David Miller, "Terrorism studies" and the war on dissent, Spinwatch, 7 November 2006, accessed January 2009
  8. David Leppard and Kevin Dowling, Jack Straw ‘too close’ to pro-Hamas faction,Sunday Times, 4 October 2009.