MI5's Team of 'Mind Readers' for Preventing Terrorism


09 Aug 2016

MI5's Anti-Terror Mind Reading Team

British domestic counter-intelligence agency MI5's Behavioural Science Unit (BSU) is a specialised team tasked with helping the intelligence agency prevent terror attacks.

It is a team of criminologists, anthropologists, psychologists and academicians who analyze the behaviour of potential terrorists to predict whether they are going to attack.

Reportedly, the BSU has helped the MI5 prevent seven terror attacks in 2015.

A bit about MI5's Behavioural Science Unit (BSU)

MI5's Behavioural Science Unit (BSU) was created in 2004 for monitoring imminent terror threats. The strength of the BSU was doubled after the death of British Army soldier Lee Rigby in London at the hands of jihadists in 2013.


How does the mind reading team predict terrorist behaviour?

How does the mind reading team predict terrorist behaviour?

The BSU categorizes potential threats as "talkers or walkers" i.e. those who issue empty threats and those who act on them.

The team gathers intelligence on potential threats from surveillance logs, public online information, MI5 spies and their informers.

The team then looks for unusual activity and behaviour among the potential threats they monitor, looking for clues which might warn of an imminent attack.

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Terrorist behavioural patterns

According to the BSU, over 60% of "lone wolf" attackers unwittingly display signs that they are preparing an attack. Furthermore, only 2% of terrorists suffer from mental health problems thereby making it easier for the BSU to observe predictable behaviour patterns for the rest 98%.


What are the signs of an imminent terror attack?

According to the BSU, possible "lone wolf" attackers display signs before they plan an attack.

These signs may include developing capability i.e. trying to overcome inhibitions to kill.

They might also include activity aimed to develop skills and acquire tactics and gear for a planned attack.

However, the time period over which these incubation processes take place may vary for each individual.

The BSU's list of potential threats

Apart from monitoring hundreds of British jihadis within the UK, the BSU, right now, is also monitoring 400 potential terrorists who are British jihadis and have recently returned to the UK from Syria.

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