By all appearances, Jonathan Evans, the Director General of Britain’s Secret Service (or MI5), is a man of few words. He makes few public speeches, but when he deigns to get in front of the press corps, he usually has something interesting to impart, however terse the delivery. With expert knowledge of al-Qaeda (and other terrorist groups) and digital espionage, and a strong background in national security measures, this guy definitely knows his stuff, so there’s probably no safer place than London right now to host the summer games. But according to Evans himself, there’s “no such thing as guaranteed security”, and even though the country is doing everything in its power to ensure that the games do not become a target for terrorists or other attackers, he insists that no venue is impenetrable, regardless of security.
While others in positions of power might make such a statement in order to cover their own backs in case of an incident, Evans merely seems to be stating a fact and letting people know that they shouldn’t relax their guard just because there will be intense security in place. Although Evans concedes that the planning process has gone well, he warns that “the Games present an attractive target” for terrorist groups looking to take advantage of the global attention that will be focused on the Olympics in order to further their own agenda, even if that means launching an attack that hurts or kills civilians in the process. Who can forget the 1972 Munich Games, when eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage and subsequently killed? Or the explosion that rocked Atlanta in 1996?
It is with these events firmly in mind that Evans has systematically planned for the upcoming London Games, and security preparations have been extensive. No specific Olympic security force has been designated, but all members of MI5 are expected to be on hand during the Games (leave has been denied for these blackout dates) and the current threat level for terrorist attacks has been set at 3 (out of a possible 5), a situation that does not look to change before the start of the Olympics. In addition, anti-aircraft (or ground-to-air) missile systems have been deployed to various locations as a means to instantly address any threats to security during the Games (such as unauthorized aircraft or missiles).
However, even with these preparations in place, Evans warns that the finest security measures may not be enough to deter an attack. The nation’s security services are likely monitoring known terrorist cells and keeping tabs on their communications (this website or that phone line), and they certainly have anti-terrorist measures in place to combat group attacks. But the real fear, says Evans, could come from agents working alone (such as suicide bombers). These are the attacks that no amount of preparation can see coming and they will be the most difficult to detect. Still, every possible effort is being made to ensure the safety of the Olympians, the fans, and the Games themselves. But the hope is that citizens will remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the authorities.