The Bishopsgate Bomb: Information on terrorist actions remains 'fuzzy': Shortage of intelligence on IRA: Intelligence services face a difficult task keeping track of the IRA. David McKittrick, Terry Kirby and Colin Brown report

THE City of London bomb is another illustration that, four years into the most sustained campaign waged by the IRA in Britain, the intelligence services are still woefully short of information on the terrorists.

It was several years into the campaign before the authorities accepted that they faced not just another series of hit-and-run attacks but a calculated attempt to bring to Britain many of the features of the Northern Ireland campaign.

Belatedly, the authorities have attuned themselves to countering a campaign which shows all the signs of running for many years. One indication is the existence of a prolonged research programme into matters such as the electronic searching of large vehicles. Another sign was the decision to give MI5 the lead in dealing with gathering intelligence on the IRA in Britain, rather than the Special Branch. Only operational since October, this transition is still taking place, some sources believing it will take many more months before MI5 is firmly in the saddle.

Reliable sources acknowledge that the Special Branch was at first extraordinarily reluctant to envisage any such change, but say this week's reports of continuing tensions between the organisations are exaggerated.

No single individual or agency is in charge of the response to terrorism. Those involved include MI5, the Special Branch, the Anti-Terrorist Branch at Scotland Yard and the 42 provincial forces, each with a chief constable and their own detectives, whose sensibilities have to be accommodated.

Above their heads is a network of Whitehall committees which supervise the wider intelligence community of which counter-IRA terrorism is now a significant part.

Commander David Tucker, the head of the Anti-Terrorist Branch, is deemed the national co-ordinator and theoretically controls all post-incident investigations.

A committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers, which consists of Brian Johnson, the Chief Constable of Lancashire, Albert Pacey, the Chief Constable of Gloucestershire and chairman of Acpo's crime committee, together with Mr Tucker's superior, Bill Taylor, the Assistant Commissioner (Specialist Operations) at Scotland Yard, exists to iron out differences.

The main problem may lie not in a lack of co-operation but in a basic lack of information on the terrorists. The sketchy nature of this was illustrated by the fact that security was stepped up a week before the City of London attack, with extra police activity and warnings to a number of VIPs to be particularly vigilant.

Security appears to have slackened, however, just before the bombing took place. Friday's routine alert of IRA activity is believed to have been too general to enable forces to take specific precautions.

Many aspects of the IRA campaign are still shrouded in mystery. The organisation appears to have a network of members and supporters in Britain, but these may not carry out operations. Senior police have now revised their figures upwards and believe that more than 30 hardcore activists may be in Britain at any one time, comprising those resident and those dispatched for particular missions.

The intelligence services do not, however, appear to know how those activists travel back and forth to Ireland. They have lists of people they suspect of being involved, but much of this information is speculative and incomplete. One source said: 'The picture is fuzzy on how and by what routes this material is moved, and about some of the people who are being used for operations in Britain, who are clearly not known to police in Belfast, Dublin or London.'

The RUC and Garda in the Irish Republic report suspicious disappearances of known 'players', but there seems to be no reliable early-warning system to alert London.

Questions about the effectiveness of intelligence-gathering have led to increased pressure on the Prime Minister to introduce legislation to allow oversight of MI5 by MPs. Senior Tories have been assured privately that an MI5 Bill will be included in the legislative list for the Queen's Speech in November.

Senior backbenchers were last night seeking renewed assurances that there would be no slippage with the Bill in the wake of the City bombing. There is concern at Westminster that MI5 has failed to penetrate the IRA cells in England.

The City of London police are not being blamed by the MPs for the bombing. They have accepted assurances from the police that there was nothing that could be done to prevent the bomb going off.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
News
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
fashion
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Chemistry Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: [ Megan Smith 22/09/2014 17:00:...

Foundation and KS1 Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Foundation and Key Stage 1...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments