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U.K. Sets Up Counter-Espionage Unit To Combat Foreign Interference in Elections

The Reds are under the British beds, and they are coming out to interfere with the Crown’s democracy, according to the head of a new counter-espionage unit being set up in the United Kingdom. As Barron’s today reported from Agence France-Presse, U.K. counter-terrorism chief Matt Jukes told media on Jan. 19 that the espionage threat from foreign states—such as China, Russia and Iran—is greater now than it has been “since the days of the cold war.” Jukes clarified: “We are talking about parts of the state apparatus of Iran, China and Russia.”

The counter-terrorism chief said that these state actors would be targeting the elections in the U.K. that are expected to occur later this year. Based upon these new revelations from a briefing provided by Jukes, U.K. Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said on Jan. 20 that the U.K. is taking threats of foreign interference in the 2024 elections seriously. “Obviously, that’s something that we take very seriously,” Shapps emphasized to the Sky News channel. Shapps added that counter-terrorism bodies and other institutions would “be looking very carefully at that.”

The new counter-espionage unit will use the powers afforded by the National Security Act of 2023 to ensure that it “will be the most overt part of the U.K. security community stepping up its response to those hostile state actions,” according to Jukes’ remarks.

The U.K.’s National Security Act was given royal assent in July 2023, and commenced in part on Dec. 20, 2023. According to a British Home Office fact sheet, the recently commenced National Security Act “is a response to the threat of hostile activity from states targeting the U.K.’s democracy, economy and values.” The fact sheet states that these “threats are diverse, are persistent, the form they take is varied and includes espionage, foreign interference in our political system, sabotage, disinformation, cyber operations, and even assassinations and poisonings.” The act also introduces a new Foreign Influence Registration scheme, “which will bring greater transparency by requiring registration of foreign influence in our political system and registration of a broader set of influence activities from specified foreign powers.” The act also takes the place of various “Official Secrets Acts” of specified years and amends the Terrorism Act 2000.

With political tensions rising due to the collapse of the transatlantic financial system, the ever-present themes of foreign interference in elections and foreign disinformation campaigns will be used to deflect from domestically generated problems, while simultaneously targeting as dissidents those citizens who express ideas and information that has been deemed as foreign misinformation. According to Reuters, Matt Jukes cited the increasing volumes of online misinformation—greater than in any previous election year—and also said the conflict in Israel and Gaza was a “radicalization moment” that had the potential to push susceptible people towards terrorism.

On Jan. 21, China’s Global Times cited experts who noted that in the past years, especially after Brexit, Britain has faced numerous difficulties, including economic underdevelopment and a domestic cost of living crisis. Zhang Jian, vice president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told Global Times that “the ruling Conservative Party has been unable to address these problems and has instead blamed external factors, such as countries like China and Russia.”

Whatever temperature they have planned for this war—cold or hot—the Crown knows that crushing deliberation and dialogue is crucial for maintaining power.