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Games security 'leaving UK at risk'
Preparations for the London Olympics have placed the intelligence and security agencies under "unprecedented pressure", MPs warned.
The parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) - which oversees the work of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ - expressed concern that risks were been taken with other aspects of security because of the demands of the Olympics.
"We recognise that the Security Service (MI5) has taken all possible measures to make available the necessary resources during the period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, but remain concerned at the risk that is being taken in some areas and the vulnerability of the UK at this critical period," the committee said in its annual report.
"The Olympic and Paralympic Games have placed all three agencies (particularly the Security Service) under unprecedented pressure this year."
In its annual report, the ISC said MI5 had identified three potential sources of terrorist threat to the Games:
:: An attack by al Qaida and its affiliates - particularly on US or Israeli nationals;
:: An attack or a hoax by Irish republican terrorist groups aimed at causing disruption rather than mass casualties;
:: Clashes between rival groups or ethnicities present in London during the Games who would not normally be considered a security threat to the UK.
In the run-up to the Olympics, the report said, staff had been taken off lower priority areas of work so that they could concentrate on the potential threat to the Games.
The ISC said that MI5 had planned on the basis that it would have to deal with double the normal volume of new intelligence leads - possibly rising to peaks of four times greater than usual.
A further burden had been imposed by the need to check the 540,000 applications for accreditation to the Games received from athletes, officials and volunteers against the relevant databases in order to identify any individual posing a threat to national security.
In addition MI5 had had to undertake extensive briefings of foreign intelligence agencies representing more 200 nations participating in the Games who were expected to send representatives to London with their teams for co-ordination and security purposes.
All three intelligence agencies had had to change their working patterns in order to deal with the demands - including imposing restrictions on leave and extended operating hours.
The changes were said to have been very difficult for some staff "particularly in terms of arranging childcare over the summer period".
In evidence to the committee, the then National Security Adviser Sir Peter Ricketts confirmed that the focus on the Olympics would have implications for other aspects of security work.
"Of course there will be greater risk," he said.
"But with finite resources and a major national priority requiring greater effort over a defined period of time, it is inevitable that there will have to be a greater risk-taking in some parts of the Security Service business."
A Home Office spokesman said: "The Security Service prioritises its resources to meet the highest threats day in and day out and has made lengthy and thorough preparations to meet this summer's security challenges.
"The focus of the Government is to deliver a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games that London, the UK and the world can enjoy."