Making sense of threat levels

May 24, 2017 | News

Courtesy: Fortune

By: Reid Goodison

The ‘critical’ threat level for acts of terror in the U.K. means that an “attack is expected imminently,” according to the scheme used by intelligence officials. This increase from ‘severe,’ which means that “an attack is highly likely,” was issued Tuesday following the deadly attack on Manchester Arena on Monday night. Meanwhile, Canada’s national threat level is at ‘medium,’ meaning that ‘a violent act of terrorism could occur.’ The level has remained unchanged since October.

Canada and the U.K. operate with similar threat ‘scales’ – both have five levels, with higher numbers meaning there is greater likelihood and imminence for a violent act of terror. Director of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security, and Society (TSAS) Lorne Dawson said these scales are “broad devices,” and are necessary for people to make sense of any escalation of threats and to take them seriously.

A change in one country does not lead to a change in another, however. “Nothing specific has changed for Canada,” said Dawson. “There is no new information, no new plot, no evidence that what has happened will be matched here.”

The Public Report on the Terrorist Threat to Canada released in 2016 by the Ministry of Public Safety outlines how threat levels are determined. Three big factors are a terrorist entity’s intention, capability, and opportunity. This means an ‘entity’ must intend to target Canada, be capable of attempting an attack, and have the opportunity to do so.

The 2016 Report says that the intention, capability, and opportunity to attack Canada are key factors in determining threat levels. The Report details access to training and weapons as variables to capability, and geography, ‘logistical hurdles,’ and counter-terrorism efforts as limitations to opportunity.

A medium threat level means ‘A violent act of terrorism could occur. Additional measures are in place to keep Canadians safe,’ according to the Report.

Being at this level makes sense, Dawson said. “The likelihood is extremely low that Canadians will be exposed to terrorist situations. However, Canada is involved in the war on terror. We do have reason to be concerned.”