Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism

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The Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) is an executive directorate of the UK government Home Office, created in 2007,[1] responsible for leading the work on counter-terrorism in the UK, working closely with the police and security services. The office reports to the Home Secretary (currently Theresa May) and Minister of State for Security and Counter-Terrorism (currently John Hayes). Its current Director General is Tom Hurd,[2] who is described as the senior government official responsible for counter terrorist and organised crime strategy.[3]


According to its website, the current responsibilities of the OSCT are:[4]

  • Exercising the UK's response to a terrorist incident
  • Developing legislation on terrorism here and overseas
  • Providing security measures and protection packages for public figures
  • Ensuring that the UK’s critical national infrastructure is protected from attack (including electronic attack)
  • Ensuring the UK is prepared to deal with a chemical, biological, or nuclear release
  • Liaising with government and emergency services during terrorist incidents or counter-terrorism operations

In May 2014, the Director General of OSCT made a witness statement on behalf of the government and the three main intelligence agencies for the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, in a legal case brought by advocacy groups including Privacy International, Liberty and Amnesty International, explaining the legal basis for the interception of electronic communications under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.[3][5] This was characterised in the media as an explanation of how the security services can legally monitor "Facebook, Google and Twitter" usage by UK citizens.[6][7][8]


The Preventing Violent Extremism strategy (Prevent),[9] is a £140 million[clarification needed] programme run by OSCT.

In 2013, OSCT stated that 500 people had gone through its Channel deradicalisation programme, including some considering participating in the Syrian civil war, steering some away from violent extremism.[10]


It was criticised in 2009 by Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, as a domestic spying programme collecting intelligence about the beliefs of British Muslims not involved in criminal activity.[11] The Communities and Local Government Committee was also critical of the Prevent programme in 2010, stating that it stigmatised and alienated Muslims the government wanted to work with.[12]

At the National Union of Teachers' 2016 conference in Brighton, the union members voted overwhelmingly against the Prevent strategy and supported its abolition, citing concerns of implementing the strategy and causing "suspicion in the classroom and confusion in the staffroom".[13]

See also


  1. Mark Townsend (8 June 2014). "Infighting between ministers goes back to 7 July London attacks". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  2. Leppard, David (22 April 2012). "Chief snooper pops out of the shadows". Sunday Times. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Charles Balndford Farr (16 May 2014). "Witness: Charles Farr, Statement number 1 (to Investigatory Powers Tribunal)" (PDF). Privacy International. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  4. "Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism - About us". Home Office. Archived from the original on 2007-10-22. 
  5. Sam Jones and Robert Cookson (17 June 2014). "UK has power to monitor citizens on social media, says counter-terrorism chief". Financial Times. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  6. "Google and Facebook can be legally intercepted, says UK spy boss". BBC. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  7. Rhiannon Williams (17 June 2014). "GCHQ sanctions spying on every Facebook, Google and Twitter user". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  8. Owen Bowcott (17 June 2014). "Social media mass surveillance is permitted by law, says top UK official". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  9. "Protecting the UK against terrorism - Prevent". 26 March 2013. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  10. "500 terror suspects 'deradicalised' by Home Office". BBC. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  11. Vikram Dodd (16 October 2009). "Government anti-terrorism strategy 'spies' on innocent". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 June 2014. 
  12. Dominic Casciani (30 March 2010). "Prevent extremism strategy 'stigmatising', warn MPs". BBC. Retrieved 9 June 2014. 
  13. Adams, Richard (28 March 2016). "Teachers back motion calling for Prevent strategy to be scrapped". The Guardian. Brighton, United Kingdom. Retrieved 28 March 2016. 

External links