An anonymous source told the newspaper that MI5 is employing people across the UK in Muslim communities on temporary contracts to gather intelligence on specific targets attending the same mosque. The source also stated that they knew of one Muslim informant who had been paid £2,000 by the security services to spy on a specific mosque for six weeks.
"It's been driven by the [intelligence] agencies, it's a network of human resources across the country engaged to effectively spy on specific targets. It's decent money."
But MI5's method of paying money to Muslims to spy on people in their own communities has come under criticism. Salman Farsi, spokesman for the UK's largest mosque in East London suggested that the offer of money could corrupt the intelligence:
"If there's money on the table, where's the scrutiny or the oversight to ensure whether someone has not just come up with some fabricated information? Money can corrupt."
Following the terror attack in London in 2007, the government spent millions on its 'Prevent' program to counter radicalization — but eight years later it has been accused of failing to prevent terrorism and radicalization, instead alienating Muslim communities in the UK further.
According to the Islamic Human Rights Commission: "The Prevent regime of attempting to stop young Muslims from being radicalized is not working and is simply alienating Muslims in Britain by serving as a cover for intelligence gathering on the community."
But with around 650 young men, women and children who have fled the UK to join ISIL militants in Iraq and Syria and 3,000 radicalized terrorists being monitored by the MI5 — it appears that the British government's approach to preventing terror isn't working — and could be the reason behind this new push for for more powers.
The UK government and intelligence agency MI5, however, appear to agree on one thing — big Internet and social media companies should do more to help the authorities by reporting suspect users and sharing swathes of encrypted data with intelligence officers.
Spy agency involved in spying: if there ever was a non-story, this is it. MI5 pays Muslims to spy on terror suspects http://t.co/MVWLNkAkpx— Peter R. Neumann (@PeterRNeumann) September 19, 2015
In what seems to be another round in the public relations exercise pushing for more support for the government's Communications Data Bill or Snooper's Charter, as it is also known, the head of the MI5 told British media that Internet and social media companies should inform the authorities if any users are a cause for concern.
"Some of the social media companies operate arrangements for their own purposes under their codes of practice which cause them to close accounts."
Andrew Parker also wants the companies to pass on those account details to the intelligence agencies.
The Snooper's Charter, would grant police and intelligence services more power to intercept and monitor almost every channel of terrorist communication online and offline. It could also force Internet companies to hand over users' private data.
UK Home Secretary Theresa May is seeking support from Internet and telecoms companies for the controversial surveillance bill, whilst the head of MI5 publicly calls for more powers to monitor potential threats amid revelations his officers are paying Muslim informants 'decent money' to spy on their own mosques.