'Transparent' Secret Services urged
The silence around counter-terrorism activities increases mistrust in the Government and helps fuel conspiracy theories which can tip people into extremism, a think-tank has said.
The Secret Services should become more transparent and the Government should even consider infiltrating online sites to cast doubt upon conspiracy theories, Demos said.
The warning comes after Michael Clarke, of the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) think-tank, said the UK had more to fear than any other western country from home-grown terrorists and the conditions were all there for a series of attacks to begin at any time.
Jamie Bartlett, who wrote the report for Demos, said: "Less-secret services could make Britain safer. The more open the Government is, the harder it is for extremist groups to make stories out of silence.
"Clearly, there are occasions when more transparency is not possible for reasons of national security, the safety of certain individuals, or resource constraints. But the degree to which conspiracy theories make up part of the extremist mind-set and world-view suggests it needs to be confronted.
"They destroy the trust that exists between the government and communities, which is the basis of effective counter-terrorism work. Careful moves to greater openness can reduce the traction these ideas have."
His report, the Power of Unreason, found the frequency of conspiracy theories within a wide variety of extremist groups "suggests that they play an important social and functional role within extremism itself".
"They hold extremist groups together and push them in a more extreme and sometimes violent direction," he said.
Demos recommended that "Government agents or their allies should openly infiltrate the internet sites or spaces to plant doubts about conspiracy theories, introducing alternative information".
But it added that there was a limit to what the Government could do and "civil society must play a more proactive role in confronting conspiracy theories".