Britain's MI5 spy agency to send terror alert emails

Britain's domestic spy agency MI5 launched a new email alert service on Tuesday to warn the public about changes in the security threat level.

Internet users will be able to register on the MI5 website to receive automatic electronic updates in their email inboxes.

The email alerts are the latest in a series of moves by MI5 and its partner, the international spy agency MI6, to open up to the public after decades of guarding extreme secrecy.

"It's part of the service's ongoing effort to improve its public communications and contribute to the government's policy of keeping the public informed about the national threat level," a spokeswoman for the home office said.

In recent years both MI5 and MI6 have begun to emerge from the shadows, launching websites offering security advice and information about careers in the spy services, and even running recruitment advertisements in newspapers.

The spokeswoman said the email alert service would inform people of threat level ratings which the government has been making public since last August.

The current rating is "severe", the second-highest level -- indicating the government believes an attack is highly likely.

The head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, said last November that there were at least 30 active Islamist militant plots in Britain and the threats could involve chemical or nuclear devices.

As well as signing up for threat updates, Internet users will also be able to register for email alerts on any other new information posted on the MI5 website.

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