I found an email from MI5 in my inbox when I woke up this morning. Maybe you did too, if you've signed up to their not-terribly-securealert service. According to the email from the National Security Advice Centre (NSAC), the latest Threat Assessment (TA) for our Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) has elevated to the highest possible level. Yesterday it was Severe, but this morning it's Critical. An attack is no longer "highly likely", it's "expected imminently". This, presumably, is a bad thing.
Of course nobody's willing to tell us what this threat actually is. We could be in peril from dirty bombs, or poisoned reservoirs, or mutant nanogenes, or approaching asteroids, or total planet core meltdown. Or maybe some amateur terrorist organisation has found a way to make in-flight explosives by mixing suntan lotion with bottles of Diet Coke. They're not saying. The nature of the threat is not important, so it seems, just so long as we know that such a threat now exists. It's probably just the Home Secretary getting twitchy, but vigilance must now be our watchword - anywhere, everywhere, just in case.
But, as it turns out, there was no need for MI5 to send an email at all. As soon as they updated the threat level on their website, thenation'smedia leapt on the news with a vengeance and started dissecting its every nuance in full public view. I'd heard the news on the radio, read about it on the web and seen it debated on Breakfast TV long before I opened my insignificant MI5 notification email. And shortly, no doubt, I'll be reading about it in the morning paper and discussing it in depth with colleagues at work. If civilisation is indeed about to end, I expect MI5's "Armageddon underway" email will be disseminated three hours after we've all lost the power to read it.