The security information leaked by Edward Snowden has led to an ‘arms race’ with terrorists who are trying to spy on Britain’s intelligence services, the head of MI6 has said.
In his first publish speech since his appointment, Alex Younger said that UK intelligence operated under some of the strictest laws in the world, while the enemy was “unconstrained” by rules and ethics.
He warned that terror groups were increasingly able to target intelligence agencies thanks to the information in the Snowden leaks.
Younger said: “The internet and big data can combine to our advantage, allowing us to know more about the people we meet and the places we meet them. Using data appropriately and proportionately offers us a priceless opportunity to be even more deliberate and targeted in what we do, and so to be better at protecting our agents and this country. That is good news.
“The bad news is that the same technology in opposition hands, an opposition often unconstrained by consideration of ethics and law, allows them to see what we are doing and put our people and agents at risk.
“So we find ourselves in a technology arms race. Contrary to myth, human intelligence operations are not an alternative to technical operations; the two are interdependent and are set to become more so.”
Home Secretary Theresa May said earlier this month that Snowden’s leaks had “damaged” intelligence agencies throughout the world, while Sir John Sawers, predecessor of Alex Younger, said: “Snowden threw a massive rock in the pool. The ripples from that have still not died down.”
The Daily Mail reports that Younger was speaking at a ceremony commemorating the first chief of MI6, Sir Mansfield Cumming, known as ‘C’ for his habit of putting his initial on papers.
“Naturally, he would be as taken aback as any of his contemporaries at the way in which Britain’s role in the world has altered,” Younger said. “It fell to him to protect Britain’s interests as an imperial power during a great war. My task is a bit more subtle, but no less taxing.”