‘No-go’ areas online, impenetrable to security services, are a danger to national security, the the former head of MI6 has said. Speaking for the first time since standing down as “C”, Sir John Sawers drew comparisons between no-go areas in cities and online, warning that a terror attack against the UK is all but inevitable.
In a public speech, Sir John praised Prime Minister David Cameron for raising the issue of no-go zones in Britain’s cities, saying: “The Prime Minister was right when he was saying last week we can’t afford to have complete no-go areas. We cannot have no-go areas in our communities where the police cannot go, because that just allows space for the evil-doers to ply their trades.”
The same applies for the virtual world, he said, where radicals are allowed to spread their ideology unchecked. “If you allow areas which are completely impenetrable then you might feel comfortable that your communications are private and no one else can see them, but so are those who are trying to do you down and undermine your society.”
And he blamed Edward Snowdon for throwing “a massive rock in the pool,” causing the “informal co-operation that worked well between most technology companies and communication companies and security services” to break down. Those relationships remain seriously damaged, he said, although he conceded that the Snowden disclosures had opened up a debate about balance between privacy and security.
“These new developments in technology and in communications are vastly advantageous to our economies and to our way of life and to family cohesion,” he said. “But if technology companies allow to be developed areas which are simply impenetrable, you are inviting problems.
“We have to find a way as a society whereby the technology companies … and those responsible for the security of our societies can work together so that the interests of both can be met with limited compromise.
“Now, I do not believe that there is a trade-off between security and privacy. I think they go together. If you have a society which evades and abuses privacy, then ultimately there will be a reaction against the damage to your security. If you do not have any security then all your basic freedoms are at threat.”
Sir John added that Britain cannot avoid another terror attack despite the “fantastic efforts” of its security services, as sooner or later one attempt will slip through the net.
“The security community has done a fantastic job keeping threats at bay, but if I was to sit here and ask ‘will the goalkeepers of the police and security services foil every single attempt to score a goal?’, the answer is no. At some point a threat will get through.”
The issue of “no-go areas” in predominantly Muslim parts of British cities has been widely discussed following comments by Steven Emerson, who told Fox News: “In Britain, it’s not just no-go zones, there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.
“[In] parts of London, there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn’t dress according to Muslim, religious Muslim attire.” His comments were immediately ridiculed, causing Emmerson to issue a grovelling apology to the “beautiful city of Birmingham” and make a £500 donation to a local charity.
But UKIP leader Nigel Farage backed Emerson, telling FOX News’s Sean Hannity: “We have, through mass immigration and through not checking the details of those people who have come to our countries, we have allowed big ghettos to develop and when it comes to confronting tough issues we’re run a mile and that is why we’re in the mess we’re in. We’ve been led very badly.”
Yesterday, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal raised the issue in a speech in London. He told an audience of journalists and parliamentarians that the idea of no-go areas for non-Muslims was in “direct opposition to [European] laws” and “hard to fathom.”