Former MI5 head warns UK turning into a police state



It is one thing for the British government to be accused of exploiting anxiety over terrorism to restrict civil liberties. It is quite another for these accusations to be made by the former Director-General of MI5, Britain’s foremost counterintelligence organization. Dame Stella Rimington, who headed the secretive agency between 1992 and 1996, recently gave an interview to Spanish daily La Vanguardia, in which she accused the British government of “scaring people to pass laws restricting freedoms”. She criticized the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown of failing to strike the proper balance between civil liberties and security, thus gradually giving in to “one of the goals of terrorism”, namely living “in fear and under a police state”. She also criticized the US for going “too far with Guantánamo and torture, [which] has the opposite effect [to security]: there are more and more suicide bombers who find greater justification”, she said. Since her retirement from MI5, Dame Rimington has been increasingly vocal in her criticism of post-9/11 counterterrorism and security arrangements in Britain and the United States. Back in 2005, she described the proposed introduction of a national ID card in the UK as “absolutely useless”. Three years later, she raised eyebrows by calling the American response to the events of 9/11 –which she described as simply “another terrorist incident”– “a huge overreaction” that increased terrorism around the world. Her recent interview can be read in Spanish here.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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