MI5 chief calls for mature debate on interception of data

Andrew Parker

The head of MI5 has said he would like a mature debate on the intelligence services’ interception of communications data.

Andrew Parker said MI5 was not looking for “sweeping new intrusive powers” but instead a framework that “reflects the way technology has moved on”.

He added the threat posed by terrorists was at a level he had never before seen in his 32-year career.

A draft bill revising surveillance laws is expected next week.

His comments were made at the Lord Mayor of London’s annual defence and security lecture and were “part of a broader campaign by spies and police to make their case ahead of the new bill” the BBC reports.

Mr Parker said: “Today the conversations of our adversaries are happening on a bewildering array of devices and digital platforms, often provided by companies based overseas.

“And an increasing proportion of such communications are now beyond our reach – in particular with the growing prevalence of sophisticated encryption.”

The MI5 chief added that the service needed the tools to intercept terrorists’ communications on the internet “just as much as we intercepted written communications and telephone calls in years gone by”.

He argued hacking into computers was vital but acknowledged the need for increased transparency and stressed that “we do not, and could not, go browsing at will through the lives of innocent people”.

He said: “We use these tools within a framework of strict safeguards and rigorous oversight, but without them we would not be able to keep the country safe.”

Authorities have thwarted six attempts at terrorist atrocities in the UK in the past year he said, adding: “We are seeing plots against the UK directed by terrorists in Syria; enabled through contacts with terrorists in Syria; and inspired online by ISIL’s sophisticated exploitation of technology.

“It uses the full range of modern communications tools to spread its message of hate, and to inspire extremists, sometimes as young as their teens, to conduct attacks in whatever way they can.”

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