Saturday, October 17, 2009

Britain's Homeland Security Chief Defends Post-9/11 Actions

Our idea of torture is when the cable goes out or a slow Internet connection. But seriously, MI5--the UK's domestic counter-intelligence and security agency--is under investigation (sound familiar?) for allegedly outsourcing the torture of terror suspects. MI5's chief had this to say recently:
Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, has defended Britain's decision to co-operate with foreign intelligence agencies accused of torture in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Mr Evans, the director-general of MI5, said British lives had been saved as a direct result of intelligence received from overseas agencies in the years following the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
Speaking on Thursday night at a private event at Bristol University to mark MI5's centenary, he said they would have been "derelict in our duty" if they had not worked with foreign agencies in countering the threat from al-Qaeda.
Mr Evans acknowledged that contacts with agencies in countries with standards and practices "very far from our own" had posed "a real dilemma" for the service, but insisted he had "every confidence" in the way his officers dealt with them.
His comments come at a time when MI5 is facing a series of claims through civil courts that it colluded in the mistreatment of suspects held overseas, as well as an unprecedented investigation by the Metropolitan Police.
While he could not comment directly on the allegations, he said that it was "a very clear and long established principle" that MI5 did not collude in torture or solicit others to torture on its behalf.
However he said that events in the aftermath of the 9/11 had to been seen in the context of the times, when the UK and other Western countries were faced with a terrorist threat that was "indiscriminate, global and massive"...
The dilemma MI5 faced was whether to work with those security services which had experience of dealing with al-Qaida on their own territory, or risk cutting off a potentially vital source of information that could prevent attacks on the West.
"In my view we would have been derelict in our duty if we had not worked, circumspectly, with overseas liaisons who were in a position to provide intelligence that could safeguard this country from attack," Mr Evans said.
Separately, an FBI official identified the top three terrorism threats in the Missouri area (and perhaps by extension the entire country):
  • fundraising for terrorist activities
  • recruiting individuals to send overseas for terrorist training
  • gang activity

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