Feeds

Top MI6 spy: Terrorism less serious than bird flu

Secret global databases 'unlikely', threaten freedoms

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Counter Terror Expo A former Assistant Chief of the UK's shadowy Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, aka MI6) has played down the threat of jihadi terrorism, saying that other dangers are more serious. The ex-spy also said that global counterterrorism database plans were "unlikely ever to succeed".

Nigel Inkster, who was an SIS officer from 1975 to 2006 and rose to be Assistant Chief and Director of Operations and Intelligence, was speaking this morning at a counterterrorism conference in London.

On the subject of international counterterrorist databases, always a hot-button issue among those concerned with privacy and individual rights, Inkster had reassuring words.

"There are limits to what we can sensibly aspire to," he said.

"Efforts to establish a global repository of counterterrorist information are unlikely ever to succeed. We need to be wary of rebuilding our world to deal with just one problem, one which might not be by any means the most serious we face."

Asked what dangers were more serious than terrorism, Mr Inkster suggested that British government planners were more concerned regarding the possible results of global pandemics, or perhaps the worst-case outcomes of climate change.

"We need to keep terrorism in some kind of context," he said. "For example, every year in the UK, more people die in road accidents than have been killed by terrorists in all of recorded history."

The secret-service mandarin suggested that the Global War On Terror initiated by the Bush administration could never be won.

"We can't kill or arrest our way out of this problem... we will never solve this issue and live in a terrorism-free world. It has to be managed."

Inkster said that there was definitely a need for police and sometimes military action in fighting terrorism, but suggested that it was now widely acknowledged in the spook community that the Iraq invasion - and now the Israeli assault on Gaza - were definite factors in radicalisation of British domestic terrorists.

"A move away from the rhetoric of GWOT will help," he said, saying that the "more nuanced message" of the Obama administration was already showing results.

As for recommendations, Inkster said that it was important to promote good government and economic opportunity around the world.

"If I hear one more speaker suggest that the root of terrorism is poverty I'll probably become a terrorist myself," he joked. "But we have to acknowledge that it's a factor."

As for the West, he said: "We should keep our nerve and our faith in our own values. Our own behaviour - especially with respect to the rule of law - is very important."

Inkster also offered an insight into life in Her Majesty's secret service, saying "I come from an organisation that doesn't do Powerpoint culture". ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
MI6 oversight report on Lee Rigby murder: US web giants offer 'safe haven for TERRORISM'
PM urged to 'prioritise issue' after Facebook hindsight find
Assange™ slumps back on Ecuador's sofa after detention appeal binned
Swedish court rules there's 'great risk' WikiLeaker will dodge prosecution
NSA mass spying reform KILLED by US Senators
Democrats needed just TWO more votes to keep alive bill reining in some surveillance
'Internet Freedom Panel' to keep web overlord ICANN out of Russian hands – new proposal
Come back with our internet! cries Republican drawing up bill
What a Mesa: Apple vows to re-use titsup GT sapphire glass plant
Commits to American manufacturing ... of secret tech
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?