Briten dulden ultimativ keine Killer

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Ken McCallum, Generaldirektor der Abwehr MI5. Der schottische Mathematiker dient dem MI5 seit 20 Jahren. 2012 schützte er Olympia London, 2017 untersuchte er den Gift-Anschlag in Salisbury. Generaldirektor seit April 2020.

 

  • Die Redaktion dankt einem aufmerksamen Leser und Kenner der britischen Szenerie für die Überlassung des Lagerapportes, den im Thames House, London, der Generaldirektor des Inlandgeheimdienstes MI5 erstatte.
  • Unter der Bedrohung durch andere Staaten sprach Ken McCallum offen die Mächte an, die ihre Killer nach Britannien schicken, um dort Menschen zu töten. McCallum machte in aller Schärfe klar, dass sein Land solches Handeln nicht duldet und mit jeglicher Härte bekämpft.
  • Es folgt das Originaldokument vom 14. Juli 2021 im Wortlaut.

 

IINTRODUCTIION

Good morning everyone. Thank you for coming.

Our nation has been through an utterly extraordinary year. The pandemic has brought

massive shifts in how we’re living and working – and accelerated many wider global trends.

The Integrated Review published by government in March described an increasingly

contested world, and the importance of growing our national resilience. Today I want to share

my take on what it all means for MI5 – and what 2021’s covert threats mean for the British

public.

This is part of the commitment I made in my first speech as Director General – that MI5

would reach out in new ways to the public we serve. Keeping secrets secret, but

communicating more of ourselves as an organisation. My commitment to you is to share the

things we can share without compromising your safety. Why? Because we serve you and you

deserve to know what shapes our priorities. Because increasingly, the threats we face can

touch all of our lives. Because we believe that if you know more of who we really are as

people, more of you will decide to explore careers with us – and to be successful we need the

best people, drawn from the whole of the UK workforce. And finally because I am incredibly

proud of MI5’s people. They do not seek and cannot receive individual recognition but they

couldn’t do their jobs without the trust and support of the British public.

And so, in the year since I took over we’ve been on that journey of responsible opening up.

We’ve launched on social media, hoping to bust a few myths and encourage diversely

talented people to see a career for themselves in MI5; I did my first Instagram Q&A a couple

of weeks back. I did an extended radio interview jointly with Assistant Commissioner Neil

Basu, reflecting together on the deep professional partnership that has been built between

MI5 and policing. In the months ahead I’ll likely say more on science and technology, which

lies at the heart of how MI5 maintains its edge through the 2020s… and at the same time is

opening up new vulnerabilities in our society.

Today I’ll begin with the challenges increasingly posed by State Threats. I’ll move on to

terrorism – still the national security threat of greatest concern to the public. I’ll conclude on

one of the responsibilities I feel most keenly as Director General: leading MI5’s perpetual

drive to learn, to adapt and to strengthen the UK’s defences against hidden threats.

STATE THREATS

Let me start, then, with State Threats. The global context described in the Integrated Review

translates, day-by-day, into threats which directly touch many more members of the public

than we’re used to. Let me explain what I mean by that. To put it plainly, why should you care

about the covert activities of certain foreign States?

The first and most visceral concern is physical threats to life. As the nerve agent attack in

Salisbury showed, some hostile actors are prepared to come to the UK to kill. Others are

more cautious, and seek to lure or coerce individuals to travel out from the UK to other

countries, where they can be detained, abducted or harmed. Such threats are normally

targeted at specific individuals viewed as dissidents or enemies by their country of origin. The

UK will not tolerate such activity. It’s about standing up for our values. And it’s also because

the practical reality is that aggressive and reckless activity can present wider risks on our

streets – as shown so horribly at Salisbury in the tragic death of Dawn Sturgess and the

effects on others.

Alongside such sharp but comparatively infrequent risks, sit threats which are less graphic –

but have the potential to affect us all. In 2021, we all live much of our lives online – and the

functioning of our society heavily dependent on digital infrastructure. Disruptive cyberattacks

such as ransomware can bring down everything from national institutions to your

local hospital. The consequences range from frustration and inconvenience, through loss of

earnings, potentially up to loss of life, such as in cases where healthcare services are

affected. If it ever was, cyber is no longer some abstract contest between hackers in it for the

thrill or between states jockeying position in some specialised domain; in the 2020s, cyber

consistently bites on our everyday lives.

And then there’s espionage. Governments seeking to spy on certain other governments is as

old as the hills. That still happens and still matters. Yet increasingly, the UK victims of

espionage on other states range way wider than just government. We see the UK’s brilliant

universities and researchers having their discoveries stolen or copied; we see businesses

hollowed out by the loss of advantage they’ve worked painstakingly to build. Given half a

chance, hostile actors will short-circuit years of patient British research or investment. This is

happening at scale – and it affects us all. UK jobs, UK public services, UK futures.

As just one illustration, on professional networking sites we’ve seen over 10,000 disguised

approaches from foreign spies to regular people up and down the UK, seeking to manipulate

them. To speak directly: if you are working in a high-tech business; or engaged in cuttingedge

scientific research; or exporting into certain markets, you will be of interest – more

interest than you might think – to foreign spies. You don’t have to be scared; but be switched

on. The ‘Think Before You Link’ campaign really means what it says. As a nation, we need –

and we want – to trade and to collaborate internationally; but to do so on a level playing field,

we need to have our eyes open.

We also need to have our eyes open to interference. States are always looking to influence

each other; that’s what embassies and diplomats are for. But alongside those healthy

engagements sit attempts at malign interference: seeking hidden relationships with

politicians or other public figures to get them to push another country’s line; hack-and-leak

operations intended to achieve political effect; troll farms using social media to sow divisions

– or more often, to deepen existing divisions – within our society.

This leads me to misinformation – the spreading, wittingly or otherwise, of inaccurate or

distorted information. There’s a lot of it about. Most misinformation is not

deliberate disinformation carefully crafted by foreign spies. But some of it is: some foreign

states invest in capabilities to influence discourse in other countries; and they wouldn’t be

doing so if they didn’t believe they were getting some benefit. So there is a focused role for

organisations like mine to detect and call out any particularly damaging foreign-generated

disinformation. But the larger national response must be to grow our collective resilience to

the wider seas of misinformation: for each of us to be alert to the risks, to consume

information intelligently, and to enjoy a rigorous, independent, plural media.

For as long as it’s cheap and easy for hostile actors to try to access UK data; or to cultivate

initially-unwitting individuals here; or to spread false, divisive information – they are bound

to keep doing so. The UK’s response cannot be to hide under our beds, or refuse to engage

with the world. Just like with terrorism, our response has to be proportionate and on twin

tracks. First, there’s the operational response: MI5, working hand-in-glove with the people

you’d expect in MI6, GCHQ, Defence, policing, and with our international allies, to go after the

sources of the threat and reduce how much threat is coming at us. The second track is where

we all have a part to play: the protective effort, making ourselves a harder target. We must,

over time, build the same public awareness and resilience to state threats that we have done

over the years on terrorism.

This requires wide teamwork. Our adversaries are often adept at joining up multiple parts of

their systems to probe potential UK vulnerabilities. Similarly, we need a whole-ofsystem

response, joining up not only across government but also going much wider into

industry and academia, and sometimes through to individuals. This is a generational

challenge – essential to the UK’s future health and wealth – and MI5 is playing its part. The

Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure – through which MI5 has worked for

years to protect critical infrastructure like power stations – increasingly does more than its

name suggests, as it widens its scope to provide pragmatic security solutions and expert

guidance well beyond the operators of critical infrastructure. I’ve already mentioned ‘Think

Before You Link’; similarly, if you’re engaged in cutting-edge R&D, have a look at CPNI’s

‘Trusted Research’ guidance.

A further important step towards boosting UK resilience lies in refreshing our State

Threats legislation. The Official Secrets Act 1911 – fully 110 years old – remains a

cornerstone of our espionage legislation. I recently re-read Defence of the Realm,

Christopher Andrew’s authoritative history of MI5’s first century, and enjoyed being reminded

that in 1910, just six months into MI5’s existence, founding Director General Vernon Kell

included in his first progress report a plea for strengthening the Official Secrets Act, as it was

proving hard to prosecute espionage cases. Kell’s push led to the Official Secrets Act 1911.

Funnily enough, it is now – obviously – hugely out of date and that’s why the forthcoming

State Threats Bill, currently out to consultation, is so important. Today, it is not a criminal

offence to be an undeclared foreign intelligence agent in the UK. Likewise, it is not currently

illegal to be in a key position of influence in the UK and be secretly in the pay of a foreign

state. That can’t be right. To tackle modern interference, we need modern powers.

You’ll have spotted that I’ve majored on the types of activity we’re seeing, and how we have

to respond – rather than concentrating on which states’ covert assets are posing these

threats. That’s a deliberate choice; I’d like the focus to be on the response, much of which is

agnostic of where threats come from. But if I fail to mention the source countries at all, you’ll

rightly feel I’m ducking the question. So to be clear: the activity MI5 encounters day-by-day

predominantly comes, in quite varying ways, from state or state-backed organisations

in Russia, China and Iran. In all three cases these national security contests are taking place

alongside wider UK engagement with those nations. Which is at it should be. We’ve just got

to be pragmatic and robust about those places where we encounter damaging activity. Which

we do, every day – in this growing, challenging, vital area of MI5’s work.

TERRORIISM

Turning now to terrorism, I’ll start, like my career started, in Northern Ireland. There is much

to celebrate: the rejectionist terrorist groups are much smaller now, they hold no meaningful

mandate from the communities they pretend to represent, and, while they remain

determined to cause harm, they continue to be subject to skilled, effective, proportionate

action by security authorities on both sides of the border. With partners we have succeeded

in progressively reducing the capabilities of dissident Republican terrorist groups across

recent years. But at the same moment as all this positive progress on constraining terrorism,

late March and early April saw some of the worst public disorder for several years, driven by

a complex range of factors. From my years working there I know Northern Ireland is always

complex – and often poorly understood from a distance. I can’t say that current strains are all

about the Protocol – they’re not. And neither can I say current strains have nothing to do

with the Protocol – that wouldn’t be true either. What is clear is that leadership – and

listening – on all sides is required to maintain the progress for which all communities have

made compromises, and from which all communities have hugely benefited.

As I discussed with a range of people when visiting last month, I am and I remain a long-term

optimist on Northern Ireland. The 1998 Belfast Agreement and the long process which led up

to it, stands as one of the finest public policy achievements of my lifetime. It has enabled a

whole generation to grow up substantially free of the scarring which haunted previous

generations. The holding of multiple identities – British, Irish, Northern Irish – is a living

reality for many people, in a way it was not in my youth. Those are deep shifts, which make a

return to Troubles-scale terrorism highly unlikely. But many of the powerful aspirations of

the Belfast Agreement remain unfulfilled; and the legacy of the past still casts a long shadow,

hindering the reconciliation that Northern Ireland needs to move forward. For MI5’s part, we

will remain vigilant, working with partners both to pre-empt specific attack plots, and to

grind away at the underlying capabilities of the terrorist organisations.

The second variety of terrorism occupying MI5 attention is Extreme Right Wing Terrorism, for

which MI5 took on lead responsibility just over a year ago. This now comprises a substantial

minority slice of the risk we’re managing by one in five of our counter-terrorist investigations

in Great Britain are Extreme Right Wing. Of the 29 late-stage attack plots disrupted over the

last four years, fully 10 have been Extreme Right Wing. We are progressively finding more

indicators of potential threat. By way of example, last month a man in Somerset, Dean

Morrice, was sentenced to eighteen years in prison, having been convicted of possessing

explosives. He was seeking to use a 3D printer to manufacture a firearm. Morrice was

stopped before he was able to carry out any attack, but before his arrest had been actively

trying to draw others into his toxic ideology. Extreme Right Wing Terrorism is here to stay, as

a substantial additional risk for MI5 to manage.

This threat has some challenging characteristics: a high prevalence of teenagers, including

young teenagers where the authorities’ response clearly has to blend child protection with

protecting communities. Frequently, obsessive interest in weaponry, presenting difficult risk

management choices even when it’s not clear whether the weaponry is directly linked to

extremist intent. And always, always, the online environment – with thousands exchanging

hate-filled rhetoric or claiming violent intentions to each other in extremist echo chambers –

leaving us and the police to try to determine which individuals amongst those thousands

might actually mobilise towards violence. This needs new expertise, new sources , new

methods.

And finally, Islamist Extremist Terrorism, still MI5’s largest operational mission. Alongside all

the focus rightly being given to State Threats, Islamist Extremist Terrorism remains a potent,

shape-shifting threat. The shape and scale of what we face in the UK continues to be heavily

influenced by events upstream in theatres of conflict, and how they are presented online.

Over the last decade the overseas location exerting greatest influence on the UK threat has

been – and remains – Syria, with over 950 UK-linked extremists getting there… and Islamic

State reaching back here with slick English-language online propaganda. 2021’s Islamic State

is nowhere near the force that 2015’s was: that is the result of sustained pressure and hardwon

progress by a broad international coalition. But much counter terrorism remains to be

done.

With partners we’re also working to tackle re-emerging extremist threats in Africa, principally

Somalia. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, twenty years of dedicated effort have had profound

effect: the Al Qaida terrorist infrastructure we faced in 2001 is long since gone. I want to take

this moment to pay tribute to the military colleagues whose heroism and sacrifice achieved

those vital gains. As NATO and US forces now withdraw, terrorists will seek to take

advantage of opportunities – including propaganda opportunities – to rebuild. For the US and

for ourselves, the counter-terrorist task will transition. As we seek to illuminate potential

threats to take disruptive action, we will have neither the advantages nor the risks of having

our own forces on the ground. This form of counter terrorism is not new to us – it’s how

we’ve always operated in Somalia, for instance; but from that experience we know it is

challenging.

Back in the UK, as we near the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, we’re still contending with

large volumes of risk, presented to differing degrees by many thousands of live and closed

subjects of interest – often coming at us faster and more unpredictably. Every week the

police and I brief the Home Secretary on the most immediate threats to life with which we’re

dealing. It requires constant vigilance.

Week by week, my teams, working with their close colleagues in the police and other

agencies, detect potential threats and make, at volume, difficult judgements. Which

fragments of information seem most likely to be pointing towards real risk? Which fragments

– usually the majority – are misleading; or exaggerated; or indeed accurately reflect terrorist

discussions – but discussions which will forever remain aspirational, and never translate into

concrete plotting? So many of the hardest decisions we take in MI5 come down

to prioritisation. Every decision to investigate X is, in effect, a decision not to investigate Y or

Z. We make these difficult, necessary judgements with the utmost seriousness, always

conscious of the responsibility we carry.

CONSTANT LEARNING, ADAPTATION, IIMPROVEMENT

We know as an organisation it is impossible to get ahead of every single strand of threat. Our

response must always be to do what we can to shave the odds further in our favour, against

the terrorists and State aggressors. We’re constantly on that journey – but we’ve been on a

particularly focussed version of it in recent years, including through implementing the

recommendations of the Operational Improvement Review we conducted with the police and

others in 2017, with independent scrutiny by Lord Anderson. We believe we are safer as a

result of those changes; I’ve mentioned the 29 late-stage attack plots disrupted over the last

four years, and we’ve had much success, visibly and invisibly, in constraining State

Threats. Our duty is to keep improving the system. We owe it to the public. I think we

particularly owe it to the victims of past attacks. In this forum, I want to extend our deepest

sympathies to all those affected by terrorism or State aggression: those who’ve lost loved

ones, those whose lives have been changed forever. We dedicate our professional lives to

doing all we can to prevent such appalling things from happening. When appalling things do

happen, we are devastated.

Any serious career in MI5 includes searing moments that stay with you for a lifetime. Latenight

calls, typically from our police colleagues, when news breaks of an incident. In those

early moments you don’t know the full facts; but you know something inhuman has taken

place. These moments devastate us – and they serve as our burning motivation. The most

important response we can give is to do all in our power to reduce the risk of future

attacks. We do not rest. One part of that is MI5 participating fully in whatever inquests or

inquiries are conducted, as we did recently on Fishmongers’ Hall and as we are doing at the

ongoing Manchester Arena Inquiry, from which I am committed to learning any lessons

necessary. Likewise, we respond to the ongoing independent scrutiny from the Intelligence

and Security Committee of Parliament, and from the Investigatory Powers Commissioner.

Crucially, those important formal processes sit alongside our own resolve to continuingly

learn lessons, pushing ourselves day-by-day and year-on-year to adapt, to innovate, to

improve.

We’re taking some massive further steps. The Counter Terrorism Operations Centre was

announced by government in the Integrated Review. Designed around the needs of the public

not the convenience of institutions, the Centre brings together in one flexible facility all the

agencies whose distinctive knowledge and skills combine to keep the public safe. As we face

evolving terrorist and State threats in the coming years, this multi-agency Operations Centre

will be a crucible for bringing together new data flows, diverse talent, deeper and wider

partnerships, and harnessing technology innovation at pace. It will be central to MI5’s ability

to continue to keep the country safe through the 2020s.

ENCRYPTIION

I can’t conclude without touching on encryption. I know we’re repetitive on this one – but it

remains the case that we are drifting towards danger. End-to-end encryption, done in the

way Facebook is currently proposing, will hand a gift to the terrorists MI5 has to find and

tackle – and a gift to the child abusers our colleagues in the National Crime Agency have to

find and tackle. The CEO of WhatsApp, Will Cathcart, recently branded government objections

to end-to-end encryption as “Orwellian”, akin to demands that video cameras be placed in

every living room. If it were true that that was what we were asking for, that would indeed be

Orwellian. But that’s not what we’re asking for. Let me tackle this mischaracterisation headon

– and explain the much more limited duty the tech companies have an obligation to meet,

for the safety of their users, our citizens.

Let me be clear: we support strong encryption and we support privacy for the population. The

only point of contention is around what has to be possible in the case where we have strong

grounds to believe that an individual is plotting grave crimes. We have to face the scenario

where – to use Facebook’s own language – a living room is being used to build a bomb, or to

organise the sexual exploitation of children. In the case of a physical living room, MI5 would

submit a warrant application to a Secretary of State and a senior judge, explaining why we

believed it was necessary and proportionate to monitor that room. UK public opinion is clear:

terrorists, paedophiles and serious criminals should not enjoy an absolute right to privacy.

The same must hold true online in virtual living rooms. In cases of exceptional threat, where a

Secretary of State and an independent judge have signed a legal warrant, we should be able

to present that warrant to the company and request the relevant content. That’s not about

“back doors” or fatally weakened encryption. If you must pick a door, it’s the front door.

I want to make a public plea to tech companies to engage seriously with governments – or

with me if they like – on the necessity of designing in public safety alongside designing in

privacy. Over the last decade UK governments have had constructive discussions with tech

companies on the removal of harmful content from their platforms, and the companies have

taken important steps, to which I gladly pay tribute. Encryption should not be falsely

presented as binary privacy or safety: the public needs the tech companies to find solutions

which both maintain users’ privacy and support everyone’s safety. That means lawful access,

on an exceptional warranted basis, to the content of the tiny minority of people who are

cynically using the tech platforms to harm the rest of us. These tech companies are brilliant

at what they do; it seems to me they have solved harder problems, when they really want to.

CONCLUSIION

So that’s my 2021 survey. The variety of what we face is huge: from sophisticated nation

states, drawing on the entire apparatus of government to undermine our security; through to

misguided teenagers, espousing a warped and racist ideology, bent on killing those different

to them. MI5’s task is to find, prioritise, and tackle them all. We must always keep a sense of

proportion; none of these threats is capable of destroying life as we know it in the UK. But

they can kill; they can ruin lives; they can corrode the fabric of our society, and limit the life

chances of the rising generation. These are threats worth standing up to. I am proud to lead

an organisation full of committed, courageous people who get out of bed every morning to

do just that. And constantly, constantly, to ask ourselves how we can do it even more

effectively. Thank you.