MI5 Boss Andrew Parker And The Questions You Really Want Him To Answer

Director-General of security service MI5, Andrew Parker talking at the first parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) in London.
Director-General of security service MI5, Andrew Parker talking at the first parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) in London.
PA/PA Archive

MI5 boss Andrew Parker gave a slightly terrifying speech on Wednesday informing us all that the UK has yet to face the "high water mark" of the terrorist threat.

Speaking at the Lord Mayor's Defence and Security Lecture, the country's top spy noted that six planned terrorist atrocities were thwarted just last year.

Now while these are clearly very important points, it would appear they're not actually the most pressing issues in the eyes of the public.

Firstly, it's fairly obvious a new 'Bond' film is out (even though he worked for 'the other one').

A few people just wanted some help with an everyday problem.

The things got a little weird.

But enough of that, back to the serious stuff.

Ok, back to the sillies. Mainly Tom Cruise focused.

The director general’s remarks come days before the government publishes legislation on the role of spies within the digital era.

"We are seeing plots against the U.K. directed by terrorists in Syria; enabled through contacts with terrorists in Syria; and inspired online by ISIL's sophisticated exploitation of technology," Parker said. "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."

Assessing the extent of the threat today, the MI5 chief added: "It may not yet have reached the high water mark and, despite the successes we have had, we can never be confident of stopping everything."

Twin difficulties faced by MI5 are the speed by which radicalisation can occur online, and how unsophisticated plots hatched by members of the Islamic State can be still pose “mass causality” threat, said Parker, who also noted that potent threats from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and South Asia still remain.

“All of this means that the threat we are facing today is on a scale and at a tempo that I have not seen before in my career," he said.

On surveillance, Parker said the powers given to security services had to correspond with developing technology.

"Today the conversations of our adversaries are happening on a bewildering array of devices and digital platforms, often provided by companies based overseas," he noted. "And an increasing proportion of such communications are now beyond our reach -- in particular with the growing prevalence of sophisticated encryption."

“We need the tools to access terrorists' communications online just as much as we intercepted written communications and telephone calls in years gone by," Parker added, stressing: "We use data to save lives."

On the upcoming investigatory powers bill, the MI5 chief said the security service did not want "sweeping new intrusive powers" but a "modern legal framework that reflects the way that technology has moved on, and that allows us to continue to keep the country safe.”

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