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CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

REMARKS BY THE CHIEF OF THE SECRET INTELLIGENCE SERVICE


8 December 2016
Vauxhall Cross
Introduction
1. Good morning. I am pleased to welcome you all here to Vauxhall Cross, the
headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6 as we are popularly known. I
say pleased, though its not without a degree of trepidation! The audience in this
room is somewhat at odds with the fact which defines us: that we are a secret
organisation. Stimulating though they are, appearances such as these are not
something I intend to undertake frequently. And of course there are definite limits to
what I am prepared to say. Our value depends on our ability to keep secret that which
we must. Above all else, we owe that to the brave men and women who work with us
to obtain the intelligence we need, often at great personal risk.
2. These people, who we call agents, are not usually staff members of MI6. They will
never enter our headquarters; they will usually not be British. Their motives for
helping the UK are as diverse as the human race itself. But they have one thing in
common: they take risks to make you and your families safer. More than they or you
can ever know, the people of this country, and those of our allies, are deeply in their
debt.

3. So, as the head of a secret organisation, why am I here? Because everything we do at


MI6, we do in the publics name. It follows that a vital underpinning of our work is
public confidence. Confidence that we uphold the values we defend; confidence that
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we always act within the law; confidence that we maintain the capabilities necessary
to counter the threats this country faces. In short, confidence that you have the secret
service you deserve. We cannot be completely transparent. We must ask for your
trust. But that request sits easier, I think, if we have said what we can about our
character: the values and principles that run through all of our activities.
4. Im also motivated to tell our side of the story as a corrective to the frequently
misleading portrayal of MI6 in popular culture. Im conflicted about Bond. He has
created a powerful brand for MI6 as C, the real life version of M there are few
people who will not come to lunch if I invite them. Many of our counterparts envy the
sheer global recognition of our acronym. And, to be fair, there are a few aspects of the
genre that do resonate in real life; fierce dedication to the defence of Britain, for
example. The real-life Q would want me to say that we too enjoy (and indeed need) a
deep grasp of gadgetry. But thats pretty much where the similarity ends. And, were
Mr. Bond to apply to join MI6 now, he would have to change his ways.

5. I will talk to you today about the modern-day MI6. I will outline the threats this
country faces, whether in the form of international terrorism or from hybrid warfare;
in the physical world, and in cyber-space. And I will talk about some of the ways in
which we help to counter those threats. In doing so, I aim to set out for you how the
UK benefits from having a modern and capable secret intelligence service; one of the
few truly global intelligence services and one of the best in the world. A Service that is
tuned to the challenges of globalisation, one that seizes the opportunities presented by
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modern technology to ensure that the data revolution works to our favour, not that of
our enemies; a Service whose staff embody the ideals which define modern Britain
and which they strive each day to defend.
6. As C, I will inevitably focus on MI6s role in protecting Britains national security. I
do, though, want to take a moment to recognise something which sets Britain apart
when it comes to modern espionage. And that is teamwork. In GCHQ, we have one of
the best signals intelligence services in the world. They overcome the most complex
linguistic, analytical and technical challenges imaginable to keep our country safe.
MI5 possess world-leading investigative capabilities, working tirelessly to track and
disrupt threats to a degree you will rightly never properly understand. But the key
point that sets us apart as an intelligence community is our ability to work together.
We have powerful, but distinct, capabilities. We are able to succeed through our ability
to fuse them together; to become far more than the sum of our parts. This is more
challenging than it may sound and is a capability the vast majority of our competitors
lack. You are safer because of it.

7. And, of course, this teamwork extends beyond our boundaries. I want to pay
particular tribute to the strength of the intelligence relationship with the US and our
other 5EYES counterparts, and the quality of the work we do with our European
partners, France and Germany foremost amongst them. We share values and we face
common threats. Im often asked what effect the big political changes of 2016,
BREXIT and the US election result, will have on these relationships. My answer is
that I will aim for, and expect, continuity. These relationships are long lasting and the
personal bonds between us are strong. The threats that we faced before these events
have not gone away. The joint capabilities we had before, exist now. Indeed, they are
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getting stronger. The need for the deepest co-operation can only grow. And I am
determined that MI6 remains a ready and highly effective partner; just as the UK is
and will be. These partnerships save lives in all of our countries.
The Threats
8. So, to terrorism, perhaps the most obvious threat faced by modern Britain, and one on
which I have worked almost uninterrupted since 9/11.The root causes of the problem
go far beyond the remit of intelligence and security services. We can help the
government understand these issues, as we always have. But the core of our job in
concert with MI5, GCHQ and the police is to identify and disrupt immediate threats.
When I joined the Service, counter-terrorism was a niche activity. It is now one of
MI6s three headline missions. And it has changed the nature of our work; covert
operations alongside traditional intelligence gathering have taken on a renewed
importance. The emphasis now is not just on finding things out, but on taking action
against what we find.
9. The scale of the threat is unprecedented. The UK intelligence and security services
have disrupted 12 terrorist plots in the UK since June 2013. And MI5 and the police
continue to run hundreds of investigations into those intent on carrying out or
supporting terrorist atrocities against our citizens. As I speak, the highly organised
external attack planning structures within Daesh, even as they face military threat, are
plotting ways to project violence against the UK and our allies without ever having to
leave Syria.
10.We face a threat that exploits failed states within a connected world. So, we cannot
pull up the draw bridge. Instead, we need to take the fight to the enemy, penetrating
terrorist organisations upstream; by that I mean as close to the source as possible. In
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footballing terms, its about always ensuring you are playing in the opponents half.
Our job, as it always has been, is to recruit and run secret agents. We have been doing
this since 1909, but I can assure you that it is a technique that remains as effective
today as it ever was. I will not seek to hide the challenges that come with work against
an organisation as murderously efficient as Daesh, but MI6 and GCHQ intelligence
has on numerous occasions given MI5 and the Police the information they need to
identify and stop threats in the UK and to our allies. As importantly, it has also
allowed us to work with partners overseas, most often through their criminal justice
systems, but also in support of British or coalition military operations, to prevent
attacks and degrade terrorist capabilities.
11.In countering terrorism, some of our agents operate in the most dangerous and hostile
environments on earth. They know that the result of being identified as an MI6 agent
could be their death. But they do what they do because they believe in protecting their
country and religion from the evil that Daesh and other terrorist organisations
represent.
12.In conducting this work, we have learnt tough lessons. Lessons that the Intelligence
and Security Committees Detainee Inquiry, reviewing our engagement post 9/11, will
make plain. The challenges I am confident they will describe still exist today. But we
have used the last 15 years to develop new and effective capabilities. We can put our
officers where they need to be, in some of the most challenging locations imaginable,
with the support they need to stay safe and the guidance and training required to
navigate complex and ethically hazardous environments. We can work with a wide
range of partner countries overseas; partners who often do not share our laws but who
do know our red lines.
13.We are proud of the role we play in the UKs spectrum of national security
capabilities, from soldiers on the battlefield, to spies in the shadows, to police on the
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streets. Together, they afford us protection and advantage over our enemies. But of
course our ultimate protection lies in our values.
14.Because beyond any of our capabilities, it is legitimacy that is the strongest weapon
against international terrorism. If you doubt the link between legitimacy and effective
counter-terrorism, then albeit negatively the unfolding tragedy in Syria will, I fear,
provide proof. I believe the Russian conduct in Syria, allied with that of Asads
discredited regime, will, if they do not change course, provide a tragic example of the
perils of forfeiting legitimacy. In defining as a terrorist anyone who opposes a brutal
government, they alienate precisely that group that has to be on side if the extremists
are to be defeated. Meanwhile, in Aleppo, Russia and the Syrian regime seek to make
a desert and call it peace. The human tragedy is heart-breaking
15.We should, all of us, including intelligence officers, approach analysis of Syria with
humility. The facts on the ground are staggeringly complex. The plight of Syrians
continues to worsen. I cannot say with any certainty what the next year will bring.
But what I do know is this: we cannot be safe from the threats that emanate from that
land unless the civil war is brought to an end. And brought to an end in a way that
recognises the interests of more than a minority of its people and their international
backers.
Strategic Advantage
16.If counter-terrorism represents the urgent problem, then arguably the important,
longer-term one is the preservation of Britains capacity to take the right decisions in
an increasingly complex, multi-polar and opaque international order. We coin this
work as providing strategic advantage. This is not new; we have been doing it since
our creation when we revealed the secret aspect of Germanys military expansion. We
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are not a self-tasking organisation; we obtain intelligence based only on the questions
set for us by government. But what was true even in 1909 is true today: the UK
prospers on its wits, not its past or scale. To that end, MI6s role is to obtain the secret
intelligence which, fused with other sources of information, allows the government to
make the right decisions, at the right time. To illuminate the most impenetrable policy
dilemmas and give the UK the information advantage in a competitive world.

17.This work has taken on a new edge when it comes to countering the increasingly
dangerous phenomenon of hybrid warfare. The connectivity that is at the heart of
globalisation can be exploited by States with hostile intent to further their aims
deniably. They do this through means as varied as cyber-attacks, propaganda or
subversion of democratic process. Our job is to give the government the information
advantage; to shine a light on these activities and to help our country and our allies, in
particular across Europe, build the resilience they need to protect themselves. The
risks at stake are profound and represent a fundamental threat to our sovereignty; they
should be a concern to all those who share democratic values.
18.In this arena, our opponents are often states whose very survival owes to the strength
of their security capabilities; the work is complex and risky, often with the full weight
of the State seeking to root us out. The most important aspect of these operations is
maintaining their secrecy, so you will understand why I am not prepared to go into
greater detail. Doing so would put at risk those upon whom we rely and have a moral
duty to protect. But I will say that just as in the fight against Daesh our success in
this mission will depend on our ability to win trust, harness modern technology and to
work in partnership.
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The Future
19.So much for the tasks we face today. I now want to address the future. I think we
have a deserved reputation as one of the best strategic intelligence services in the
World. But there is a catch: while the essence of what we do creating relationships
of trust will remain unchanged, in this century as it has in the last, the environment
in which we do it has altered out of all recognition. In short, data and the internet have
turned our business on its head. They represent an existential threat combined with a
golden opportunity. Analysis of data can reveal a great deal. In the hands of a skilled
opponent, unconcerned by considerations of law or morality, it can cause great
damage. Similarly, used lawfully with full adherence to the concepts of necessity and
proportionality, it can transform our ability to spot opportunities and threats alike.
20.Alongside the values we defend and which define us, I believe that it will be our
relationship with new technologies that will determine our effectiveness in future. I
think that the intelligence services of the world will divide into two: those who get this
and those who dont. We are in the former camp.

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21.We have understood for years that our ability to work creatively has depended on a
deep understanding of our surroundings. This is as true now of our digital
environment as the physical one. We need to be as fleet of foot on the highways and
byways of cyberspace as we are on the streets of Raqqa. This is where we reap the
dividends of our deep partnership with GCHQ. This is why we will use the
opportunity of growth provided by our recent funding settlement to attract those with
the skills we need to effect this transformation. And this is why we need to have the
legal basis and capabilities now provided by the Investigatory Powers - or IP - Act.
22.Incidentally, despite being C, I too am a member of the public and fully understand
that, when it comes to access to data, the public will need and want to hold us to a
particularly high standard of account. This is an issue across both the public and
private sector that raises a range of novel and important ethical and legal issues.
That is why I was delighted by the quality of debate that took place during the
passage of the IP Bill, based in part on David Andersons excellent review.
23.The IP Act brings with it stringent checks and balances, including a double-lock of
Ministerial and independent judicial authorisation for the most intrusive activities.
All of our operations continue to be overseen by Ministers, Parliament and
independent Judicial Commissioners who can access and review our records. MI6 is
accountable and so is every single officer who works here.
24. These checks and balances are vital as a means of ensuring your confidence, even as
our activities remain secret. But that cannot be the whole story. The concepts of
cyber and bulk data analysis are frequently described in other-worldly terms
which belie their true nature: that they are man-made phenomena. When it comes to
cyber warfare, it is not computers that are attacking us; it is people using computers.
It is the combination of people and machines that form the threat, and this,
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incidentally, is the reason that I see our third mission, Cyber, as a core role for MI6
as well as for our sigint partners.

25.So the ultimate protection lies in our character and that of the country we serve. My
officers are not from another planet; they are representative of the wider public and
driven by the simple desire to protect our country. There is a pernicious myth that,
somehow, intelligence services are moral equivalents. That the end justifies the
means, whatever the cost. Much of the fictional portrayal of us is along those lines;
and it is wrong. We do things for our country that would not be justifiable in pursuit
of private interests. But they are necessary, proportionate and legal in pursuit of
national security. Every single officer here understands and respects the heavy
responsibility, and has the integrity required, to utilise these powers. We are a human
organisation and we will make mistakes. We will have the courage to learn from
them. But, fundamentally, we understand that if we undermine the values we defend,
even in the name of defending them, then we have lost.

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People
26.I want to finish, then, on our people. In this I include our officers and our agents. In
this building and across the globe, brave men and women work day and night often
at great personal sacrifice deploying ingenuity, expertise and courage to keep this
country safe and secure.
27.I am fortunate to lead an organisation full of the best and brightest of modern Britain.
But just as we must transform our technology, our workforce needs to evolve with
the changing nature of the challenges we face. I am absolutely determined to use our
growth to achieve this. For too long often because of the fictional stereotypes I
have mentioned people have felt that there is a certain single quality that defines an
MI6 officer, be it an Oxbridge education or a proficiency in hand-to-hand combat.
This is, of course, patently untrue. There is no standard MI6 officer. I need MI6 to
have a workforce that harnesses the best talent regardless of background. This is not
just the right thing to do from an ethical and moral perspective (though of course it
is). The operational benefits are also manifest. I am mesmerized by the possibilities
presented by this countrys diversity and talent.
28.I also believe that a diverse workforce leads to better decision making. A vital lesson
I take from the Chilcot Report is the danger of group think. I will do anything I can
to stimulate a contrary view; to create a culture where everyone has the confidence to
challenge, whatever their seniority. I need that to extend to the way in which we
interact with government, being always prepared to speak truth to power. If we are
doing our job, the facts we reveal to government and the choices they present will be
uncomfortable. We will never shy away from this responsibility.
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29.Recruiting the best from the widest range of backgrounds is a powerful way to
achieve these aims. My message here is simple and it is one I hope you take away: if
you have what it takes, then apply to join us. Do not rule yourself out. Frankly, I
thought long and hard about whether I should join MI6 when the idea first presented
itself, all those years ago. We had no public profile at all in those days and it felt like
a leap into the unknown; a punt, if you like; albeit an adventurous one. There have
been tough moments since, but I have never regretted my decision. In MI6, the link
between the actions that you take and their consequences is very clear. These days,
there is a whole host of information for would-be recruits. And do not doubt for a
second that a career in MI6 genuinely does present an opportunity to make a
difference; I see proof of it every single day.

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Conclusion
30. Because this is a rare event, I have felt compelled to cover a range of topics in my
remarks today. But I do not want this to obscure my central messages. First, that MI6
is active and effective on your behalf, countering the threats that matter to our citizens.
Second, that we must attract the very best of modern Britain to join us and ensure we
retain the technological advantage over our enemies. Third, that our character and
values reflect those of the country we serve.
31.Referring to Britains war-time espionage by our predecessors during the First World
War, Winston Churchill wrote, It is often the fashion of our countrymen to belittle
their own efficiency in matters of this kind, and to exult the superior craft and ability
of foreigners.
32.Well, our adversaries may have impressive - sometimes intimidating - capabilities of
their own. But MI6 continues to give this country the edge, and lives up to the
standard that Churchill set when he went on to say that our work was, more skillfully
organised, more daringly pursued and achieves more important results than that of any
other country, friend or foe.
33.On a more contemporary note, I believe that we are an important reason why, in the
face of an increasingly complex world, this country can remain secure, prosperous and
confident; in the future just as it has been in the past.
34.Thank you.

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