Written by By CNN Staff Written by By CNN Staff
Senior British intelligence officials have sounded an increasingly rosy note on the state of Britain’s security services, saying there are “very low” levels of security breaches within the security and intelligence agencies, and dismissing the idea that anyone is “safe from attack.”
The Prime Minister’s Security and Intelligence Committee held an often forthright interview with the head of MI6, Alex Younger, and two other senior officials on Tuesday.
The officials “were asked how high they thought [homicide] rates in the UK were and said it was quite low,” according to a statement issued by the Committee. “They also answered that if there was a terrorist attack, there would be no guarantee that the killer would be caught or identified within 36 hours.”
The interviews were one of the most open in the committee’s 30-year history, with the officials sharing photographs of some of the images they have acquired of the activities of the UK’s five main security and intelligence agencies.
Monday’s interview was the most wide-ranging since Younger became head of MI6 in 2013, becoming the youngest ever head of MI6 at age 49.
A month later, a man armed with a knife attacked Parliament — the first killing of a major figure in modern British history. The family of the attacker, Khalid Masood, said he had not been a member of any extremist group and was known to the security services.
At the end of the interview, Younger and senior officials were asked to talk about various topics.
Among them, they were asked about Beijing’s aggression in the South China Sea.
“Well, we operate in an environment where the nature of threat is changing,” said Younger. “It is often quiet when it starts out, and then, slowly but surely, it becomes more assertive … And so, as you say, the South China Sea is one of these important, perhaps the most important piece of infrastructure in a lot of areas of the world.”
“You’ve had a number of very high-profile maritime incidents,” they were also asked.
“Yes,” said Younger. “It has happened quite a few times now where a country has basically blocked some part of international shipping going through that sea. And it has caused loss of life, in many cases and a great deal of frustration from nations around the world.”
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Despite the tense relationship between China and the US, the officials were clear that they were not advocating that China should adopt similar tactics — or adopt a similar stance in Asia.
“To be quite frank, what I’m saying is that I think that there are — the threats that exist in the South China Sea — would go on for as long as the dispute over it remains unresolved,” said Younger.
And while Younger said he has “a certain sense of grief” over Masood, who he saw as “a very disturbed individual,” he said that his mission as head of MI6 is to “keep us safe”.
Younger made a rare appearance on a national television news program after leaving MI6 in 2014. The Agency later denied reports that Younger was convinced that Masood was part of an extremist conspiracy, and claimed he supported British troops at a charity dinner in 2009.