back to article Ex-UK spy boss says WikiLeaks sparked Egyptian revolution

The former head of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service has credited WikiLeaks and other secret-spilling sites with sparking the revolutions sweeping the Middle East. At what was supposed to be an off-the-record appearance last month at the Cambridge Union Society, Former MI6 Chief Richard Dearlove said that the technology …


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  1. Someone Else Silver badge

    So the unanswered question is:

    Were Dearlove's remarks as reported in Wikileaks actually misquoted, and does the "public record" he referred to actually back up his claim?

    Or is he just spouting CYA rubbish?

    1. The Original Ash

      I don't think he quite understands

      We make decisions with the information we have at the time. If the Downing Street Memo is a misquote, then he has a duty and obligation to correct that. If he decides not to, or he's unable, then we take the information we have and base our opinions and decisions on it.

      If that goes badly for him, then tough. He knows what we know. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that what he *really* said is worse than what is in the public domain. QED.

  2. JaitcH

    Dearlove should be listened to, this is the Establishment speaking out against the Establishment

    For a guy with a track record like Dearlove's he is someone worth listening to having been M!6 boss between 1999 to 2004. His speaking out against 'striking and disturbing' invasions of privacy by the Big Brother state', including some activities that were abuse of the law, is significant, especially when he said immediately after retirement he wouldn't be doing interviews. This also means he was in the know around the 2001 New York air incidents and he believed the U.S. response to 2001September 11 had been disproportionate. (No kidding).

    Dearlove has also complained of the 'loss of liberties' caused by expanding surveillance powers and said some Plod operations as 'mind-boggling' including the massive surge in police use of stop-and-search powers in London, headlining the fact that Scotland Yard Plods have carried out more than 150,000 searches since 2007 which compares with fewer than 300 in Manchester. Reg readers will undoubtedly recall photographers and rail-spotters were Plod targets.

    A total of 238 Territorial Support Group officers were investigated over 547 allegations of misconduct of/to the public in 2009, 29% referenced serious and sexual assault, and other assaults. This is pretty bad even for Plod supporters. This Plod mob sparked controversy over policing during the G20 protests, were accused of 159 assaults in the past year.

    This former spy chief is not alone as a growing number of high-profile critics warning that individual freedom and privacy are being seriously eroded by the Government's efforts to guard against terrorism. Personally I think they have gone way too far.

    Sir Richard Dearlove particularly noted inadequate laws to regulate some surveillance powers. Even the House of Lords Constitution Committee has called for the state's Big Brother powers to be cut back, and the Information Commissioner has condemned the spread of surveillance, particularly the UK's 4.5million CCTV cameras, at a cost of at least £500million of taxpayers' money was spent installing them. Home Office research has shown that the millions of CCTV cameras in Britain's streets have done virtually nothing to cut crime.

    Dearlove said Home Office plans for a vast InterNet surveillance database were 'a step too far for the British way of life'.

    Remember if Britain accepts all this it will only get worse. Time to write your MP.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I am less impressed.

      This kind of talk carries weight when it comes from people in office. He's retired. He's got his pension. He is no longer establishment. How daring of him to speak up now. Has he got a book in a the pipeline?

      On a separate note, that video was rendered unwatchable by the constant requests by flash to store data ...

    2. Greg Adams 2

      Time to write your MP

      Who will then toss your letter in the bin.

  3. disgruntled yank

    credit or analogy?

    I haven't time just now to watch the interview, but in the snipped you quoted, he said he "would definitely draw parallels". Again, in your other quotation, Wikileaks and the Egyptian revolution are effects or manifestations of a diffusion of power.

    1. david wilson


      There's a /huge/ difference between saying two things are similar or have similar causes and saying one thing *caused* another.

    2. AdamWill


      Exactly right. Nothing of what he says draws any kind of causal link between the two. Instead he talks about them both as being specific examples of a particular trend, the trend being the ease of access to (and the ease of dissemination of) information acting to reduce central power.

      Bad reading, Reg.

  4. Paul Hampson 1

    Couldn't have done it by themselves

    What arrogance. Living in poverty with no prospects has always been the cause of revolutions, but apparently this time it was a western web site which caused it even though most of the people taking part in the revolution have never seen it.

    What an arrogant technocrat.

    1. JC 2

      @ Couldn't have done it by themselves

      I have to agree that singling out wikileaks was a bit arbitrary beyond it being an example of how online information, or propaganda, can move masses of people towards recognizing (they have) their allies as it incites conversation. If anything the internet is a huge "me too" hive mentality when something seems wrong, even if nobody agrees on the right solution.

      THAT is what technology did, allow the people more coordinated efforts till the snowball effect took over, at which point it was too late to just shut down the *tech* as the word was out that if you want some freedom it is a good time to act on that.

    2. SleepyJohn

      Poverty may fuel revolution but it is nothing without a spark

      I have no doubt that hopeless poverty under the jackboot of a nasty dictator is the fuel for most revolutions but its very dispiriting hopelessness means it is rarely capable of providing the spark needed to ignite an actual uprising. The downtrodden peasantry may never have encountered these Western websites but I think it is safe to say that those with the drive to foment them into revolution most certainly have.

      I don't think we should mock the capacity of freedom-loving websites to inspire such people to actually overthrow their tyrant 'leaders', nor underestimate the encouragement given to the next wave of revolutions by the global publication of the previous successes.

      Every tiny bit of encouragement from anywhere will gradually accumulate and tip the balance. I think the current crop of thuggish despots has a lot to fear from the proliferation of modern communication systems, as witnessed by their desperate, but ultimately futile attempts to turn off the internet.

    3. Anonymous Coward


      Actually, most "revolutions" have been led or instigated or organised by the middle classes / bourgeoisie. Look at the 19th century continental ones, the French Revolution, the American, Cuba, North Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Libya now: students, the not-quite-made-it minor politicians, frustrated and exiled religious leaders or theoreticians (e.g. Marx, Lenin).

      The role of the poor and uneducated is, sadly, that of unwitting cannon-fodder for all sides, the poor, bloody infantry if you like, stirred up to lend their weight by numbers and propaganda and, generally, left behind once again if the "revolution" is successful. Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe are full of successful revolutionary governments whose citizens remain in abject poverty, often worse than before.

      The real poor are too busy just surviving, too ignorant of the possibilities and how to gain and retain power and often just too physically debilitated.

      One needs some level of education, something to lose and a vision of something to gain, some "foreign" ideas to be motivated to take the risk of revolutionary change, organise it, justify it and use it.

      1. moonface


        It's all explained in The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism.

        Now educating the Proles could be a bit of a game changer but I can't see any Government being silly enough to do that!

    4. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Couldn't have done it by themselves

      They could have done it for themselves, but the fact is until Wikileaks leaked those documents, they didn't. In the case of the Libyans, for 40 years.

      Your view is extremely naive as it totally ignores the probability that the government in power is able to control the flow of information in these countries enough to make the population think that the west is the reason they are poor and that their brave government is busy fighting the western world to ensure their rights.

      Now, these documents have leaked, and suddenly people have access to (in a lot of cases) the unvarnished truth. That sort of thing can change a population's collective opinion.

      Another example of this is the vietnam war. I can't provide a link as this was on TV years ago, but do you know what they think persuaded the American population that, despite what their government was telling them, the Vietnam war was a bad thing? One single clip of video shown on a documentary. A clip of a US soldier calmly circling a Vietnamese prisoner, and without saying a word or showing any emotion, turning toward the prisoner and shooting him.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Look, since the level of intelligence of the commentards is quite low, I'll make it extremely simple for you...

        If your populace is well fed and educated, they will less likely to be to revolt. That is to say if your government keeps people working, and there's a chicken in every pot, they'll be more likely to turn a blind eye to most abuses.

        Its when you have a high level of poverty and you're not meeting the populace's need for the basics (food, shelter, and clothing) you will have an uprising.

        Its that fricking simple.

        Mine's the coat with the built in Kevlar and internal pockets to stash chocolate. ;-)

  5. kdd
    Thumb Up

    Why prosecuting Assange would be a huge mistake...

    This brings to light why attempting to prosecute Assange in the US would backfire severely. The claim of "aiding and abetting the enemy," becomes absolutely ludicrous when the actual result has been an increase in world democratic action, as opposed to the US usual methodology of aiding and/or placating despotic leaders. Regardless of his intent, Assange could claim he's better at getting their job done than they are (US diplomats), making the US a laughingstock.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      America has never been about democracy.

      America has only ever sought democracy when their pet dictator starts going off script.

      They are just as likely to attempt to overthrow a democratically elected regime and install a dictator if it's in their interests.

    2. Ian Michael Gumby


      First, Assange is being sent back to Sweden to face charges of Rape. While you may disagree with the Swedes on what is and is not rape, its still their law and Assange allegedly broke their law and needs to go back and stand trial.

      Second, the comments if taken at face value are absurd.

      Call me silly but I seem to recall a certain street vendor in Tunisia who started their country's revolt...

      North Africa had always been a hot bed for unrest going back to the British and French continued occupation since post WW II. (Oh but that's 'ancient' history and you really don't want to let facts get in the way of your argument.)

      The point is that there are other incidents and facts throughout the region over the past 30 years that have more of a direct tie to the current wave of revolutions in these countries than Wikileaks.

      (Of course there's one unknown... did Wikileaks provide the Palestinian documents to Al Jezeera? No one is talking and that would have more of an impact on this region...)

      You also seem to have a bit of a wild imagination.

      The US Government isn't one to dictate change in a geo politcal region. In fact the US wants stability. But you'd know that if you actually read your history books instead of copying off someone else's paper.

    3. Elmer Phud

      Headless chickens

      They are crapping themselves about oil - not democracy.

      The biggest fuss is over what Gadaffi Duck is going to do. The oil is not seen as belonging to the country or the people it's seen as belonging mainly to the US (check out global oil use per head of population) with David Cameron limply bleating away totally out of his depth when up against a well-practiced nutter.

      The other thing that the CIA doesn't like is how so many of thier 'arab friends' have been shown to have built thier supposed billions on property and now it's all totally fucked. The workers/slaves are leaving various towns, the game is up, geese have been cooked and Dubai is finally unmasked as a huge con.

      Also, where else can the western arms companies sell thier wares nowadays?

      They will kill Bradley Manning over this and try and lock away Assange (who doubtless has a big head and is a bit of a twat but . . )

      1. Ian Michael Gumby


        Just exactly how much of Libya's oil goes to the US?

        Run the numbers junior. You'll then start to see that its really the Europeans who should be worried...

        But its not about the actual loss of oil, but that there's an over abundance of speculation in the oil market by people who'd have no intention on actually collecting the underlying commodity. So US companies are raising their prices on the fear and movement within the oil market. Its that which has the US Government freaking out a bit.

        (Yet calmer heads didn't want to touch the US Oil reserves until a *real* emergency.)

        As to your other remarks, its the uncertainty and unknown which worries not just the US government, but the other western governments. You would know this if you actually paid attention to what is going on around you instead of painting the US as the 'boogie man'. In truth the US is a paper tiger until you actually cause it harm. Then you start to see the resolve of the US population.

        (Yeah, its a scary thing when you see both those from the left and right join together to fight a common enemy.)

        Manning won't get the death penalty. So please don't be a twit. It would take a confession by Manning that he intentionally pulled a Benedict Arnold to warrant it.

        And as to 'Western Arms' ... I wonder who's selling AK-47s these days? ;-)

  6. Peter X


    I wish they had kept the captioning uniform rather than CAPITALISING a bunch of sections. It just makes the video-reporting seem a little biased. Plus the videographers sniggering didn't help much either.

  7. geejayoh
    Thumb Up

    Quote: @paulhampson1

    """-What arrogance. Living in poverty with no prospects has always been the cause of revolutions, but apparently this time it was a western web site which caused it even though most of the people taking part in the revolution have never seen it.

    What an arrogant technocrat. """"

    Listen to that man. He talks sense.

  8. Whiskered

    Hang on a Second....

    According to the text of your article, he did not say that Wikileaks sparked anything in Egypt. He said there were parallels in regards to technology's ability to empower the individual.

    It's a moderately interesting story that shows a former spy stating the bleedin obvious; not some fantastic new admission that diplomatic cable leaks directly triggered a revolution.

    That title is misleading.

    Naughty Reg!

  9. DavCrav

    Violating off-the-record

    The problem with violating off-the-record agreements is that people stop being honest. If all memos get leaked, government officials will stop writing them, or say nothing in them and then have a quiet conversation after hading the memo over.

    Leaking can be good, but for it to work, it has to be at a slow enough rate that people don't change their habits. What Deralove seems to be saying is that we are entering an age where all documented information will end up getting out, and so the obvious conclusion is that damaging information will not be documented.

  10. peyton?

    Erm... so...

    That one little girl should've been named "Wikileaks" not "Facebook" ?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The entire thing is just one big cloud of pettifogging and nonsense. I don't know what to make of Julian Assange except that he is ugly and unhealthy. The charges raised against him in Switzerland are bizarre and outrageous, but then, so is he. Worse, it seems that the only lasting thing he has accomplished is to get an otherwise innocent Private into serious trouble.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Well he would say that, wouldn't he?

    It was really Al Jazeera.

    "There’s been a flourishing little internet industry claiming that the overthrow of Mubarak came courtesy of US Twitter-Facebook Command. The New York Times runs numerous articles about the role of Twitter and Facebook while simultaneously ignoring or reviling Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

    Of course, in any discussion of the role of the internet in fuelling the upsurges across the Middle East, WikiLeaks should be given major credit. But WikiLeaks, along with Twitter and Facebook, all pale into insignificance next to the role of Al Jazeera,

    Millions of Arabs can’t tweet. Facebook is unfamiliar to them. But most watch TV, which means they all watch Al Jazeera. And of course it was Al Jazeera which detonated the IED exploding under the Palestinian Authority, namely the cache of documents known as the Palestine Papers"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      >>"Of course, in any discussion of the role of the internet in fuelling the upsurges across the Middle East, WikiLeaks should be given major credit."

      Why 'Of Course'?

      Do you really think the people in Tunisia or Egypt were too dumb to realise that they were living in an oppressive and corrupt regime until Wikileaks told them?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cambridge Union Society

    has a fairly solid policy for putting recordings of talks on I wonder if this one will end-up there as well, or were they requested not to by the speaker...

  14. Paul Johnston

    How Come?

    How come the members of Cambridge University are allowed to see this, yet we (the people who fund Universities at the moment) are not suppose to see it?

    What is the point of "Off the record comments" in front of a hall of people?

    Just think soon it will only be people who can afford to pay fees of I am guessing £9k who will be that privileged.

    Whatever you think of the leaks sites the fact that it costs the roughly the same amount to get the information and it is much more widely disseminated has to be a good thing!

  15. Major Variola


    Awesome, Reg.

    Obama needs to give his fake Nobel to Assange.

    From California

  16. Tigra 07

    This is farcical...

    Assainge overthrew a dictator singlehandedly without an illegal war, something America has never managed.

    Would they have preferred another $1 Trillion war to overthrow Gadaffi? Clearly yes as they're hunting Assainge still.

    1. david wilson

      @Tigra 07

      >>"Assainge overthrew a dictator singlehandedly without an illegal war, something America has never managed."

      Would you care to explain which dictator, and also explain what you understand 'single-handedly' actually means?

      1. Tigra 07

        RE: David Wilson

        Well since there's no evidence tying Bradley Manning to Julian Assainge or i believe Wikileaks, then that would be singlehanded as he's the only person being prosecuted for any involvement.

        And the dictator i meant was Gadaffi as he is now on the verge of being ousted from power thanks to a revolution, bought on by Wikileaks, from what has been in the media.

        1. david wilson

          @Tigra 07

          >>"Well since there's no evidence tying Bradley Manning to Julian Assainge or i believe Wikileaks, then that would be singlehanded as he's the only person being prosecuted for any involvement."

          What kind of fucked-up logic is that?

          For a start, Assange is just part of Wikileaks, and it's not clear if Wikileaks played *any* part in the Libyan uprisings - the citizens were already well aware what kind of government they had, and it seems all they really needed to get started was a bit of extra hope and courage from seeing other regimes crumble.

          Let's hope that they actually end up getting a system better than the one they had.

          Still, Julian's more mindless supporters never were ones to let reality get in the way of some unthinking hero worship.

          Far be it from them to give any credit to the people fighting and dying in the fight for their own freedom when they can give it all to Saint Julian.

          Singlehandedly, my arse.

  17. EWI

    Good on Wikileaks!

    The buggers are afraid to act to keep their dictator chums in the Middle East in power, in case the bureaucratic paper trail ends up out in the open for all to see.

  18. Steve Bush


    Not at all the intelligent person I expected to be in charge of MI6. Just a dundering tool.

  19. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Let there be Light ...... :-)

    "Dearlove first said he wouldn't comment, but couldn't help adding: “The Downing Street Memo, which you just read, is a misquotation of what I said, and what I said is not in the public record.”"

    The arrogance and/or ignorance in not providing a correction for the public record, surely renders the existing public record entirely valid as a working perception. It is not as if the perception created is not ably supported by other information in the public realm thus rendering it then, if not said and a misquote, that which should have been said, loud and clear. Certainly the spinning of fabrications to support falsehoods destroys the credibility and capability of any SIS and delivers its leadership ........ well, wise and respected is not something which heads the queue of adjectives one would expect to be jostling for airing.

    Dearlove surely doesn't do God, does he, and Intelligence is always flawed in those who both would either deny or admit that they dabbled in such deluded thoughts as would haunt and tempt them with the possibility of the notion.

    "Captioning ..... I wish they had kept the captioning uniform rather than CAPITALISING a bunch of sections. It just makes the video-reporting seem a little biased." .... Peter X Posted Saturday 5th March 2011 02:32 GMT

    Probably that was entirely the reason/intention, Peter X, for even the fairest and most objective of views whenever shared, is a most conscious and conscientious of subjective decisions to have been made. Words maketh Man and Worlds and In the Beginning, there was always Imagination that Leads and Feeds and Seeds and Needs Novel Noble Source.

  20. Youngdog
    Thumb Down

    Oooh, you fibber!

    You have quite clearly quoted him as saying there are parallels between the two - not that one caused the other! True I have not watched the video but I think it's fair to assume if what you stated in the headline was anywhere in it you would have quoted that as well.

    I agree with JaitcH - in a world where our leaders lie to us on a daily basis because it is 'in our best interests' perhaps we should listen to what he actually does say!

    Right, without further ado, I will now watch the video....

  21. Anonymous Coward

    US is quaking

    Make no mistake, the USA is watching all this VERY carefully. No jobs, tanking economy and back up to $4 a gal for petro isn't making friends!

  22. Anonymous Coward

    You are only allowed to leak the information we want you to leak

    The truth is out there....

    but repeating it is an offence under the Official Secrets Acts

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Printing of dollars?

    I've got a pet theory that as most countries base their currency against the dollar and the US have been printing a lot of it, the cost of local goods have been rising and therefore the populous who obviously dont get pay rises, so goods are getting more expensive, are feeling slightly pissed off about it. Hence the general uprising, blamed against their current gov.

    Dont know if thats true and I've done no research on it but welcome feedback :)

    1. No, I will not fix your computer

      Re: Printing of dollars?

      Food prices have shot up;

      1. The last 24-18 months has seen losses of major crops, food prices go up as food becomes scarce.

      2. Using food to create fuel has pushed food prices up, less food to eat, value as fuel goes up.

      3. Fuel costs going up affects the cost of transport, pushing food prices up.

      "Goods" being more expensive, people tend to live with, or at least put up with for a long time, not being able to put food in your mouth is a showstopper. In places where most of your income goes to just feeding you, food prices are critical, in places where a smaller percentage of your income can buy you 14oz steaks then food prices don't have the same impact.

      The reserve currency of the world is the dollar, its value should be dependent on gold reserves, however once you have a huge committment to one currency it has value because of the number of people committed to it rather than it's inherrent "worth", as countries invest more in China and China "takes" more reserve capital from the dollar we'll reach a tipping point where the Yuan has a similar inherrent "worth" then the world will tip to the Yuan, this will crash the value of the dollar and it will be probably be weaker than the euro.

  24. RodneyLee

    EX-UK SPY BOSS could be Idiot

    lets not blame Wikileaks for starting the riots, nor the person who released the leaked info, what ever the info is whatever caused the riots is a direct result of dis-honest government, there would be no need for Leaks from an open and honest government.

    ''During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act''

    My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government. ~Thomas Jefferson

  25. Raymond Wilson
    Thumb Down


    This will certainly boost Assange's larger than Mt. Everest ego and make his glow a damn site more brighter than he believes it allready does.

    I guess he could always use the fact that his tattle tale website changed the Middle East for the better in his defence to remain in the UK, I mean after all we've accomodated every other warmonger and radical here at the taxpayers' costs.

    On the subject of donations... I wonder how the real whistleblower, Mr Bradley Manning is holding up? I do recall Wikkileaks stating they'd help him with his legal costs and a decent defence council too.

    I guess Assange doesn't give a shoot now that he's the Pink Panther of the digital world and needs every hard earned contribution to avoid his own extradition

  26. Pax681
    Thumb Up

    old news for some!

    this vieo was releaed by "The Love Police" on concen over a week ago

  27. popsiq

    Electronic Catalysts?

    Hard to believe that Facebook and Twitter are efficient generators of mass public action, the formats don't lend themselves to that. Ditto Wikileaks as the cause of most anything at all, save some government embarassment. I think there are few people on earth naive enough to believe their leaders are not essentially intetrested in themselves first, that they tell us what they want us to know, and that, often they try to 'shape' our reactions ahead of time.

    The Egyptians didn't 'revolt' because of Facebook, or Wikileaks, they revolted because of an overreaction to protests about food prices and a tardy, insufficient reaction to address a very basic issue - something to eat. The application of police and security forces, usually beating up on Copts or 'immigrants' and nothing new in Egypt, was opposed this time, and caved-in. The success of the protest had little to do with e-media and less to do with Wikileaks. It was a case of success repeating itself. If anyone was affected by 'leaks', it was Mubarak.

    We're seeing a different reaction to protest in Libya, where Ghaddafi is too hard-nosed to give in to calls for his retirement, and still very willing to try the 'robust' approach to pacifying protest. No Wikileaks or social media being tapped for this mess.

    It will be interesting to see if Facebook can overcome security for the Day of Rage in Saudia Arabia this Friday. I would bet we'll see the limit of communication as a catalyst for social action.

    Frankly, I think food prices, which will affect America - and the rest of the world, too, can be affected by the 'ennertainment' value of social media which could become the modern form of the Roman circus - keeping the mob gaily teeting and doing nothing else. But the Romans were bright enough to remember the mob needed bread, too. I think the latter day 'emperors' of wealth may have forgotten that.

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