back to article Top MI6 spy: Terrorism less serious than bird flu

A former Assistant Chief of the UK's shadowy Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, aka MI6) has played down the threat of jihadi terrorism, saying that other dangers are more serious. The ex-spy also said that global counterterrorism database plans were "unlikely ever to succeed". Nigel Inkster, who was an SIS officer from 1975 to …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    Somebody in the security services with something sensible to say about this subject! I didn't expect that.

    Maybe the government would like to take note of this opinion ... but somehow I doubt they will.

  2. Jimmy Floyd


    Quiet down, Nigel. People will start thinking Jacqui Smith doesn't have a purpose.

    Mine's the one with the Home Office tracking device sewn into the lining.

  3. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Well duh!

    Tell us, the sensible people, something we didn't already know!

    Mr Carlin stated for years that your more likely to fall over and brain yourself in your bath-tub at home, than succumb to the world dominational whims of Mr Bin Laden et al!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    A rational man in an irrational world

    Ahhh but Mr Inkster, cars (or perhaps, drivers) may indeed kill more people in a year, but they are such poor objects of derision during the Daily 10 Minute Hate. We need images of evil doers, to frighten people into submission, to unite the population behind our almighty leader!

    Back to earth with a bump, this is probably all the evidence that Mrs "Not Guilty of Defrauding the Tax Payer Two Homes" Smith will need to introduce a CCTV in every car, a gatzo on every corner, nice foam padding on any nasty hard body work and a speed limit the average snail will scoff at. And charge us for the privilege, whilst telling us "it's for your own good!"

    It's interesting to note that Britain has about the safest roads in Europe, and that's despite the shoddy condition that years of spending road fund license taxes on buying votes has left them in.

    Doesn't this just completely put into context the fact that the government have been overinflating the risks associated with terrorism (or knife crime) - brought upon us largely by their misguided and potentially illegal policies - to force through yet more legislation aimed at controlling and regulating what was left (cheaply, and working quite well for hundreds of years) to the conscience and grace of the population of this country.

    Anyway - you all know all this, but still some 40% of you will probably vote them in again. Just don't be surprised when it all goes to shit.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "We should keep our nerve and our faith in our own values. Our own behaviour - especially with respect to the rule of law - is very important."

    So say those complicit in torture. I guess that must be legal now.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wacky Jacky

    I only hope that Wacky Jacquy takes note of what this guy says: it might just lessen her obsession with databases and monitoring in the guise of terrorism prevention.

    But somehow I think she will just continue her war on privacy inexorably.

  7. OldBiddie

    Surely not

    This can't be right - we can't have ex-SIS operatives going around telling people that the threat of global terrorism has been massively over-egged, used as a method of introducing ineffective legislation, that restricts our rights in society, not used in the spirit of the law against photographers and old men at Labour party conferences.

    Jacqui Smith / Gordon Brown you’d better be get your finger out and do a David Kelly on him pronto – we don’t want people playing down the hysteria.

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. al
    Paris Hilton

    We need Paris Hilton not CIA

    You heard it right - if you need solve a war arising out of indifference in minds & difference in culture you need to send out your cultural ambassador (who in our case, sadly, is Ms Paris) and not your gunmen (remember violence begets violence).

    Yes, this seems like a frivolous comment; but there is something you need to do some outside the box (or pants - take your pick) thinking to realize the need to lighten up things in all quarters.

    Regarding international database.. it's about sharing of data (seamlessly) that is ALREADY with some govt or the other. Now a privacy advocate should be worried if they plan to add "new" data to it; not if they were to share "existing" data. (Or, a private citizen with a criminal record- bordering on terrorism - in a foreign country needs to be worried too... hmm ).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Common sense and a realistic viewpoint !

    Who let him speak in public with the above attributes.

  11. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Knock, knock ....... are there any Astute Active brain cells in SIS?

    "Inkster also offered an insight into life in Her Majesty's secret service, saying "I come from an organisation that doesn't do Powerpoint culture".

    For all that we see/hear/experience, it is hard not to conclude that MI6 does precious little.

    Is Mr. Scarlett still wasting everyone's time squatting in the nest? And have they any Controls in the CyberSpace realm which so easily can render their other efforts wasted and completely unnecessary or is that MI5 territory, although one would have thought that Virtual Landscaping for the Better Beta Management of Perception was a Prime Facility to be made available/accessible to all who would have any need of it.

    In fact, one would have thought that it should be a seamless provision.

    Might I suggest that either one or the other actually create such a ........ well, it would be an Operational Conversion Unit given the Methodologies and Tools that IT would employ. After All, it is not as if they don't know of someone who can run it for them, if they are behind the curve in ITs Special Application of ProgramMIng Programs, is it?

    As you can probably deduce, I am underwhelmed at their pedestrian performance in a stellar field and even more so that they would not see the Intelligence Deficit themselves. It does make a mockery of all of the supposed high tech electronic monitoring of communications which is supposed to render the future picture to them and yet may only be used as more of a tool for entrapment than sublime leadership ....... which incidentally is what IT can do and do QuITe Effortlessly whenever you know what to do and how to do IT.

    And whenever such Facility exists, and is studiously ignored in one Service/Nation, will it naturally migrate elsewhere for alternate consideration.

    I suppose just like everything else today, you just can't get quality staff. Certainly top class leadership has been missing for some considerable time.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quick, fire him!

    He sounds far too intelligent, sensible and practical to be in a position to make comments to the media.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    They don't talk like that whilst still in office.

  14. Pete Silver badge

    less serious than brid flu and much easier to prevent

    ... just stop bombing the crap out of groups of people in far-away countries, whom you know nothing about.

    If you want to stop the spread of radicalism, spend a few $Bn on home comforts: usable roads, 24*7 electricity, nice food, engaging TV programmes, decent jobs and educating the masses. They'll be far to dumb, fat and happy to want to go around blowning themselves (or anyone else) up, plus you'll have undermined the true believers ability to stir up discontent.

    Want to stop the scourge of drugs, drug-related theft and killing? Simple, just buy up the heroin, cocaine and dope at source. Pay the farmers more than the cartels do (see above: terrorism) then distribute it legally, through government run outlets. Apart from the savings on interdiction, the govt. could make a pretty penny from taxes - just like with booze, coffee, tobacco etc.

    So far as bird flu goes, that's more difficult. You need to set up labs to isolate the quickly mutating strains, produce, test and distribute the jabs and make sure there's enough to go around. However, with all the surplus cash from solving the other major world issues, it shouldn't be beyond the realms of possibility - there may even be enough money left over to solve world-hunger and climate change, too.

  15. amanfromMars Silver badge

    A Change would be Pleasanter and more Profitable.

    "Quick, fire him! .... He sounds far too intelligent, sensible and practical to be in a position to make comments to the media." .... By Anonymous Coward Posted Wednesday 11th February 2009 13:57 GMT


    Like so many who retire from the active field, having reached as far as they are ever going to go, and usually with the pension secured, they find a brave sensible voice rather than using the one which pays them to spin stuff and nonsense to keep the Ponzis on the rails. The sad bad bit though is that their friends and colleagues are considered so easily expendable, just so much collateral damage to be accepted and forgotten and ignored for the greater good of a false story to maintain the old boy networks which profit from Systemic Abuse

  16. Frumious Bandersnatch

    terrorism threat overblown

    Now stop worrying and enjoy life...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Hey f--- you, we're good at bombing brown people in poor ass countries with no real army, that's what the UK and USA do best, bomb poor brown people. Even better if they're a different religion.

    We also don't need science - we've already got enough bombs, we just need to make sure nobody else can make bigger bombs, as long as that's the case it's gravey baby, now shut the hell up before we send some coppers round your house to arrest you for having a child porn! Or is extreme porn going to become the flavour of the day? Ahh who cares we own your ass anyway.


    NuGov UK Ministry of Fear

  18. James

    Terrorism less serious than bird flu ....

    ... which in turn is several orders of magnitude less serious than Investment Bankers and Bank Directors !!

  19. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Powerpoint culture?

    "Inkster also offered an insight into life in Her Majesty's secret service, saying "I come from an organisation that doesn't do Powerpoint culture"

    That would be in contrast to Her Majesty's public services, which are incapable of operating without bullet points and moody background graphics. (Hmm, much more of this and I'll be wishing the UK was actually run by the spooks. That can't be healthy.)

  20. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: terrorism threat overblown

  21. RJE

    No threat?

    Yes, we can all forget about terrorism until there is another significant incident and then we can all accuse the government of not doing enough to stop terrorism.

    And poverty is no excuse for crime or terrorism. Not all poor people decide their only option is to stab or kill innocent civilians. Some try to work hard and make some money.

  22. DZ-Jay


    That was beautiful, Miss Bee.


  23. Bad Beaver
    Thumb Up


    Reading something like this renews my confidence in mankind.

  24. b

    Coming soon

    Expenses-fiddler Jacqui Smith demands this man apologises to all the victims of terrorism in the uk. Whilst riding a horse.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Risk assessments and decency culture?

    Risk assessment as a discriminant in resource management seems fine.

    The trouble is that it is quite an inexact science especially when trying to predict behaviours of those overseas with whom the data are at best shadowy. Perhaps followed by a public outcry by the shocked and horrified that the base assumptions were wrong and so the risk assessment miles off and misleading.

    There is a wiser alternative: either make a society decent or by failing to make it indecent.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Ah. Fresh air.

    Of course, no one will take any notice, but it was nice while it lasted.

  27. Anonymous Coward


    How about *reading* the article before letting your knee jerk. I assume you normally read a "newspaper" like the Daily Mail where there is no point reading further than the headline.

    1. He didn't say terrorism was "no threat" or that we should forget about it. He said it was a lesser threat than many other things. Which is quite obviosuly true. And that we need to manage the problem. Which is also quite obviously true.

    2. He didn't say poverty was the cause of terrorism (exactly the opposite, in fact) but it is a factor. Unless you believe that people do Bad Things simply because they are Evil. In that case there would be little we can do to prevent crime or terrorism apart from lock up suspicious-looking people without trial... Oh, but we tried that and it made things worse. I think most intelligent people understand that socio-economic factors play a role in the radicalization process.

  28. TeeCee Gold badge

    Hint for the Home Office.

    "Keep Terrorism off the roads!"

    There you go. Simple, punchy and it'll play well in the Daily Heil and the Sizzling, Soaraway Cesspool.

    You can have that for free on me. I like a good laugh.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Databases Aren't About Terrorism

    ... there about controlling the population. I am glad to see someone with some commonsense. Imagine if we invested the £12 billion it might cost to build the UK government's proposed communications database into road safety. How many lives would be saved?

  30. TimNevins
    Thumb Down

    Seven Years

    Seven Years.

    Seven long miserable war torn years in which countries like Afghan and Iraqhave been completely and utterly decimated.

    Iraq has signed a 10billion$ contract with the US for weapons yet the main Bagdad sewer system is still broken and leaking into the river Tigris.

    Entire bloodlines annihilated. A generation of orphans who've grown up with nothing but war (imagine being 8 when this happened in 2K2 and now being 15 with no end in sight). Traumatised for life.

    Meanwhile UK kids are kicking back watching Pop Ido/XfFactor

    This 'observation' is a day late and a dollar short. If he had any influence to push this point of view across a few years ago it could have saved thousands of lives from being destroyed.

    The time to protest against death by hanging should be done whilst the gallows are being designed and built.

    Not when you find yourself being led to them.

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