The former head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, has called for a new surveillance compact between internet companies and the security services in the UK and US in the wake of the Snowden revelations.
In his first speech since standing down as “C” at the end of last year, Sawers said the two could work together as they had in the past to prevent a repeat of events such as the Charlie Hebdo attack, the always present threats from militant Islamists in places such as Yemen, and the advance of Boko Haram in Nigeria.
In other parts of the speech, he aligned himself with Pope Francis in calling for restraint in offending the religious sensitivities of others after the Paris attack. He also, surprisingly, distanced MI6 from the CIA over what he called “lethal” operations.
Sawers, who is going into the private sector after decades in the Foreign Office and latterly at MI6, said the Snowden revelations in 2013 had shattered the previous informal relationship between tech companies and the surveillance agencies.
The compact should be between the security services and the public, not some private companies. We need to debate what is required and we need to establish mechanisms to stop misuse of this astonishing power.