3 April: Sir Richard Dearlove, former Chief of the UK’s SIS, has been at it again (see http://spyingtoday.com/2019/03/07/the-privilege-of-rank/). He appeared this morning on the BBC’s flagship radio programme Today to say how he thought the Prime Minster had got it wrong and there was nothing to fear from a No Deal Brexit. As usual he uses his former position as a platform to express his right wing views. The fact that his is the only voice one hears from SIS affects how the intelligence services are perceived – particularly by young people. This is to the detriment of such issues as recruitment of new officers. His former staff, whose views may not be as extreme as his, are denied a similar right.
It is time that the UK came into line with the United States and allowed former intelligence officers to identify themselves as such (subject to operational clearance) and to speak on public issues as long as they remain within security guidelines. To refuse to lift the blanket ban in the UK which is imposed solely on the grounds that “this is the way it has always been” risks making the services look like they are out of touch with the modern world and those who are not on the right of the political spectrum. This might be true of the senior ranks of those services, but it will not be true of all. It is time that the UK intelligence services entered the 21st Century.