British spies 'tempted to cut corners' in bid to catch terrorists and foreign agents says MI5 boss
- Spies must act ethically, says Director General Sir Jonathan Evans
- Comments come amid criticism of plans for secret courts
- Justice and Security bill has been put forward by Government
- Bill would allow cases involving national security to be heard in private
Long term problem: Head of MI5 Sir Jonathan Evans has said that spies are often tempted to cut corners in order to catch terrorists
New recruits to MI5 have been warned to behave within the law in order to maintain the public's trust in the security service.
MI5 head Sir Jonathan Evans claimed that many spies were tempted to 'cut corners' in their attempts to bring terrorists threatening the UK to justice.
The Director General of the intelligence agency said he had to warn spies to behave proportionally, ethically and legally to keep the the trust of both members of the public and ministers, and that cutting corners could result in longer term problems for the service.
His comments came amid plans for secret courts that will allow evidence from the intelligence services to be heard privately, despite criticism from senior lawyers and former Army officers.
The Justice and Security Bill, which would create new legal powers to keep many official dealings hidden and allow civil court cases involving national security to be heard behind closed doors, is being put forward by the Government.
However, critics have said that the bill would allow intelligence officers involved in or with knowledge of torture and rendition to escape public scrutiny.
Ministers have argued that foreign organisations such as the CIA have cut back on the amount of intelligence shared with Britain because it is feared it may be disclosed in open court.
In an interview to be aired on BBC Radio 4 Sir Jonathan, who was made a KCB in the 2013 New Year's honours list, said that MI5 must be seen to be acting ethically.
'One of the things I say always to new members of the Service is that there may be a temptation to cut those corners but in the longer term that will be a real problem to us,' he said in an extract of the programme given to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
'We depend on the support of government and ultimately on the support of the British people to do the sort of things that we do.'
In the two-part series, In Defence of Bureaucracy, Sir Jonathan said that the public should feel confident that spies were acting legally and in accordance with ethical standards.
He also told the programme, presented by former Cabinet Secretary Lord Gus O'Donnell, that bureaucracy helped officers to carry out their jobs because they knew that by acting within the law they would be acting proportionately.
The series, which starts on Tuesday at 9am, also features former Deputy Prime Minister Michael Heseltine and Sir Antony Jay, one of the co-authors of the iconic comedy series Yes, Prime Minister.
Ethically: In a rare interview Sir Jonathan told Radio 4 that spies working at the MI5 headquarters in Millbank must act proportionally and within the law
SPY GAME: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MI5 and MI6
What? UK's security intelligence agency - responsible for protecting the UK, its citizens and interests against threats to national security.
Detects and disrupts terrorist threats within UK.
Where? Headquarters is at Thames House in London. Network of offices based across Great Britain and Northern Ireland, with officers being posted to regional stations.
Who is in charge? Sir Jonathan Evans, overseen by Home Secretary.
As seen in: BBC series Spooks
What? The Secret Intelligence Agency - responsible for gathering intelligence outside the UK in support of the government's security, defence and foreign and economic policies.
Detects and disrupts terrorist threats to the UK and interests overseas.
Where? Headquarters based at Vauxhall Cross - which was famously blown up in the latest James Bond film Skyfall. Agents stationed across the globe, with operational officers undertaking at least one foreign posting lasting two or three years.
Who is in charge? Sir John Sawers, accountable to Foreign Secretary.
As seen in: James Bond
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