Former MI6 chief slams British government, media for giving extremists ‘oxygen of publicity’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2014, 8:47pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2014, 8:47pm


The British government and media have exaggerated the Islamist terrorism threat and given extremists publicity that is counterproductive, a former head of Britain's intelligence service has said.

Richard Dearlove, chief of MI6, the UK's foreign intelligence agency, at the time of the Iraq invasion, said Britons spreading "blood-curdling" messages on the internet should be ignored.

He told an audience in London on Monday that there had been a fundamental change in the nature of Islamist extremism since the Arab spring. It had created a major political problem in the Middle East but the West, including Britain, was only "marginally affected".

Unlike the threat posed by al-Qaeda before and in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks 13 years ago, the West was not the main target of the radical fundamentalism that created ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), Dearlove said.

Addressing the Royal United Services Institute, the London-based security and defence think tank, he said the conflict was "essentially one of Muslim on Muslim".

Dearlove said he was concerned about the media's influence on the UK's security policy. He made it clear he believed the way the British government and the media were giving extremists the "oxygen of publicity" was counterproductive. The media were making monsters of "misguided young men, rather pathetic figures" who were getting coverage "more than their wildest dreams", he said, adding: "It is surely better to ignore them."