Statewatch article: RefNo# 24997
MI5 Director's speech
Statewatch archive
MI5 Director's speech
artdoc October=1995

"National Security and International Understanding"
speech by Stella Rimmington, Director-General of MI5, the
Security Service, to the English Speaking union on 4 October

Ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to have been asked to give
this fourth lecture in the series to mark the 75th anniversary
of the English Speaking Union. The English language offers
peoples of many races, cultures and backgrounds a shared means
of communication. The ESU has done much to further international
understanding over the many years since it was founded in the
wake of the First World War . This evening I hope to make my
contribution to this process by speaking about National Security
and International Understanding.

Nowadays, the need for security forms a common bond between
nations. In the English Speaking Union's prospectus Jonathan
Porritt has written: "Internationalism today does not mean the
same as it did during the Cold War. It is not about stand-offs
and conflicting ideologies, but about new patterns of cooperation
and new definitions of security". He goes on: "This is uncharted
territory, and we all need guides to negotiate it. The English
Speaking Union is one of the best of these and there is no more
important work for it to be doing".

The principal theme I want to explore this evening is the in-
creasing importance of international cooperation in protecting
the security and well-being of individual states.

I want to look at the way in which, over time, the perception of
the main threats to the security of the United Kingdom has
changed; a change reflected in the way the role of the British
Security Service has developed - firstly to counter the threats
posed by two World Wars; then by the Cold War; and more recently
by new dangers , in particular terrorism. I shall highlight the
increasing importance of the links we have established with our
counterparts overseas in combatting threats to our own security.

To set this process in context I'd like to spend a few moments
looking back at the history of what is one of the world's oldest
security services - MI5.

The English Speaking Union was established in the immediate
aftermath of the Great War in an effort to open up lines of
communication between nations. MI5, of course was set up with
exactly the opposite aim - that of closing down communications
- the communications of enemy agents in this country with their
masters overseas!

In 1909 the UK's Committee of Imperial Defence became acutely
alarmed by evidence that agents of the German Secret Service were
active in our ports and dockyards. It ordered a review of the
arrangements for countering foreign espionage. And it found there
were practically none. The conclusions of the review could
certainly not be called extravagant, even by today's stringent
standards. After considering precedents dating back to the
Spanish Armada the Committee recommended that a single officer
should be appointed to devote his whole attention to the problem!

The single officer was to be the Secret Service Bureau. In fact
the Bureau was eventually set up with two officers - Captains
Kell and Cumming. They quickly decided to divide their work
between home and overseas. Kell assumed responsibility for
defensive counter espionage work within the British Isles. He
was, of course, my predecessor. Cumming, or "C", as his
successors are known to this day, took charge of gathering
intelligence secretly abroad, He became, in effect, the first
head of what is now the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, the
UK's foreign intelligence service. Kell and Cumming worked
together closely in performing their different tasks, as their
successors do today.

My predecessor, Captain Kell, was remarkably successful in his
counter espionage task in the period leading up to the outbreak
of the First World War. His principal coup, achieved as so often

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