LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s intelligence agencies have learned tough lessons since the Sept. 11 2001 attacks in the United States and now do things differently, a security official told Reuters after lawmakers said spies took ‘inexcusable’ actions.
British spies knew about the mistreatment of suspected militants by the United States, and were involved in capturing people who were transferred without legal process to third countries, according to a report by parliament.
“Today, we do things differently,” a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
“We have learned the lessons of those difficult post-9/11 years and structures have matured, both in the Secret Intelligence Service and across government.”
But the official also said spies were under intense pressure from their political masters at the time.
“Our staff were under pressure to deliver intelligence on the threat,” the official said. “The immediate demand, to deliver intelligence to defend against the terrorist threat, became the overriding priority.”
The official said officers in the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, had been given no training or legal guidance on conducting detainee interviews at the time.
“Given the circumstances, it is understandable yet regrettable that, occasionally, we did not get things right,” the official said.
“But it is important to apply some perspective, SIS officers often had to exhibit great courage.”
Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, Editing by Paul Sandle