October 18, 2008
A former head of MI5 today describes the response to the September 11 2001 attacks on the US as a “huge overreaction” and says the invasion of Iraq influenced young men in Britain who turned to terrorism.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
In an interview with the Guardian, Stella Rimington calls al-Qaida’s attack on the US “another terrorist incident” but not qualitatively different from any others.
“That’s not how it struck me. I suppose I’d lived with terrorist events for a good part of my working life and this was as far as I was concerned another one,” she says.
In common with Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, who retired as MI5’s director general last year, Rimington, who left 12 years ago, has already made it clear she abhorred “war on terror” rhetoric and the government’s abandoned plans to hold terrorism suspects for 42 days without charge.
Today, she goes further by criticising politicians including Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, for trying to outbid each other in their opposition to terrorism and making national security a partisan issue.
It all began, she suggests, with September 11. “National security has become much more of a political issue than it ever was in my day,” she says. “Parties are tending to use it as a way of trying to get at the other side. You know, ‘We’re more tough on terrorism than you are.’ I think that’s a bad move, quite frankly.”