|BRISTOL—The head of MI5 admitted on Thursday evening that his service colluded with countries involved with torture. He stressed this was to protect British citizens in the wake of the twin-tower murders in New York in 2001.
Though he could not comment directly on recent allegations, Jonathan Evans, the director-general of MI5, stated at a private event at Bristol University to mark the agency's centenary, that MI5 had worked within countries whose practices and standards were "very far from our own".
"Now, eight years on we have a better understanding of the nature and scope of al-Qaida's capabilities," he said. "But we did not have that understanding in the period immediately after 9/11."
"We had seen nearly 3,000 people killed in the United States, 67 of them British. We were aware that 9/11 was not the summit of al-Qaida's ambitions. And there was a real possibility that similar attacks were being planned, possibly imminently.
"Our intelligence resources were not adequate to the situation we faced and the root of the terrorist problem was in parts of the world where the standards and practices of the local security apparatus were very far removed from our own."
He said al-Qaida had laid plans for further large scale attacks after the plane crashes into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, so fact-finding at that time was not "just a theoretical issue".
"Details of some of these plans came to light through the interrogation of detainees by other countries, including the US, in the period after 9/11; subsequent investigation on the ground, including in the UK, substantiated these claims," he said.
"In my view we would have been derelict in our duty if we had not worked, circumspectly, with overseas liaisons who were in a position to provide intelligence that could safeguard this country from attack," he said.
However, he did not defend the abuses by US personnel, which included the repeated "waterboarding" of suspects like the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.