London (Brussels Morning) In his first speech since being appointed Director-General of MI5 — the UK’s domestic security service — Ken McCullum said the spy agency is facing a mix of threats, including from China, Russia, far-right extremism and ISIS.
He also said the agency was battling with its own problems regarding racism, talking on Wednesday.
Pointing towards national security threats, McCullum said they differed whether from Russia, China, Iran or other actors but also said they were “growing in severity and in complexity – while terrorist threats persist at scale”.
While the work of MI5 has been commandeered by countering the terrorism threat, McCullum said the Alexei Navalny poisoning was a reminder that there are “threats to our economy, our academic research, our infrastructure and, much discussed, threats to our democracy”.
McCallum also noted that the threat from the far right was rising and that young people were being attracted to that kind of thinking, indicating it could be a long-standing threat, although it was, for now, a fragmented movement.
“We’re not yet seeing a coherent global movement; we don’t see the same kind of thing we’ve previously seen with al-Qaida or Daesh [Isis]”, he said, although they understood that could change in the future.
The UK parliament’s watchdog intelligence and security committee has accused MI5 and MI6 — the overseas security agency — of not paying attention to Russian activities in the UK.
McCallum said the agency was looking at any attempts to steal “unique intellectual property” or “interfere”, in reference to Russia’s undermining of non-Russian vaccine development.
China has also been accused of trying to spy on EU activities via an MI6 agent.
Although, McCallum said China required careful handling due to the economic impact of disengagement.
The Black Lives Matter movement and its global tide have also influenced the agency, admitting some of what has been happening inside is downright “racist behaviour”.
He made promises to change the organisation and improve diversity, particularly among sensitive posts.