Chief defends MI5 over cover-up claims

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The Independent Online

The head of MI5 strongly defended the work of the Security Service last night in the face of damaging accusations that it had sought to cover up its involvement in the torture of detainees.

Director-general Jonathan Evans said claims by one of the country's most senior judges that there was a "culture of suppression" within the service were "the precise opposite of the truth".

It also emerged that Mr Evans had contacted the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) to deny claims that MI5 withheld documents relating to the treatment of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed.

Mr Evans's rare public statement, in an article in the Daily Telegraph, came after documents released yesterday at the Court of Appeal showed that the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, had severely criticised MI5 in a draft ruling relating to Mr Mohamed's case.

He said the service had a "culture of suppression" and accused it of failing to respect human rights and of deliberately misleading the ISC and Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

However, Mr Evans said MI5 was simply seeking to protect the country from "enemies" who would use "all the tools at their disposal" – including propaganda – to attack.

"We will do all that we can to keep the country safe from terrorist attack. We will use all the powers available to us under the law," he wrote.

"For their part, our enemies will also seek to use all tools at their disposal to attack us," he wrote.

"That means not just bombs, bullets and aircraft but also propaganda. Their freedom to voice extremist views is part of the price we pay for living in a democracy, and it is a price worth paying."