A former US spy chief weighed into the Brexit debate last night with a damning assessment of the damage done to security by EU privacy rules.
Michael Hayden, a retired four star US Air Force general and former director of both the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency, said privacy law made in Brussels ‘gets in the way’ of national spy agencies across the continent.
He said EU decisions were made at the ‘expense of security’ in member states.
General Hayden endorsed the view of ex-MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove, who this week said Britain could be safer out because it would be easier to deport terrorists and control our borders.
He told the Today programme on Radio 4: ‘Sir Richard is right.’ He added: ‘The union is not a natural contributor to national security of each of the entity states and in some ways gets in the way of the state providing security for its own citizens.’
He also said a vote for Brexit would have little impact on America’s willingness to work with the UK or other European intelligence agencies.
‘I don’t know if the European Union contributes a great deal to espionage, he told Sky News. ‘At the union level, they talk about commerce and privacy. But to keep citizens safe, that remains a responsibility back in national capitals.
‘And right now, because of some of the positions the Euro institutions have taken on surveillance and privacy, the capitals are finding it more difficult to provide for their own citizens’ safety.
‘So, to a degree, Brussels keeps pushing these activities at the expense of security – to that degree I can understand why Sir Richard is saying what he’s saying.’
Sir Richard Dearlove had said Brexit would make it easier to deport terrorists and control our borders.
He added that Europe could not turn its back on Britain if it left the EU because our intelligence services, such as GCHQ, MI5 and MI6, ‘give much more’ than they get in return. Washington was a more important counter-terror ally, he said.
Sir Richard, who was chief of the Secret Intelligence Service from 1999 to 2004, wrote in the magazine Prospect: ‘Whether one is an enthusiastic European or not, the truth about Brexit from a national security perspective is that the cost to Britain would be low.
‘Brexit would bring two potentially important security gains: the ability to dump the European Convention on Human Rights – remember the difficulty of extraditing the extremist Abu Hamza of the Finsbury Park Mosque – and, more importantly, greater control over immigration from the EU.’ He added: ‘Britain is Europe’s leader in intelligence and security matters and gives much more than it gets in return.
He concludes: ‘Would Brexit damage our defence and intelligence relationship with the United States, which outweighs anything European by many factors of 10? I conclude confidently that no, it would not.’
Sir Richard likened the EU’s various intelligence bodies to the ‘leakiest ships of state’ and colanders riddled with holes. General Hayden also said the capabilities of the EU states’ intelligence agencies were ‘very uneven’ and described the Belgian security services ‘small, under-resourced’ and ‘legally limited’. He said France and Britain have ‘very good services, aggressive services’.
The European agencies co-operated more with the US than their counterparts on the continent, he said. US Secretary of State John Kerry also expressed frustration over the lack of intelligence-sharing in Europe. Visiting Brussels he said: ‘As a whole, Europe needs to move information more effectively.’
However, a former head of Britain’s Joint Intelligence Committee, Sir Jon Day said in comments released by the Britain Stronger In Europe campaign group: ‘The argument being made that the national security cost of leaving the EU would be low, both to our interests in Europe and our relationship with the US, is muddled and wrong.’
SOURCE: JACK DOYLE