MI5 necessarily operates behind the scenes, so it may come as a surprise to see me writing here. Being effective against covert threats means protecting the details of our work, keeping our tools — and how we use them — secret. We maintain our advantage against our adversaries by not showing them what we know.
However, it is also the case that to protect national security we have to tell people about the threats we are countering and why it matters to them. This is why I have continued the tradition of giving an annual public account of the often hidden threats facing our country and what MI5 is doing about them. This is no vanity project. In lots of areas, we need the public’s direct support. Speaking to the public we serve is also part of our accountability, alongside the robust independent oversight to which we are subject.
Terrorism remains a substantial threat. Telling the public about this threat means that when we ask something of them — whether that is simply to remain vigilant, or for some businesses to invest in defences against terrorist attacks — they know why it matters. As I explained in my annual update, the breadth of the threats in 2022 is striking. Earlier this year Christopher Wray, director of the FBI, and I explained why the activities of the Chinese Communist Party pose the most game-changing strategic challenge to the West. Since then we have seen yet more concerning activity in the UK, including the harassment and intimidation of those perceived to be challenging the Chinese state’s interests.
Meanwhile, Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has shown the importance of investing in UK resilience and hardening our defences against both overt and covert Russian action.
We need to be clear-eyed about the threat that states increasingly pose. When MI5 makes a case for vital new powers — such as those in the National Security Bill, which is passing through parliament — we must of course justify their necessity. But make no mistake: the West is in a contest with determined adversaries.