The former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, has said the relationship of trust between journalists and the intelligence and security services was compromised after the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In a rare public appearance, at the London School of Economics, Dearlove said: ‘There have been occasions when the press have been pretty careless about the way certain things been reported. This is something much more profound than a titillating interest in spying.
‘The press in majority know and understand the relationship and never write a story without agreement. However, there were a few notable exceptions.
‘In general, my personal experience has been positive – I am always very surprised when the ‘D notice’ system of voluntary contract is [broken].”
Dearlove said that in his time at MI6, he had been able to live a private life and only one photo of him, aged 17, was ever published.
But since the invasion in 2003, and the development of Britain’s role in counter-terrorism, the relationship between the press and the security services had ‘suffered greatly”, he said.
Although he admitted it was ‘important that the media is well-informed in writing about issues of public concern’he stressed they must do so ‘without compromising [the services’] secrets or staff”.
On their reporting of terrorism, Dearlove had praise for journalists.
‘The media have an important role in articulating the threat of terrorismâ€¦ I think this is an area where the press can be trusted to behave,’he said.