Head of MI6 warns of biological, chemical weapons

In the first public speech given by the head of the British intelligence services, Secret Intelligence Service chief John Sawers said on October 28 that terrorists may yet hit the West with a devastating blow, but that the real threat remains biological, chemical and nuclear weapons proliferation by states.

"The dangers of proliferation of nuclear weapons and chemical and biological weapons are more far-reaching," Sawers, whose century-old service is popularly known as MI6, said, according to Reuters. "It can alter the whole balance of power in a region."

Sawers gave the comments to the Society of Editors media group at the Thomas Reuters London offices. He said the risks of failure in confronting countries like Iran are grim, according to Reuters.

"Terrorism is difficult enough, and despite our collective efforts, an attack may well get through," Sawers said, Reuters reports. "The human cost would be huge. But our country, our democratic system, will not be brought down by a typical terrorist attack."

Sawers defended the secrecy of British intelligence, particularly that of MI-6, and its ties to Muslim countries that have poor human rights records. His comments came in the wake of the Wikileaks website whistle-blowing that demonstrated how coalition forces ignored torture by Iraqi security forces.

"We are the secret frontline of our national security," Sawers said. "Secrecy is not a dirty word. Secrecy is not there as a cover up. Secrecy plays a crucial part in keeping Britain safe.

"We have to deal with the world as it is...We can't do our job if we work only with friendly democracies. Dangerous threats usually come from dangerous people in dangerous places."