Former security service chief visits county

Former head of MI5 Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller giving a talk at the University of Northampton

Former head of MI5 Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller giving a talk at the University of Northampton

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The former head of MI5 visited the University of Northampton this week to talk to students from the School of Social Sciences about her career in the Security Service.

Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller gave the talk, entitled ‘Reflections on Intelligence’, on Wednesday, November 20.

She spoke about her career, which began when she joined MI5 in 1974 and also explained the difference between MI5 and MI6.

Following recent controversy regarding the GCHQ intelligence agency, Baroness Manningham-Buller, who was born in Northampton and was Director General of MI5 from 2002 to 2007, stressed the importance of doing everything legally and that all powers intelligence officers possess have to be legally authorised through Parliament.

During her five-year tenure, Baroness Manningham-Buller and her team uncovered 15 serious terrorist plots and were involved in 12 big operations, including Operation Overt which led to the successful aversion of the liquid bomb plot in the summer of 2006.

However, the 2005 London bombings took place under her watch.

She told students: “No service in the world will get everything right. It’s not humanly possible. It is important to have people in the service who can give frank feedback. Leaders can sometimes misjudge and will make mistakes, but it is important that they learn from them. Leaders who don’t do this are dangerous.

“You can’t have 100 per cent security, but you are more at risk of being involved in a road traffic accident or catching a hospital-related infection than you are of a terrorist attack.”