Warning: Sir Richard Dearlove is concerned about the loss of liberties in 'Big Brother' Britain
The former head of MI6 has hit out at 'striking and disturbing' invasions of privacy by the Big Brother state.
Sir Richard Dearlove, who led the Secret Intelligence Service from 1999 to 2004, claimed some were an 'abuse' of the law.
He attacked the 'loss of liberties' caused by expanding surveillance powers and described some police operations as 'mind-boggling.'
The former spy chief joins a growing number of high-profile critics warning that individual freedom and privacy are being seriously eroded by the Government's disproportionate efforts to guard against terrorism.
Sir Richard was particularly critical of what he claimed were inadequate laws to regulate some surveillance powers.
Commenting on the massive surge in police use of stop-and-search powers in London, he highlighted the fact that Scotland Yard officers have carried out more than 150,000 searches since 2007.
This compared with fewer than 300 in Manchester. Sir Richard said: 'That is a mind-boggling statistic. That may well be an abuse of the law.
'I am a great believer in proportionality and as a citizen I worry about the loss of my liberties.'
He questioned the legal constraints on the use of millions of CCTV cameras across Britain, saying: 'We have constructed a society which has great technical competence - and some of that competence isn't particularly regulated.
'I think the important thing in the UK is that there should be very strict legislation and strict legislative oversight.'
Sir Richard, who spoke out during a question-and-answer appearance in front of 800 people at the Hay on Wye Festival, was a career intelligence officer who joined MI6 in 1966.
He was in charge of the agency at the time of the September 11 attacks, and oversaw the response to the emerging threat from Al Qaeda.
'Mind-boggling': The former head of MI6 said he was staggered by
the number of stop and searches made by the Metropolitan Police (file picture)
When he left MI6 and became Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, officials said he would not be giving interviews or making public appearances.
But in recent months he has spoken at a number of events.
Sir Richard's remarks echo concerns voiced recently by terrorism watchdog Lord Carlile who criticised the number of stopandsearches and said it risked gravely undermining relations with the Muslim community.
The House of Lords Constitution Committee recently called for the state's Big Brother powers to be rolled back, while Information Commissioner Richard Thomas has condemned the spread of surveillance, particularly the UK's 4.5million CCTV cameras.
He said Home Office plans for a vast internet surveillance database were 'a step too far for the British way of life'.
Sir Richard said he believed the U.S. response to September 11 had been disproportionate.
George Bush's administration detained and tortured hundreds of suspected terrorists in foreign jails under the extraordinary rendition programme. Sir Richard said: 'I'm a great believer in proportionality, and while what happened on 9/11 was a dreadful and serious event, in no way did it threaten the integrity of western civilisation.'
Asked about Britain's involvement in the CIA's rendition programme, Sir Richard told the festival audience that MI6 would have sought ministerial approval of any cases involving British citizens or residents.
He said: 'The intelligence and security community act in sensitive situations with political cover'.
Sir Richard admitted he had been aware of a number of rendition cases while he was head of MI6, but claimed the Americans had not passed on lists of names. He added: 'Yes, I think we were certainly aware. I mean we were not aware of the detail, we were aware of some individual cases.'
He said he had known of no cases involving British nationals, and dismissed suggestions that the UK had run its own rendition programme to move terror suspects abroad to be questioned and tortured.
The former spy chief said: 'No British minister would ever have agreed a rendition action by us because I think the legal advice in the UK would have been that under common law this was very questionable. U.S. lawyers gave different advice.'
Sir Richard insisted Britain's position condemning torture remained secure, adding: 'I do not know of any violations.
'We don't use torture and in instances where we know that, let's say, a foreign government is not handling a case in line with our legal procedures then we would express our disagreement and our disapproval.' (dailymail, 6.02.2009, Matthew Hickley) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1190060/Former-MI6-chief-Sir-Richard-Dearlove-warns-disturbing-surveillance-society.html