People who suspect their neighbours may be extremists should inform the security services because “the enemy is everywhere”, the former head of MI5 has said.
Dame Stella Rimington invoked the wartime spirit as she said the public had a duty to act as the “eyes and ears” of the security services in combating terrorists.
She made the plea as she warned that MI5 could not be expected to spot every danger and that further attacks were likely unless Britain wanted a “Stasi” state where everyone was monitored.
Dame Stella, 78, who was at Hay to promote her latest spy novel, The Geneva Trap, revived images of the Second World War when she urged the public to do their bit. She said it was impossible for the security services to spot every risk, especially amid the growing threat of people radicalising themselves over the internet.
The former spy master said: “The community has the responsibility to act as the eyes and ears, as they did during the war … where there were all these posters up saying the walls have ears and the enemy is everywhere.” She said: “There have often been indications in the community, whether it’s Muslim or anywhere else, that people are becoming extremists and spouting hate phrases.”