The boss of Britain's foreign spy agency is giving an unprecedented televised speech to a gathering of academics and journalists.
Thursday's speech by John Sawers, who heads the country's Secret Intelligence Service -- better known as MI6 -- signals a cultural shift for an organization that until 1992 did not officially exist.
MI6 has made tentative steps toward greater openness, launching a website and posting recruitment ads in Britain's media over the past five years, according to BusinessWeek.
Speaking to the Society of Editors in London in a live television address, he said it is essential that agents and overseas intelligence services could be confident that their secrets would not be compromised through working with MI6.
He expressed concern that the possible release of intelligence material received from foreign agencies in recent court cases could lead to intelligence-sharing with key allies drying up.
Sir John stressed that SIS had "nothing whatsoever" to do with torture, which was both "illegal and abhorrent", and that he was confident that its officers acted with the "utmost integrity".
At the same, he said that they had to operate in the "world as it is", which, on occasion, meant working with agencies from countries which were not "friendly democracies", which could throw up difficult issues, The Press Association reports.