The importance of human relationships and insight is too often lost in the era of social media, technical operations, and cyber everything. Nevertheless, agents conducting espionage, often at great risk, are needed to inform policymakers on a broad array of threats.  Classic human intelligence remains a vital means to protect Western democracies.   

Whether the topic is terrorism, disinformation, election manipulation, proliferation or conventional conflict, often the only way to discern an adversary's plans and intentions is through a spy in the councils of leadership.

Sir Mark Allen spent a career combating the threats of the day, from the Cold War, Middle East conflicts, terrorism and the effort to counter proliferation of WMD. In this session, he will present a case for the world of agent operations where some truths remain despite the march of technology.

Mark became a special adviser to the BP Group in October 2004. He was born in 1950.   He was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford, Downside, and Exeter College, Oxford, MA (Arabic and Turkish).

He joined HM Diplomatic Service in 1973.  He did further Arabic training at MECAS (1974) and then served in Abu Dhabi (1975-77), Cairo (1978-81), and Belgrade (1982-86).  He dealt with East European affairs in London (1986-90) before returning to the Middle East as Counsellor (Political) in Amman (1990-94).

In London, Mark was later responsible for work on countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, for operational work in Africa and the Middle East and counter terrorism.  Finally he was responsible for Global Issues which included terrorism, WMD and strategic crime.

His book, Arabs, was published in June 2006. In 2010 following a long interest and practice in Arabic calligraphy, Mark was granted an ijaza in Muhaqqaq script by his teacher Nassar Mansour and Nassar’s teacher, Hasan Çelebi in Istanbul.  He is believed to be the first Englishman to have been given an ijaza. He edited Nassar Mansour’s “Sacred Script” in 2011.

Mark is an honorary fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford and a senior adviser to Palantir Technologies.  He is the Chairman of St. John and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in London.

He was appointed CMG in 2002 and knighted in 2005. He received a Papal knighthood (KCSG) in 2009.