The Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the Director General of the Security Service MI5, has, unusually, published a speech which she gave to a secret celebration of the 60th anniversary of the foundation of AIVD ("Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst"), the Dutch equivalent of MI5.
Speech by the Director General of the Security Service, Dame Eliza Mannungham-Buller, at the Ridderzaal, Binnehof, The Hague, Netherlands, 1 September 2005
Is the publication of this secret speech meant to act as pressure on, or as support for, the NuLabour policies which Tony Blair and Charles Clarke are trying to force onto the European Union ?
A few of our comments on parts of the speech:
"I accepted the invitation to speak before the terrorist attacks in London in July. It is significant that we received from the AIVD an early message of sympathy and support, followed by constructive help. My Service received many offers of help from our friends around the world and our friends just across the English Channel. That is a second message. Key to countering this problem is international co-operation.
The attacks in London were a shock, and my Service and the police were disappointed that we had not been able to prevent them. But we were not altogether surprised because of our understanding of the threat which is what I wish to discuss next, although in some ways it feels unnecessary to describe it. We have seen so many manifestations of it both before 9/11, for example in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, and since then in Casablanca, Madrid and Bali and many other places as well of course as here in the Netherlands.
Those of us in the intelligence community are also aware of many more attacks thwarted by good intelligence and police work, and through international co-operation. Those successes have usually been quiet ones. But we are judged by what we do not know and did not prevent. I shall come back to that point later when describing the nature of intelligence."
So why is there so much overhyped "Climate of Fear" rubbish leaked and briefed to the media, about alleged "dirty bimbs" - radiological, chemical or biological weapons plots ? Or dubious "sting" operations involving surface to air missiles ?
Why are terrorists now given "the oxygen of publicity" not just by the uncensored media, but by "Climate of Fear" briefings by politicians and "intelligence spokesmen" ?
"Al Qaida represents the first truly global terrorist threat."
"Global threat" ? Is there really any Al Quaeda activity in the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Koreas, Japan, Indo China, or Latin America ?
"The extremist ideology it sponsors has spread round the world and seeped into and infected individuals and groups almost everywhere. The attacks of 9/11 inspired new generations, discontented with Western policies and ways of life, to seek to emulate, so far generally on a more modest scale, those horrendous attacks in New York and Washington we recall so well.
The key components of those attacks were a major loss of life, economic damage across the globe and the preparedness of 19 young men to commit suicide: it was a graphic illustration of what terrorism can achieve. And those inspired by Al Qaida who have formed networks based on terrorist training camps, not only in Afghanistan, and shared experiences in Algeria, Bosnia and Chechnya, but also nearer to home, within our countries, have the capacity, if we allow them, to do real harm to our way of life."
Why are neither the Taleban in Afghanistan or the Tribal areas of Pakistan, nor any Chechen separatist groups or organisations, neither in the past nor currently, on the list of proscribed inernational terrorist groups, under the Terrorism Act 2000, presumably on advice from MI5 ?
"We, the British and the Dutch, and many others in Western Europe and elsewhere judge the threat to be serious and sustained, with a proven lethality and the potential to continue for years to come. The root causes are fuelled by a complex series of intractable issues and while there has been substantial success and a high attrition rate against the core of Al Qaida, there are now many potential terrorists who have no linkage to Al Qaida but are inspired by its ideology and actions. On the Internet such individuals can see images of suffering Muslims in various parts of the world: and they may, from radical preachers, hear an interpretation of Islam which is violent and demands action by the listener.
This process of radicalisation is now better understood: the message has an appeal to small numbers in our communities. Bin Laden's articulation of an extremist ideology has inspired a broad coalition of groups and there is a widespread covert series of networks which supports that ideology, with links round the world and roots almost everywhere."
The continuing insurgency in Iraq must also have had some radicalising effect , surely ?
We understood that neither Communist revolutinaries nor Irish terrorists could be defeated by purely polic, military or counter-intelligence methods and that politiical solutions had to be found, which undermined the community support for such terrorists.
Why is this not also true of Al Quaeda ?
"So how do we respond? Intelligence is key to any successful counter terrorist strategy but it is not enough and I shall explain why not. I want first to say something about the nature of intelligence and its use. What many here will know but is not always well understood is that intelligence rarely tells you all you want to know.
I should like to quote from Lord Butler's report into the "Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction". "The most important limitation on intelligence is its incompleteness. Much ingenuity and effort is spent on making secret intelligence difficult to acquire and hard to analyse... intelligence seldom acquires the full story... it is often... sporadic and patchy and, even after analysis may still be at best inferential".
Often difficult decisions need to be made on the basis of intelligence which is fragmentary and difficult to interpret. In sum, some is gold, some dross and all of it requires validation, analysis and assessment. When it is gold it shines and illuminates, saves lives, protects nations and informs policy. When identified as dross it needs to be rejected: that may take some confidence. At the end of the day it requires people of integrity not only to collect it but also to prioritise, sift, judge and use it.
Intelligence work requires careful training and people who are shrewd, objective and sensible and can manage the uncertainty of intelligence. I have met many people like that in the AIVD.
But intelligence is also fragile. It comes from human sources who risk their lives and whom we have a high moral duty to protect and from technologies whose effectiveness can be countered by skilled opponents. That is why there can be no coercion to share intelligence and why its use in open courts needs to be carefully handled. In principle we both want to share, and want to see successful prosecutions. We do not collect intelligence for its own sake; there is no point. We need to develop and act on it for the safety of all our citizens."
There seems to be a big contradiction here.
On the one hand Dame Mannigham-Buller is talking about how important international cooperation and sharing of intelligence is to counter terrorist operations, and on the other hand she is refusing to trust even friendly agencies and Governments enough to share intelligence sources.
Presumably information is power.
"Given the threat is global, protecting our friends is a way also of protecting ourselves. So we have a very strong interest in international co-operation, in all similar services having both the full legal powers to collect intelligence and the skill and experience to handle it carefully but if we splash it around carelessly we shall soon have none of it. So I could never agree to a compulsory exchange of intelligence as that would risk compromising valuable sources of intelligence. There would soon be little to exchange."
Why have there been so many leaks of "intelligence" about, say, the July 7th bombings in London , been shared with, and allegedly leaked by, the United States authorities ? Supposedly we trust them more than the Europeasn Union agencies ?
Does MI5 even share intelligence with other British agencies and vice versa ?
Information is power.
"To some that presents a real dilemma: to me it's part of the normal conduct of business, making sure intelligence gets to the right places and is used while sources are protected. I would add another dilemma in intelligence work, balancing investigation and monitoring of those whom we know present a threat, with work to discover and nullify previously unknown threats.
In the UK, and certainly here in the Netherlands, intelligence is not only used to help track down and disrupt terrorists."
We do not want terrorists to be "disrupted", so that they can try again at a later date, we want them to be eliminated as a threat, but legally.
It is too easy to be fooled into thinking that, say, a seizure of smuggled weapons, is somehow a real "disruption" of an unspecidied future terrorist attack. Judging from the experiences of attempts to "disrupt" drug smuggling, most such seizures, are in fact decoys to divert attention from larger shipments, and are simply written off as part of the "lossage" that the smugglers expect. and factor into their business plans.
"We are trying more widely to reduce the risks of terrorism. Intelligence supports wider policies and action to make it more difficult for terrorists to succeed. That may involve increasing protection at our key sites or on our key systems to reduce their vulnerability to attack. It will involve reviewing laws to check whether they are best-framed to be deployed early on before the terrorist commits his act.
I am sure you agree with me that containing terrorism in a democratic society, governed by the rule of law, where civil rights are of great value, having been acquired with difficulty over many centuries, is not straightforward. Our courts require evidence that meets high standards of proof and strong evidence of a crime having been committed or strong evidence of a conspiracy to commit such a crime."
Yhe recent Association of Chief Police Officers "shoppong list" , dexcribes even more anti-terrorism legislation, some of which is ascribed to the demands of MI5.
"This is one of the central dilemmas of countering this sort of terrorism. We may be confident that an individual or group is planning an attack but that confidence comes from the sort of intelligence I described earlier, patchy and fragmentary and uncertain, to be interpreted and assessed. All too often it falls short of evidence to support criminal charges to bring an individual before the courts, the best solution if achievable. Moreover, as I said earlier, we need to protect fragile sources of intelligence including human sources."
Protection of "fragile sources of intelligence including human sources" presumably means that minor or peripheral terrorist plot suspects should neither be arrested, mor subjected to "detention without trial" Control Orders etc. , for fear of "tipping off" the main plotters.
"Being in this position can be uncomfortable for Services such as the AIVD and mine. We can believe, correctly, that a terrorist atrocity is being planned but those arrested by the police have to be released as the plan is too embryonic, too vague to lead to charges and possibly convictions. Furthermore the intelligence may be highly sensitive and its exposure would be very damaging as revealing either the source or our capability."
How many such cases have there actually been ?
In such a case, why have the alleged plotters been arrested too soon ? If they are only at the "thought crime" stage, they should be kept under surveillance, untill they start to gather weapons etc,, at which point our Terrorism laws are quite draconian enough to deploy the evidence of such wepons or "articles which may be of use to terroists" with sufficient evidence for a conviction, without compromising any intelligence sources or methods at all.
"I think that this is a central dilemma, how to protect our citizens within the rule of law when intelligence does not amount to clear cut evidence and when it is fragile. We also, of course, and I repeat in both our countries and within the EU value civil liberties and wish to do nothing to damage these hard-fought for rights. But the world has changed and there needs to be a debate on whether some erosion of what we all value may be necessary to improve the chances of our citizens not being blown apart as they go about their daily lives. Another dilemma."
How has "the world changed" > Surely the threat from Al Queda is, objectively far less than that posed by the Soviet Union and its moguided attempts to export its Comminist ideology/relogion,and repressive police state, backed by the technical and financial resources of a superpower ?
"That brings me on to the roles of government, the commercial sector and the public. As I said earlier the threat cannot be countered by intelligence alone or by the police and the security and intelligence agencies.
It is the responsibility of governments to address the causes, set the legal frameworks for countering terrorism so that Services can collect intelligence by all means including through the retention of data, and ensure the development and implementation both of pan-government policies and international initiatives to protect ourselves to the best possible level.
It is also important that governments ensure intelligence and security agencies and the police have appropriate and effective legal powers and the resources to maximise the chances of success. My government has given to my Service and the police very public support since the attacks, understanding as it does that there is no such thing as complete security.
The Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament has indicated that it will look at the facts and it will no doubt wish to review whether we missed anything and the attacks could have been prevented - but no one in government nor, to be fair, the media, immediately rushed to the presumption that the July attacks were our fault. And the public has bombarded our website with messages of support."
We generally support the Police and Security authorities in what they are meant to be trying to achieve, However that support does not entitle them to push the balance between liberty and security any further than they have already done so. They, together with the authoritarian NuLabour politicians have already gone to far in the direction of repression, supression of peaceful demonstrations, erosion of our privacy and security, the destruction of liberties such as
Our patience at being kept in the dark over the real level of threat to the UK, and the incessant stream of "Climate of Fear " hype being fed to the media, without correction and firm denials by the authorities, is at an end.
"One way of using the intelligence is to develop from it advice to protect ourselves. Across the UK private companies are working with my Service and the police to improve their resilience and strengthen their ability to stay in business in the face of threats or actual attacks. The narrow definition of the threat to corporate security has traditionally been focused on crime and fraud: it needs to be widened to include terrorism, for anticipation of that to become an integral part of business planning.
And the public. Since 7th July I have been proud of the courage of Londoners, refusing to be cowed by the attacks on the underground and buses, resolutely asserting "we are not afraid" even when they are, and showing determination and toughness in the face of terror. People took extraordinary efforts to come to work even when the public transport system was only half-working.
A few days after the first attacks we celebrated in London the sixty years since the end of the Second World War. Veterans from that war came into Central London, all of them octogenarians or more, some proudly wearing their medals, some in wheelchairs, determined not to be stopped by the current manifestation of terror from remembering both their contemporaries who died preventing the terror of fascism from prevailing and from celebrating the democratic values which we share.
And I am proud that most people understood that the attacks were on all our citizens, whatever their ethnic origin, and indeed on 17 citizens of 14 other nations. There has been outspoken condemnation of terrorism from all quarters of society and many people have provided information to us and police.
This brings me to another point, the importance of public communication, of telling the public in broad terms what the threat is and trusting them to respond sensibly. We all rely upon public support and co-operation. For many years we have relied in the UK on the good will, good sense and above all, the trust of our fellow citizens to cope with the inconvenience of added security measures, checks and disruption to normal life of bomb warnings and other alerts.
I would note here a further dilemma. In a society with 24 hour media and the internet the chances are slight that a pre-emptive security response to a terror threat will go unreported. But it is often simply impossible to explain what lies behind a public alert.
Given the 23/7 nature of tv news and the internet, the media strategy of MI5 and the NuLabour Government is inexcusable.
Where is the dampening down of innaccurate and overhyped "Climate of Fear" rumours and lies ?
Why did MI% not refute the media scares about ridiculous plots and spurious threats, such as vague threats to Heathrow Airport, "Ossmium Tetroxide posison gas" or "bubonic plague" etc. threats to the London Underground Tube system, or "swarm attacks by suicide Al Quaeda frogmen, threatening the security of the Queen whilst reviewing the Fleet off Portsmouth" or "suicide hijacker threats to the Canary Wharf tower", or the exaggeration of the risk posed by the amateur "ricin plot",the whole Mohammad Naeem Noor Khan affair, etc. etc.
"I repeat. We need to protect valuable sources of intelligence without which there would be no warning at all. Compromising them will achieve little in the short term and, to repeat, will damage our ability to collect intelligence. At the same time public safety is the overriding concern and requires the authorities to act quickly when faced with credible intelligence about a threat.
Governments face difficult decisions about how best to protect the public, without preventing normal life going on or damaging the economy. We want people to continue their way of life and have confidence to make their own decisions on risk. Given we in the UK, and I expect the statistics are not so different here, receive over a hundred pieces of threat intelligence a week, i.e. intelligence pointing to a terrorist threat, decisions on what to do are difficult, especially as is so often the case if the intelligence is piecemeal and uncertain. The repercussions, another dilemma, of such decisions can be significant.
As I said earlier, international co-operation in the face of an international threat is essential. The AIVD presidency of the European Counter-Terrorist Group was particularly important, in welcoming the Security Services of the ten EU accession countries into the CTG, and in establishing the link between the CTG and the EU Sitcen. The UK plans for its Presidency were drawn up, in consultation with others, before the attacks: they have not needed to be much amended as, again as I said earlier, we anticipated further attacks and were not surprised when they occurred.
In my area we are working through the CTG and have an extensive range of work in hand. We wish to focus on implementing existing initiatives rather than producing a fresh raft of them. We need to engage more extensively with partners outside the EU in order to put the threat within Europe into a broader context and we need to build both on the links to Europol and the relationship with the EU Sitcen."
The EU Sitcen is
- "Situated within the Council Secretariat, the EU's Situation Centre provides the Council with information and assessments on developments overseas, natural disasters and threats to the EU.
Since February 2005, SitCen has had the capacity, through seconded national experts, to analyse the threat from terrorism within the EU, and is now able to provide Working Groups and Committees with EU-wide assessments relating to the threat from international terrorism."
Why is this different in function from Europol ?
- "Europol is the European Law Enforcement Organisation which aims at improving the effectiveness and co-operation of the competent authorities in the Member States in preventing and combating terrorism, unlawful drug trafficking and other serious forms of international organised crime."
Given the Directot General's remarks above, does MI5 actually share any real intelligence with either SitCen ot Europol ?
How are the public of the European Union or of any member state, meant to judge if these bodies are more effective than the existing bilateral links and contacts between intelligence agencies and police forces, none of which have been abandoned ?