The veteran former Labour Foreign Minister Rt. Hon. Margaret Beckett MP has been appointed as the replacement Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
She certainly has relevant Ministerial experience of reading classified material, but whether she is the right person to usher in the alleged new powers and more transparency into the Committee, which is what Prime Minister Gordon Brown was promising last summer, remains to be seen. We are struggling to recall any notable successes in her long Ministerial career.
The Intelligence and Security Committee's Annual Report for 2006 - 2007 (.pdf 51 pages) has also been published.
Why this 51 page censored report took only 7 weeks for the Prime Minister to publish, whilst the much shorter Interception Commissioner and Intelligence Services Commissioner reports (less than 8 pages each) took him 3 months, is a mystery.
There are some points to look out for if you can be bothered to read the censored Report:
- There is no mention of the return to the Cold War with Russia, following the radioactive Polonium murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London, and the iti for tat diplomatic expulsions, harassment of the British Council etc. over the failure to prosecute Andrei Lugovoi.
- There is no mention of the alleged Chinese cyberspace attacks against British Government Departments and companies.
- There is no mention of the Government and European Union plans to censor the internet , either of bomb making instructions or of radical extremist grooming and indoctrination, something which would require technical and manpower resources drawn from the intelligence agencies.
- Neither is there any mention of the embarrassingly inept MI5 website email notification affair.
- Recruitment and expenditure on all three intelligence agencies is up.
- The SCOPE secure electronic network, whilst still not complete or fully rolled out, is starting to have some of the promised benefits of swifter communication.
- There was a major systems failure leading to a loss of data at the SCOPE Operations Centre, which is supposedly now sorted out.
- GCHQ coped with the Summer Floods along the the Severn Valley, but might have been seriously disrupted if they had gone on for any longer.
- The Secret Intelligence Service MI6 managed to lose track of some secret payments to agents and contact reports were not always filled out properly. Supposedly the financial audit trails and contact report discipline have been dealt with by MI6 management.
Or is this a cover up for some actual theft of public funds, hidden behind the cloak of secrecy, as has happened historically with other intelligence agencies around the world ?
- The Security Service MI5 now seems to be spending 80 % of its increased resources and efforts against international terrorism, and tacitly admits that it is taking its eye off other responsibilities - probably this means that Russian, Chinese and other foreign government agency espionage is being ignored somewhat.
- The ISC Report rubber stamps the scandalous political interference which led to the abandonment of the BAE / Saudi Arabian princes corruption investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.
- They also trot out the same old justifications for not allowing the use of Intercept Evidence in either terrorism trials, or to prevent the scandal of Control Orders, or even in Serious Crime cases, even though other countries, including the USA do allow such evidence.
They seem to have been bamboozled by talk of the technical challenges involved with trying to snoop on new internet telephony technologies like Voice over IP, without giving any consideration to the the fact that not everyone actually uses them at the moment, and nor are they likely to do so in the foreseeable future.
- The ISC does ineffectually criticise the Government, particularly the Home Office, for not handing over reports in time for the ISC to consider properly. There is also some document which the ISC has been trying to get hold of for several years now, but which they have failed to get hold of.
- The ISC moans at the mainstream media for not all submitting to the voluntary DA Notice system. There was particular criticism of the media over the Police raids in Birmingham, regarding the alleged plot to kidnap and video the murder of a random British Muslim soldier. The media were tipped of to this raid, and had already published details of it, even before all the suspects were in custody. The Government's response to the ISC Report praises this criticism, and obscures the suspicion that it was their own political spin doctors who leaked this tactical information.
The ISC again, seem to be wholly oblivious to the Internet, the blogosphere and to all the leaks to foreign news media.
The Intelligence and Security Committee Report mechanism does not provide the public with enough detail and transparency, to be able to trust the competence or motives of the Security Service MI5, the Secret Service MI6, GCHQ, the Defence Intelligence Staff, SOCPA or Police Counter-terrorism Commands etc. or of the Whitehall mandarins and Labour Government politicians..
We repeat - the democratic Checks and Balances on the the British Secret State, are not working properly.