Some of you may remember the empty promises made by Gordon Brown back in July,
The proposals published in this green paper, 'The Governance of Britain', seek to address two fundamental questions: how should we hold power accountable, and how should we uphold and enhance the rights and responsibilities of the citizen?
See : 'The Governance of Britain (.pdf 63 pages)
There is a Chapter called:
2. Making the executive more accountable
Paragraphs 89 to 96 promised to reform, ever so slightly, the secretive and defective (in terms of public scrutiny and transparency) Intelligence and Security Committee of "experienced" Parliamentarians.
This supposedly keeps a democratic check on GCHQ, the Secret Intelligence Service MI6, the Security Service MI5, and the Defence Intelligence Staff, and perhaps the Serious Organised Crime Agency SOCA, with the occasional mention of what used to be regional Police "Special Branch" units and the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, through the totally inadequate mechanism of a heavily censored Annual Report, which the House of Commons cannot even be bothered to debate every 12 months.
The ISC does not seem to bother to scrutinise other intelligence gathering and snooping organisations such UK military Special Forces e.g. the SAS or the Special Reconnaissance Regiment etc. or the ACPO National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (who concentrate on animal rights extremists and on environmental and peace camp demonstrators), or any of the Treasury's terrorist finance financial snooping and asset freezing units, or HM Revenue and Customs etc. It does not scrutinise any of the European Union intelligence agencies to which the UK is signed up to e.g. Eurojust, Frontex , Europol or SitCen etc. It does nothing to question the supposed "special relationship" with United States intelligence agencies.
There is no evidence whatsoever of any reform at all, given that a new Labour chairman of the Committee i.e. Yet Another Ex-Minister, has been been appointed by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, without any public hearings, consultation or debate.
21 Oct 2008 : Column 8WS
Intelligence and Security Committee
The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): In accordance with section 10 of the Intelligence and Security Act 1994, I have appointed my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Kim Howells) to be the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett) for her distinguished leadership of the Committee in providing effective and independent parliamentary oversight of the work of the Security and Intelligence Agencies.
Will we see Kim Howells grilling the Ian Lobban, the newly appointed Director of GCHQ and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, over her attempts to subvert this obviously necessary investment in new equipment for GCHQ under the Intercept Modernisation Programme, and to sneak in a democratically and judicially unaccountable secret data mining database of all Communication Traffic Data in the UK, thereby spying on millions of innocent British citizens, thereby circumventing the existing, audit trails and weak safeguards under the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 ?