The Mail on Sunday has a peculiar article about Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, which seems to contradict itself, even as published.
Why should we believe a story based on quotes from an anonymous "senior security source" ?
By Christopher Leake and Mark Hollingsworth
Last updated at 1:48 AM on 15th August 2010
Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones - the Shadow Security Minister when the Tories were in Opposition - was widely expected to take over the newly created role of National Security Adviser to David Cameron with overall responsibility for British intelligence policy at home and abroad.
Widely expected by whom, exactly ? Not by us.
But the pivotal security post was awarded instead to Whitehall mandarin Sir Peter Ricketts.
The Baroness, 70, was appointed Minister of State at the Home Office in charge of security and counter-terrorism - a more junior position, which restricts her responsibilities to domestic intelligence issues.
As Minister of State at the Home Office in charge of security and counter-terrorism, she has the power to sign or reject warrants by MI5 the Security Service, if the Secretary of State is unavailable. She also sits as a permanent member of the new National Security Council , with access to the same top level intelligence summaries and reports as the Prime Minister and Sir Peter Ricketts etc.
In what way are "domestic intelligence issues" less important than foreign ones ?
Here are some quotes (not whistleblower documentary evidence of any sort) from an anonymous" security source":
A senior security source revealed that the Baroness's appointment was blocked after MI5 produced a report about her links to two controversial Russian oligarchs.
Is this the same source as in the next few paragraphs, or a different one ?
According to a source, MI5 sent the Prime Minister's aides a confidential briefing about her connections to two billionaires with alleged links to organised crime and a Russian mafia leader.
The source said: 'The job of National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister needed a high-security vetting clearance because it involved knowing and handling sensitive state secrets.
The role of Minister of State at the Home Office in charge of security and counter-terrorism also involves "knowing and handling sensitive state secrets." . Unlike the National Security Adviser role, the holder of this Ministerial position also has executive power and can sign Orders for new or amended secondary legislation and can approve or reject warrants and certificates and notices etc. under intelligence, terrorism, serious crime and immigration laws, in lieu of the Secretary of State the Home Secretary.
'As a result, Cameron's private office at No 10 asked MI5 for any relevant information that was needed for the PM to make this appointment.
'MI5 sent a summary of the intelligence on Neville-Jones's financial associations with the two oligarchs. Based on that submission and on a separate briefing by his political advisers, Cameron decided not to appoint her.'
Mr Cameron then appointed Sir Peter, a former Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office, who has been credited with persuading the Prime Minister to remove British troops from Afghanistan by 2015.
Will that target date really be achieved ?
Earlier this month it was reported that Sir Peter had agreed to carry out the role for 12 months only before returning to the diplomatic service.
A source said: 'Pauline was absolutely furious that she did not get the top job. She threatened to resign, but took up the ministerial post once she realised that was the most she was going to get. She is still very bitter and prickly about being snubbed in this way.'
Insiders have pointed out that the Baroness's role is less wide-ranging than that of her predecessor Lord West, Gordon Brown's former security adviser. Although only a Home Office Under Secretary, he enjoyed a brief that spanned the globe.
As a Home Office Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Lord West had less executive power than Baroness Neville-Jones does as a Home Office Minister of State.
The two men at the centre of the controversy surrounding the Baroness are Ukrainian oligarch Dimitry Firtash and Russian tycoon Mikhail Chernoy.
Is it really acceptable, in the out of touch fantasy world of Whitehall and the Westminster village of politicians and mainstream media journalists, to think that alleged links to foreign billionaires who may or may not have links with organised crime gangs, somehow disqualifies someone from one sensitive advisory post involving national security, but that such allegations are ok for a Ministerial job also involving national security ?
If there was any substance to these allegations, then Baroness Neville-Jones could not be trusted to hold either post, something which is clearly nonsense.
Two years ago, the Baroness revealed in the House of Lords Register of Members' Interests that her office received £20,000 a year from British businessman Robert Shetler-Jones, who oversees the assets of Mr Firtash.
Why were these questions not raised two years ago then ?
Mr Shetler-Jones made the donations to the Baroness plus a further estimated £80,000 to the Conservative Party as a private individual and through his UK-registered company Scythian Ltd. The fact that it was a British-based company made the payments legal under political funding rules
The Baroness said yesterday that she received the money from the Conservative Party.
But Mr Shetler-Jones said last night that he made donations to the people who managed the Baroness's office 'over and above what I gave to the Conservative Party'. He has since stopped supporting the Baroness financially.
The Baroness used the money to pay the salaries of her adviser Mark Phillips, a research associate for the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, and a part-time secretary.
Is that two salaries out of £20,000 a year or is Mark Phillips acting as both advisor and part time secretary ?
According to the RUSI staff biography of Mark Philips:
Prior to joining RUSI, Mark was Chief of Staff to Baroness Neville-Jones during her time as Shadow Security Minister and National Security Adviser to the Leader of the Opposition and, after the 2010 general election, Security Minister. In this capacity he managed all security legislation in Parliament, was speechwriter to Baroness Neville-Jones, and had a central role in developing the Conservative Party's national security policies and post-election implementation plan. His remit covered all aspects of national security, including the National Security Strategy, Strategic Defence and Security Review, machinery of government, intelligence, counter terrorism, resilience, Olympic security, stabilisation and conflict prevention, procurement and the role of industry in defence and security. Mark co-authored the Conservative Party's National Security Green Paper, A Resilient Nation (January 2010).
Given that this Green Paper acknowledged the obvious national security risks to the UK of over-reliance on Russian gas supplies and pipelines, there does not appear to be anything which favours Ukrainian gas billionaires there.
Mr Shetler-Jones, a property developer who speaks fluent Russian, is chief executive of Group DF - the holding company for the multi-billion-pound assets of Mr Firtash
Mr Firtash became a billionaire through a lucrative gas trading company RosUkrEnergo (RUE), which until two years ago had a monopoly over supplies from Russia into Ukraine and onwards to EU customers such as Poland and Hungary.
RUE has been the subject of an investigation by the US Department of Justice over its alleged links to Semyon Mogilevich, 64, a Ukrainian-born billionaire who is said to control RUE and is one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.
So there is no proven link between Shetler-Jones, Dimitry Firtash and "the Russian mafia" at all.
Has Dimitry Firtash been banned from the UK or had any of his assets seized by the Serious Organised Crime Agency ? No.
The second oligarch with whom the Baroness has been linked is Mikhail Chernoy, a 58-year-old Uzbekistan-born Israeli industrialist, who made billions from the Russian aluminium industry.
He is the main financial sponsor of the Intelligence Summit, a Washington-based Right-wing anti-terrorist think-tank, whose executive council has included the Baroness.
Chernoy has been banned from entering the US because of allegations of money laundering, illegal business deals and claims of connections to the Russian mafia.
The billionaire has denied any wrongdoing or any ties to organised crime and has been cleared in several countries, including Switzerland, of links to the mafia.
Has Mikhail Chernoy been banned from the UK or had any of his assets seized by the Serious Organised Crime Agency ? No.
Speaking at her £2 million Chelsea townhouse in West London yesterday, the Baroness said: 'It was clear a very long way back that David Cameron wanted an official in that position [of National Security Adviser].
'There was not at any stage a commitment on David's part that I should have that position. It was not a position I ever discussed with him or sought. It was always my understanding that should the party win the Election I would have the position I now have.'
The Baroness denied having ever met Dimitry Firtash, Mikhail Cherney or Robert Shetler-Jones.
So, no holidays with or fawning over, foreign billionaires or rich British contributors to party funds, like so many Labour politicians then ?
She said the donations to her office had been 'properly registered' by the Conservative Party and then allocated to her.
Last night neither the Home Office not the security services were prepared to comment officially on the Baroness's appointment.
But senior Home Office officials repeated the Baroness's claim that the National Security Adviser post had always been designed to go to an official.
So, is this anonymous security source lying or exaggerating ? If so then why ?
The intelligence services are forbidden by law from interfering in UK politics, although there are no criminal sanctions against any of their employees from doing so, especially anonymously, with or without the blessing of their colleagues.
The MI5 Security Service website section on Myths and Misunderstandings claims that:
5. MI5 monitors the private lives of Ministers and other public figures
We are sometimes alleged to be responsible for monitoring the private lives of people because they have a high public profile, including members of the Royal Family, Government Ministers and Members of Parliament. This is not the case. We only investigate individuals whose activities fall within our statutory remit under the Security Service Act 1989.
6. We "vet" every government employee
Our role in the vetting of candidates for employment in sensitive government posts is based solely on checks against our records. Decisions on employing staff are the responsibility of the Department concerned and we do not investigate or interview candidates on their behalf.
The Security Service Act 1989 stipulates that we may only disclose information for use in deciding whether someone should be employed in sensitive work if we do so in accordance with arrangements approved by the Home Secretary. If, when we check, we find that we have a significant and relevant security record on an applicant, we may provide a summary assessment of the security information. However, the mere existence of a Security Service record does not necessarily mean that an assessment will be made. There is no "blacklist".