There has been no "independent" scrutiny of the UK intelligence agencies since the General Election in May even though, in the meantime, there have been several high profile "spy" cases reported in the UK media, over which the intelligence agencies should have been penetratingly questioned. e.g. the Israeli assassination of a Hamas terrorist in Dubai involving the abuse of British Passports / expulsion of the alleged Mossad station chief in London, the Daniel Houghton MI5/ Mi6 £900,000 secrets for sale to the Dutch case, the death of Dr Gareth Willams (GCHQ / MI6 ?), the "don't ask" complicity in torture and "extraordinary rendition", the upsurge in real bombs in Northern Ireland, etc..
Over 4 months later the new Intelligence and Security Committee is taking shape, with the appalling prospect of the incompetent and untrustworthy "New Labour android" Hazel Blears being given an important role as a member.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Conservative Foreign Secretary (therefore formerly in charge of MI6 the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ) was appointed as the chair by Prime Minister David Cameron back in July.
Business without Debate
Business of the House
INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY
That Hazel Blears, Sir Menzies Campbell, Mr Mark Field, Paul Goggins, Mr George Howarth, Dr Julian Lewis and Sir Malcolm Rifkind be recommended to the Prime Minister for appointment to the Intelligence and Security Committee under section 10 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994.- (Angela Watkinson , on behalf of the Committee of Selection. )
The peculiar Intelligence and Committee, which is neither a Select Committee nor a Joint Committee of Parliament, is not yet complete, as the (token) member or members from the House of Lords have not yet been appointed. It is very unusual that there is not more of a Conservative / Liberal Democrat Coalition majority on this Committee.
For the first time, Parliament is meant to have a slightly bigger role in appointing members to the ISC, rather than simply leaving it up to the Prime Minister and his inner circle of advisors and cronies, as before.
It would be interesting if David Cameron actually rejected some or all of these recommendations. He should certainly reject Hazel Blears.!
- Hazel Blears (Labour) - was the Home Office Minister of State (Crime Reduction, Policing & Community Safety) and then Minister of State (Policing, Security and Community Safety). She also led the "community snooping" initiatives when Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government. She helped to force the notorious Identity Cards Act 2006 into law.
Her record as one of the architects of the Labour Big Brother / Big Nanny / Surveillance / Database State makes her appointment to the Intelligence and Security Committee particularly unwelcome as she simply cannot be trusted to protect ordinary, innocent, law abiding members of the public, from such creepy control freakery.
She featured heavily as one of the worst offenders in the "MPs' expenses" scandals: e.g. this Daily Mail report: MPs' EXPENSES: Blears writes £13,332 cheque to Inland Revenue for Capital Gains Tax avoided on 'second home'
If she is appointed, nobody should believe that Britain's secretive intelligence agencies will not continue to hide secrets from scrutiny by the Intelligence and Security Committee. If Hazel Blears is appointed, one could sympathise with them for doing so, since she is provably untrustworthy with state secrets.
Hazel Blears has not once, but at least twice broken the Official Secrets Act, 1989 section 8 Safeguarding of information, through sheer incompetence and negligence.
See the previous Spy Blog article
and for example, the Daily Telegraph report :
In both cases she clearly failed "to take such care to prevent the unauthorised disclosure of the document or article as a person in his" (or her) "position may reasonably be expected to take."
Either of these breaches in elementary data security regarding classified, Protectively Marked documents, could have resulted in dismissal and perhaps criminal prosecution, with a penalty of up to 2 years in prison and/or an unlimited fine, if a Civil Servant or private sector government contractor had been guilty of them.
Once public confidence is gone, in the ability of a politician to be trusted or to keep national security secrets, it can never be rebuilt. For this reason alone Prime Minister David Cameron should reject Hazel Blears as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, or else he will be giving a public signal of its uselessness.
We do not want Hazel Blears to be allowed to serve on the Intelligence and Security Committee, or in any other position of power or influence whatsoever.
- Paul Goggins (Labour) - was a junior Home Office Minister with experience of Prisons and who was also exiled to Northern Ireland as a junior Minister and then as Minister of State where he must have had frequent contact with the intelligence agencies. Whether this makes him "house trained" or an effective inquisitor, alert to all their tricks, remains to be seen.
- George Howarth (Labour) - like Paul Goggins was also a junior Home Office and then a junior Northern Ireland minister. He has previously served on the Intelligence and Security Committee from 2005 to 2010 i.e. he is the most experienced potential ISC member so far mentioned.
- Dr. Julian Lewis (Conservative) - he seems to have an interest in military matters, but he also has a record of helping to deny transparency and accountability of MPs, which makes him untrustworthy in our view, to represent the public in the secret scrutiny of secret agencies.
He was one of the prime movers behind the the scandalous attempt by the House of Commons to further neuter the Freedom of Information Act which was touted as protecting the freedoms of Constituents, but actually had the effect of trying to hide "second homes" and other expenses scandals from the public. He was also behind the pompous amendment to the Political Parties and Elections Act, which removed the requirement for General Election candidates to disclose their home addresses on nomination and ballot papers. Given how many candidates claim to be "local", why should they not have to prove it, by giving their home addresses ?
- Mark Field (Conservative) - who ? He seems to be a lawyer in a safe Conservative seat - how and why was he recommended to be appointed to the ISC ?
- Sir Menzies Campbell (Liberal Democrat) - former Liberal Democrat Leader - we did not think that it was appropriate for him to stoop to being a member of the ISC. He has "an interest" in Foreign Affairs and has served on the Intelligence and Security Committee for the fag end of Gordon Brown's awful Labour government. He is reported as being friendly with Gordon Brown, who is his Parliamentary constituency neighbour.
We await with interest ,further recommendations or appointments to the Intelligence and Security Committee. There is no good reason why the Prime Minister should only appoint a token one or two members from the House of Lords, as has been the custom in recent years. Almost any Peer of the Realm, woulds be an improvement on the despicable former MP George Ffoulkes, who consistently took the most totalitarian NuLabour line possible. To be fair to Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, as a "double dipping" Westminster and Scottish parliamentarian, he does actually ask a lot of Written Questions of the Executive(s) - some of them pointless and partisan, but he does put his lazier colleagues to shame.
We hope in vain, for the appointment of say, the Earl of Errol, who is actually computer literate and who is therefore, unlike all the other members of the ISC (mostly liberal arts graduate lawyers) actually capable of scrutinising the utility and cost effectiveness of the vast array of intrusive IT databases and surveillance projects and secret IT infrastructures, which the intelligence agencies spend or waste so much of our precious public money on.
We also demand to know whether the outgoing Chair of the ISC's (Dr. Kim Howells, Labour) criticisms of the meddling and conflict of interest by Cabinet Office and the Prime Minister's office under Gordon Brown, have lead to any actual independence of this new Intelligence and Security Committee, or not e.g. is their email still provided (and therefore legally snooped on) by the Cabinet Office ?