If you are a potential or actual whistleblower, working in the United Kingdom intelligence services, who had information regarding involvement in torture, which might contradict what the senior managers and officials who will be appearing before Sir Peter Gibson's Detainee Inquiry, would you be satisfied with the assurances given below ?
Would you risk your career or life, or those of your family and friends, on such such assurances ?
See our previous blog article of the 11th August 2011, before the revelations from Libya: Spy Blog letter to the Detainee Inquiry re: lack of whistleblower anonymity protection and immunity from prosecution
The Detainee Inquiry
35 Great Smith Street, London, SW1P 3BQ
Telephone: 020 7276 5544
From the Secretary to the Inquiry
13 September 2011
Via E-mail [email address]
LACK OF ANONYMITY PROTECTION FOR POTENTIAL OR ACTUAL WHISTLEBLOWERS TO THE DETAINEE INQUIRY.
Thank you for your e-mail to Sir Peter Gibson on behalf of Spyblog and its readership, in reference to the provisions of anonymity protection for whistleblowers and a number of issues related to the Inquiry's work. I am responding on Sir Peter's behalf.
The Inquiry takes the welfare and safety of any witnesses who provide evidence to us very seriously. The Inquiry's Protocol (available on our website) makes clear that witnesses may provide evidence to the Inquiry in private if the Inquiry believes that there is a good reason for them to do so.This is designed to ensure both the welfare and safety of witnesses by the protection of their identity, and the provision of full and frank evidence to the Inquiry. Any request by a witness to appear in private will be given careful consideration by the Panel. By way of further reassurance, the only people present during private hearings will be the witness and any one person they choose to accompany them, the panel, Counsel to the Inquiry, members of the Inquiry staff and contracted stenographers with the appropriate security clearance (see paragraph 37 of the Protocol). Should we find it necessary to seek further information from a Department or Agency as a result of evidence given by a witness, we would not reveal the source of the information leading to the request. We believe that the current measures are sufficient at this stage to protect the anonymity of whistleblowers or anyone else who has good reason to give evidence in private, but we will keep this under review
As you have identified, the Prime Minister stated in his letter of the 6 July 2010 to Sir Peter Gibson that 'the Attorney General has agreed to provide an undertaking that evidence given by witnesses may not be used against them in criminal proceedings, whether their evidence is given in public, private or both (other than in proceedings where he or she is charged with giving false evidence or conspiring to do so in the course of this Inquiry)' We are currently liaising with the Attorney General's office on producing a comprehensive undertaking which we are confident will address the concerns you have around potential prosecution of whistleblowers under legislation such as the Official Secrets Act. We hope to receive a final version of the undertaking soon and will then publish it on our website as you suggest. We will then confirm with the Cabinet Secretary and the Heads of the intelligence services their analogous undertakings to staff in respect of disciplinary proceedings based on the evidence provided, this was also set out in the Prime Minister's letter.
You raise an important point about assurances from the UK Intelligence Agencies in respect of their cooperating with the Inquiry. We have been assured by the Prime Minister that we will receive full co-operation from the Government and its Security and Intelligence Agencies. The Inquiry believes that this would cover all of the activities you have mentioned, as the type of behaviour you have explained regarding the Agencies deploying surveillance techniques on the Inquiry's Staff or asking Agencies in other countries to do likewise would go against this assurance of full cooperation.
Thank you for your recommendation in reference to encryption of the website to allow for individuals to submit evidence while protecting their identity. We continue to review our website and its security and will consider the points you have raised.
Finally on the important point in reference to ensuring that redactions placed on documents cannot be removed, the Inquiry takes its obligation to redact sensitive material, including individuals' personal details where they must be kept private, very seriously and are mindful of this risk. We shall, of course, do everything we can to ensure that this situation does not arise.
With your help and feedback (either in the comments or via encrypted email, ideally using Tor or other IP Address obfuscation techniques) we will respond to the Detainee Inquiry, to press them further about the points in our Letter which they did not properly answer.
N.B. there are only a couple of working days left before the Attorney General and the Cabinet Secretary must reply to our Freedom of Information Act Requests for the promised Undertakings:
- FOIA request to Attorney General: promised Undertaking regarding the Detainee Inquiry into allegations of complicity in torture
- FOIA request to Cabinet Secretary regarding promised Undertaking about the Detainee Inquiry into allegations of complicity in torture