After years of inertia the topic of Child Abuse by those in positions of power and subsequent alleged cover ups, has provoked a hurried, face saving, "Must Be Seen To Be Doing Something" reaction from Downing Street and Whitehall.
Home Secretary Theresa May's oral statement on
Child Abuse 7 July 2014 : Column 23
"that in the 1980s the Home Office failed to act on allegations of child sex abuse; and, secondly, that public bodies and other important institutions have failed to take seriously their duty of care towards children"
The short 10 week "review" of how or where the Home Office seems to have "lost" the child sex abuse allegation dossier and related documents handed in to the then Conservative government Home Secretary Leon Brittan by the late Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens , way back in the 1980's, which was announced on Monday. This is to be headed by the former Whitehall mandarin and head of the NSPCC child welfare charity Peter Wanless CB, with legal advice from the security cleared Treasury Solicitor Richard Whittam QC
Today, Tuesday, the wider ranging "public panel" Inquiry head was announced as the now 80 year old Lady Butler-Sloss, who as a Judge was in charge of the Family Court and who acted as Coroner in the Princess Diana inquest.
This Inquiry is still not yet a full Public Inquiry, although it might be converted into one under the controversial Inquiries Act 2005, which would allow it the power to summon witnesses against their will, but which would also allow the Government to censor anything too embarrassing, especially if it involves the intelligence agencies or the Police.
Unsurprisingly, it is not expected that this Inquiry will actually report before the next General Election in May next year, but their might be an interim statement.
No Stone Unturned
Prime Minister David Cameron seems to have used the phrase "no stone unturned" regarding the scope of this Inquiry and its potential access to secret documents and witnesses.
In this regard, Spy Blog is reminded of almost exactly 4 years ago, when Prime Minister David Cameron announced the equally high profile Rt. Hon. Sir Peter Gibson.
That Inquiry was announced on 6th July 2010 dithered for over a year on agreeing its Terms Of reference and only did six months work, examining documents, without taking testimony from a single witness. It cost getting on for £2 million and the unfinshed, partial, (censored) Detainee Inquiry Interim report (.pdf) was suppressed from publication until 19th December 2013.
Whistleblower and Witness protection
Given how toxic to any bureaucrat, securocrat or politician's career, any allegations of involvement with paedophilia or the cover up of paedophilia by those in power could and should be, the Butler-Sloss and even the Wanless-Whittam inquiries need to be seen to be able to have access to secret intelligence material (which they will no doubt censor before publication) and to current, or more likely, former Police and Intelligence Service and Civil Service etc. insider witnesses.
If all they do is talk to the "fully cooperative" current managers of such public agencies and departments, who then merely order trawls of their current filing systems, they are unlikely to find any evidence of, or be able to reasonably disprove the existence of any past cover ups. For that they need to be able to attract and retain the confidence and anonymity of whistleblowers and other Confidential Human Intelligence Sources, past or present.
There will be a big temptation for securocrats within the UK intelligence agencies and the police services and for civil servants and party politicians to try to get advance warning of who these Inquiries may be trying to talk to as whistleblowers.
This is also of interest to Foreign intelligence Agencies, both "allied" and hostile.
Therefore all the members of the Butler-Sloss "panel" and of the Wanless-Whittam review including all their clerical staff need to take "Top Secret" level document, computer and communications precautions.
They also need to get immunity from prosecution or withdrawal of security clearance etc. for any witnesses.
ideally they should set up secure, anonymous communications methods for insider whistleblowers to contact them , without tipping off UK or Foreign intelligence agencies or the tabloid press. e.g. SecureDrop or GlobaLeaks or even publish an email address with a PGP/GPG Public Key.
The Inquiry staff need to take at least the same precautions as The Guardian , Washington Post, New York Times and The Intercept journalists who are handling Edward Snowden NSA and GCHQ leak stories e.g. use TAILS c.f. 'Information Security for Journalists' http://www.tcij.org/resources/handbooks/infosec
Witness Immunity etc. as per Gibson Inquiry
As a bare minimum, the Butler-Sloss and Wanless-Whittam inquiries need to be able to protect insider whistleblowers to at least the same extent as the Gibson Inquiry:
- Ideally this protection should also include protection of Security Clearances and immunity from Prosecution for coverups or negligence, for anyone who even contacts the Inquiries, not just when their evidence has been accepted by the panel.
- Obviously this would not apply to anyone actually directly involved in paedophile crimes, who would have to sort out a Queen's Evidence deal once they have been arrested.
- The UK intelligence agencies and the police should also be forbidden from trying to use their secret surveillance powers, especially regarding Communications Data and the use of Informants and Undercover agents to try to identify any potential or actual witnesses who try to contact the Inquiries in confidence.
- They also need to aggressively protect the Inquiries from similar activity by any Foreign Intelligence Agencies.
There is no excuse for not taking the Gibson Inquiry "undertakings" as to immunity from prosecution or departmental discipline, as the foundation for these child abuse inquiries, as they have been released via a Spy Blog Freedom of Information Act request in 2011: