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Friday 8 November 2013

Trust Us, We Can’t Tell You Why

It was as bizarre as it was synthetic: the head men from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ appeared before the Intelligence and Security Committee yesterday, being given not only a soft ride from MPs probably uncertain as to what exactly they could and could not ask them, but also the luxury of a two minute delay to transmission, just in case someone actually let slip a morsel of information.
So what did Andrew “Nosey” Parker of MI5, John “Running” Sawers of MI6 (not a patch on Bernard Lee, I’m afraid), and their pal Iain Lobban of GCHQ have to say for themselves? How about “34 terror plots had been disrupted since the 7 July, 2005, attacks in London”? Sounds impressive. Give us an example, perhaps? Sharp intake of breath. Oooh no, they’d have to shoot you for that.

Sawers sold the pass in no style at all by vigorously asserting “our adversaries were rubbing their hands with glee, al Qaeda is lapping it up” in response to the material leaked by Edward Snowden and published, among others, by the deeply subversive Guardian. What he seems not to have realised is that he told the Committee that MI6 is still having no problem snooping on the successors of Sam Lardy Binman.

And if Sawers and his merry men really have had their surveillance of al-Qaeda disrupted, then they can’t tell who is rubbing their hands or lapping anything up. Sometimes these people reveal an awful lot inadvertently: goodness knows why anyone should be other than deeply concerned that they are not only in charge of the UK’s security, but also believe we should put our trust in them.

Iain Lobban entered the biscuit taking stakes, with “He also suggested the leaks could help paedophiles avoid detection”. We equip GCHQ to keep the country secure and it turns out to be focused on hunting child molesters? As Billy Connolly once said, there’s going to be some swearing. Lobban can f*** right off with that one. Where was he when Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall were on the prowl?

Lobban also failed to reassure with “We do not spend our time listening to the telephone calls or reading the emails of the majority. That would not be proportionate, that would not be legal, and we would not do it”. Fine. Did Malcolm Rifkind and his colleagues ask the other two if they could sign up to that one? Stuff all use getting GCHQ to answer if the other two are at it independently.

Meanwhile, back with “Nosey” Parker, we heard “The suggestion that what we do is somehow compromising freedom and democracy - of course we believe the opposite to be the case”. It’s not about sodding belief, “Nosey”, it’s about facts. And the fact of this particular matter is that rocking up at Portcullis House, making a shed load of assertions and allegations, and standing them up with “trust us”, is not good enough.

The spooks will have to do better if they want our trust. They probably won’t bother.


rob said...

"Where was he when Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall were on the prowl?"

Political/establishment connections require greater secrecy? It makes you wonder exactly who is protecting who?

I could hazard a guess - but presumably he, or whoever in charge at time, couldn't possibly comment?

SteveB said...

Someone once said there are two types of news, what they tell us and what they don't want us to know about. With this lot that gets a bit more complicated because they don't want us to know about the stuff they do tell us! But sticking to the general theory, they threw in some snippets about 34 success stories and the people responsible for those successes deserve a pat on the back (obviously we can't afford a bonus scheme). But that leaves the stuff that isn't such good news. Exactly who examines their failure rate? Clearly the MPs are too scared to ask. How many plots didn't happen because of other causes (or blind luck as we should see it)? How many innocent people were wrongly targetted and what resources were tied up with them?

This current fiasco with the guy on the run from the TPIM controls seems to raise questions which I haven't heard asked. According to BBC he was wearing a tag. Probably true, it seems to be standard. He cut the tag off whilst in the mosque and it set off the tamper alarm. And then the MI5/ CTU team outside stormed in?? No. It seems the tag was handled in the same way as one for a 17 year old grafitti merchant who isn't allowed out at night. It was fitted by a commercial operator (presumably one of those currently under investigation for fraud...) and the alarm went off in their control room not MI5s. And the first thing they did, like any normal low risk criminal, was to phone him to check he was OK !!!! Only when they got no reply did they tell the police. By which time he was probably two postcodes away. I would be interested to know how long a delay there was between the alarm activating and those outside finding out about it. But no-one will ask because highlighting poor practise "will aid the enemy".