Intelligence and Security Committee report is out


The House of Commons Intelligence and Security Committee has published its annual, heavily censored report, which bears a striking similarity to last year's report.

Some comments on the public findings of this report, which the Governemt merely "takes note of the view of the Committee", and is not bound to do anyything about:

There is no mention this year of any progress or lack of progress on the issue highlighted last year and the year before, about the lack of a proper assessment of the United Kingdom's Critical National Infrastructure.

Have all the overcrowding issues with the new buildings at GCHQ been magically resolved since the Committee highlighted them last year ? There is no mention of this topic in this year's report.

The SCOPE project to provide a secure web based data sharing system between various intelligence agencies is now 3 years late, and, going on the sketchy details supplied, would seem to be a classic Government IT cock up. The specifications have been chanhged and uprated before the first pahse was completed, and the second phase contract negotiations are still in the air.

The Security Service MI5, despite a large increase in budget and resources, to counter terrorist threats, still seems, according to the Committee, to be neglecting counter-espionage activities as a conswequence.

The MI5 computer and telecommunication infrastructure systems projects seem to be suffering from a lack of project management, and have run at least 50% over budget, and are delivering less functionality that was promised, slightly earlier than originally planned.

For those of our readers who are interested in Identity checks, it appears that the highest level of security clearance, so called Developed Vetting, which people with physical access to VIPs or critical computer systems etc. undergo, is handled differently by different agencies:

"47. We have, on a number of occasions, questioned senior officials about the quality of security vetting – in particular the highest level of vetting, known as developed vetting. There are six organisations that carry out vetting investigations in the UK: the Security Service, the SIS, GCHQ, the Defence Vetting Agency, the FCO and the Office of Civil Nuclear Security. We had been told that the three intelligence and security Agencies conducted more thorough vetting of their staff and consequently would not accept the vetting clearance of the other organisations without making additional enquiries. We were therefore concerned that a two-tier developed vetting system was being created or effectively existed."

The report has a section devoted to the Iraq war intelligence fiascos, but obviously adds nothing new to the Butler report.

There is a section about "The Agencies Relationship with the Media", which obviously suits those on both sides well enough, but which does not really inform the public properly, especially given the political "climate of fear" propaganda that has been circulated by the media.

"The media have published stories concerning the Agencies that they have been unable to check or verify and have consequently been seriously incorrect on occasion."
The Committee seems to have pondered the impact of 24/7 television news demand for "intelligence stories", but seems to ignore the Internet, apart from mentioning that GCHQ and MI5 both have official websites.

"84. Currently, a number of media outlets have a journalist ‘accredited’ to the Security Service and/or the SIS; these journalists are able to contact the Services for guidance. In turn, they are briefed by the Security Service or the SIS about matters relevant to the Services. The agreement between the Agencies and journalists is that all these contacts are off-the-record and must not be quoted directly. An example of this contact was the briefing about post-Butler Review reforms within the SIS, which was given to some journalists by the SIS and led to various news reports on 12 January this year. Both the Security Service and the SIS told us that they deal only with journalists who have a reputation for discretion and professionalism."

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