[A-List] UK secret state: MI5-bashing
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Thu Dec 12 02:37:46 MST 2002
When articles like this appear, traditionally it has been because rival
elements in the secret state apparatus are engaging in turf wars and are
using the press to score points, in a kind of low intensity version of the
sort of antics routinely perpetrated in Northern Ireland during the 1970s
and 80s, when MI5 and MI6 conducted their own proxy war using both sides of
the fundamental republican/loyalist divide. Stella Rimington's efforts to
make MI5 more open and accountable *in appearance*, unavoidable given the
fall-out from Peter Wright and Colin Wallace, have only exposed the agency
to further difficulties, including the possibility of litigation (!) Whether
it gets that far is not the point -- the British secret state is
traditionally so paranoically secretive for the good reason that even simple
disinformation that refers directly to any agency or personnel from within
the secret state threatens to shine a very unwelcome light on their
activities. Given the consequences of the excavations (still continuing) of
the Wilson plot, somebody somewhere has decided to cut losses and use the
opportunity to score points in the perpetual turf war that rages behind the
scenes but which occasionally surfaces (see past posts on MI5's demotion in
the security service hierarchy).
I wonder just how much of this is MI6 exacting its revenge upon a rival
organisation -- after all, since Bali is in Indonesia and MI6 is the branch
of the intelligence service that has jurisdiction overseas, why on earth
should MI5 take the rap for an intelligence failure in Indonesia?
MI5 seriously misjudged terrorist threat on Bali, says report by MPs
The Herald, 12 December 2002
MI5 "seriously misjudged" the terrorist threat to British nationals in the
run up to the Bali bomb blast, a damning report concluded last night.
The service failed to upgrade its threat assessment for Indonesia despite
concluding days before the incident that attacks on British or US targets
could start at any time, MPs on the parliamentary intelligence and security
As a result the travel advice issued by the Foreign Office was not updated
and "did not accurately reflect the threat" to British tourists.
Jack Straw, foreign secretary, admitted there were lessons to be learned. He
said MI5 had already launched a review of its system of threat assessments
and promised a comprehensive review of the way the Foreign Office issued
"The tragic lesson from Bali is that British nationals are the targets of
terrorism in many parts of the world," he said. "The message for the
government is that we must all exercise constant vigilance if we are to
avert future such tragedies."
Ann Taylor, the Labour chairman of the committee, told the House of Commons:
"The committee did not lightly reach its conclusion that there was a serious
misjudgment in terms of the threat assessment that was made for Bali."
The committee concluded there was no intelligence available to Britain or
any of its allies which could have prevented the attack.
However, it disclosed the intelligence agencies had begun receiving
information in September that terrorists were planning possible attacks on
western interests in Indonesia.
Potential targets were said to have included tourists in Bali, and other
locations, and nightclubs in the capital Jakarta as well as diplomatic
The joint intelligence committee - which prepares intelligence assessments
for ministers - had reported in May that Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network
already had a presence in Indonesia along with other terrorist groups.
It said al Qaeda was likely to develop a "local terrorist capability" -
probably based on the Jemaah Islamiyah group - with the capacity to act
"more or less autonomously under the al Qaeda umbrella".
Despite various warnings, MI5 decided on October 9 there was no need to
change its threat assessment for Indonesia, even though it felt attacks
could start "at any time".
"A threat existed to western tourists in Indonesia; the largest
concentration of western tourists there is on Bali; and they gather in large
numbers in a limited number of nightclubs," the committee said. "These facts
should have been recognised by the security service as pointing to a
"This was a serious misjudgment and meant that the security service did not
assess the threat correctly and, therefore, raise the level of threat to
A man who lost his brother in the attack said last night that he would still
be alive but for the MI5 misjudgment.
Tobias Ellwood, whose brother Jon, 39, died, said his family were
"absolutely shocked," by the MPs' report.
Mr Ellwood said: "We understand the intelligence service could not have
prevented the bomb, but had they passed on these warnings properly my
brother would be alive today."
Andy Bowler, who lost his brother Neil, said his family had not ruled out
taking court action against MI5.
Meanwhile, the lawyer for Jack Roche, a British-born Muslim convert, said
yesterday at Perth magistrates court that his client will plead innocent to
charges of plotting to blow up Israeli diplomatic posts in Australia.
Neither attack, in Canberra or Sydney, occurred.
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