Alan Johnson’s MI5 File?

Alan_JohnsonI won­der what inform­a­tion, if any, MI5 has on file about new-ish UK Home Sec­ret­ary, Alan John­son?  Or, more per­tin­ently, what HE thinks the spies might have.…..

How else explain his recent com­ments in The Daily Tory­graph? He said that he will be the voice of those who can­not defend them­selves — ie those poor, anonym­ous intel­li­gence officers in MI5.  He even drags out the hoary old chest­nut that a crim­inal invest­ig­a­tion into prima facie evid­ence that the spooks have been involved in ser­i­ous crime — the tor­ture of another human being — would dam­age national security. 

I’m sur­prised he man­aged to bite back Tony Blair’s infam­ous line, that an invest­ig­a­tion into pos­sible spy incom­pet­ence and crime would be a “ludicrous diversion”

Ever since Labour came to power in 1997, we have had a series of Home Sec­ret­ar­ies strain­ing to avoid doing their job vis a vis the spooks in Thames House: the job being that of polit­ical mas­ter of MI5, thereby provid­ing a modicum of demo­cratic over­sight to an extremely power­ful and secret­ive organ­isa­tion, hold­ing it to account and ensur­ing it obeys the law. 

The role of Home Sec­ret­ary is not to be the cham­pion of unac­count­able spies who are pro­tec­ted from invest­ig­a­tion and over­sight by a whole raft of secrecy legislation.

More and more evid­ence is emer­ging that MI5 assisted the USA’s extraordin­ary rendi­tion plan, that it  was com­pli­cit in tor­ture, and that its officers have lied to cover their tracks.  Under this ava­lanche of scan­dal, some MPs have finally woken up to the fact that the Home Sec­ret­ary should be ensur­ing MI5 obeys the law.  Some are even dar­ingly sug­gest­ing that there should be proper Par­lia­ment­ary over­sight of the spies, rather than the fig leaf that is the Intel­li­gence and Secur­ity Com­mit­tee — hand-picked by and only answer­able to the Prime Min­is­ter, and power­less to ques­tion intel­li­gence officers under oath, demand papers, or look at any­thing more ser­i­ous than policy, fin­ance or administration.

Walk_the_plankThe Met­ro­pol­itan Police have even begun a crim­inal invest­ig­a­tion into MI5’s com­pli­city in tor­ture.  While I doubt any case that could, ahem,  “dam­age national secur­ity” will ever come to court,  a few junior officers may be asked to do the decent thing and quietly walk the plank. 

But the real issue — the closed, self-perpetuating group-think cul­ture, where officers should just fol­low orders and not rock the boat — will con­tinue unchal­lenged, res­ult­ing inev­it­ably in yet more scandals.

It is time we had a Home Sec­ret­ary who is up to the job and who has the back­bone to ini­ti­ate some mean­ing­ful reform of MI5