Uk intelligence and security report august 2003


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Richard M. Bennett and Katie Bennett – AFI Research






Britain has a complicated and rather bureaucratic political control over its intelligence and security community and one that tends to apply itself to long-term targets and strategic intelligence programs, but has little real influence on the behaviour and operations of SIS or MI5. Not so much ‘oversight’ as 'blindsight'. Despite the cosmetic changes of recent years and their formal establishment as legal Government organizations, there is still little true accountability for their actions or a valid test of their overall efficiency. This myriad of organizations include the four main elements of the UK Intelligence Community; the SIS, the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) responsible for foreign intelligence and counter intelligence, The Security Service (MI5), responsible for internal security and counter-espionage within both the UK and Commonwealth countries,  The GCHQ, Government Communications Headquarters, SIGINT and COMSEC agency and the DIS, Defence Intelligence Staff, responsible for the intelligence and security activities within the UK's armed forces. They report to the JIC and through them to the Civil Service (PSIS) and finally the Ministerial Committee (MIS).


Ministerial Committee on the Intelligence Services (MIS) - Ministerial control.

In their day-to-day operations the Intelligence and Security Agencies operate under the immediate control of their respective Heads who are personally responsible to Ministers. The Prime Minister is responsible for intelligence and security matters overall and is supported in that capacity by the Secretary of the Cabinet. The Home Secretary is responsible for the Security Service; the Foreign & Commonwealth Secretary for SIS and GCHQ; MOD for the DIS; the Treasury and the Duchy of Lancaster.


Permanent Secretaries' Committee on the Intelligence Services (PSIS) - Civil Service control. Ministers are assisted in the general oversight of the Agencies by the Permanent Secretaries' Committee on the Intelligence Services (PSIS). Chaired by the Cabinet Secretary. Reports only to the PM, not the full Cabinet. Members include the PUS to the FCO, MOD, HO and Treasury as well as the CO Intelligence Co-Coordinator representing the JIC. SIS is directly administered through the Permanent Under-Secretary's Department of the FCO in Downing Street (West) SW1A 2AL  


Intelligence & Security Committee - Parliamentary oversight

70 Whitehall, London SW1A 2AS.

Parliamentary oversight of SIS, GCHQ and the Security Service is provided by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), established by the Intelligence Services Act 1994. The Committee examines the expenditure, administration and policy of the three Agencies. It operates within the “ring of secrecy” and has wide access to the range of Agency activities and to highly classified information. Its cross-party membership of nine from both Houses is appointed by the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. The Committee is required to report annually to the Prime Minister on its work. These reports, after any deletions of sensitive material, are placed before Parliament by the Prime Minister. The Committee also provides ad hoc reports to the Prime Minister from time to time. 

The Committee is supported by a Clerk and secretariat based in the Cabinet Office and has an investigator whom the ISC can deploy to pursue specific matters in greater detail.


Rt Hon Tom King  1994-2000 

Rt Hon Ann Taylor 2000-


The Current Committee Membership (June 2003):

Rt. Hon. Ann Taylor, MP (Chairman)

Rt. Hon. James Arbuthnot, MP

Rt. Hon. The Lord Archer of Sandwell QC

Rt. Hon. Kevin Barron, MP

Rt. Hon. Alan Beith, MP

Rt. Hon. Alan Howarth CBE, MP

Michael Mates, MP

Rt. Hon. Joyce Quin, MP

Rt. Hon. Gavin Strang, MP




70 Whitehall. London SW1A 2AS. 020-7270 1234/3000


Defence & Overseas Affairs Secretariat. 


Overseas Economic Intelligence Committee (OEIC)

Economic and non-Military Scientific & Technical Intelligence


Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) - Intelligence Co-Ordination. 

The Joint Intelligence Committee agrees on the broad intelligence requirements and tasking (National Intelligence Requirements) for SIS and GCHQ and oversees the activities of the Security Service's.

It prepares summary assessments for selected Ministers and circulates the weekly 'Red Books' to the Cabinet's Defence and Overseas Committee, chaired by the PM.  Traditionally it meets every Wednesday morning and includes representatives from UKUSA and the COS secretariat. This is the 'key' committee involved in the Intelligence Community.  Originally formed as the Inter-Service Intelligence Committee (ISIC) under the Chiefs of Staff in January 1936, retitled the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) in July 1936. Moved to foreign Office control in July 1939. In 1957 control moved to Cabinet Office and in 1968 the post of Intelligence Co-Coordinator was created  within the Cabinet Office to oversee its functions. In 1982 following the Falklands War the Foreign Office ceased to have any control and the JIC became a Cabinet Office organization with direct access to the Prime Minister. The JIC is reported to have a staff of 20 with a further 30 in the 'JIO' or ISG. Closely involved with the major City institutions particularly Banking, the Economic Sub-Committee of JIC also includes representatives of both the Treasury and the Bank of England (which also an SLO to receive intelligence reports directly from the JIC). A major drawback to JIC effectiveness appears to be a lack of expert knowledge amongst the majority of its Civil Service staff. Following criticism of the JIC performance both before and during the Falklands War from the Franks Committee in January 1983 a full time Chairman for the JIC was to be appointed from within the Cabinet Office


The JIC is composed of the

The Coordinator of Intelligence in the Cabinet Office

Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6);

Director General of the Security Service (MI5);

Director of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ);
The Director General of Intelligence at the MoD;
The Deputy Chief of Defence Staff - Intelligence-DCDS (I);

Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the JIO Assessment Staff and

Foreign Office officials responsible for 'Friendly' Countries

Liaison Officers from

US, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand Intelligence Services.


Chairman of JIC (Chaired by FO appointee, even after move from FO to CO control in 1957, until Franks Report of 1983. Cabinet Office appointee thereafter)

Sir Ralph Stevenson  1936-June' 39

Lord Victor Cavendish Bentinck June 1939-45

Sir Harold Caccia 1945-48

Sir William Hayter 1948-49

Sir Patrick Reilly 1950-53

Sir Patrick Dean 1953-60

Sir Hugh Stevenson 1960-63

Sir Bernard Burrows 1963-66

Sir Denis Greenhill 1966-68

Sir Edward Peck 1968-70

Sir Stewart Crawford 1970-73

Sir Geoffrey Arthur 1973-75

Sir Anthony Duff 1975-79

Sir Anthony Acland 1979-82

Sir Patrick Wright 1982-84

Sir Percy Craddock January 1985-92

Sir Rodric Braithwaite 1992-93

Dame Pauline Neville Jones 1993-94

Sir Paul Lever January 1994-97

Michael Pakenham  1997-2000

Peter Ricketts 2000-September 2001

John Scarlett 2001


Co-ordinator for Intelligence and Security

(position created in 1968)

Sir Dick White 1968-1973

Sir Leonard Hooper 1973-78

Sir Francis Brooks Richards 1978-80

Sir Anthony Duff 1980-85

Sir Colin Figures 1985-89

Sir Christopher Curwen 1989-91

Sir Gerald Warner 1991-1996

John Alpass 1996-1998

Combined with position of Chairman of the JIC

Michael Pakenham 1998-2000

Peter Ricketts  2000 - Sept 2001

John Scarlett Sept 2001 - August 2002

Role again changed to become the new

Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator & Permanent Secretary to the Cabinet Office

A mirror of the new US Homeland Security and with a central Anti-Terrorism role, announced June 2002.

Sir David Omand August 2002 -


Assessment Staff & Joint Intelligence Secretariat (created 1968)

Also known as the Intelligence and Security Group (ISG)

Its role is to support the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) proper, which in turn provides Ministers and senior Officials with regular intelligence assessments on a wide range of issues of immediate and long-term importance to national interests, primarily in the fields of security, international crime, defence and foreign affairs.  The Assessment Staff control the work of the Current Intelligence Groups (CIG), effectively JIC sub-committee's each chaired by a member of the Assessment Staff, on the Middle East, Far East, Europe, Northern Ireland and WMD. The CIG's acquire secret intelligence from UK sources (approx one third SIS and two thirds GCHQ),a considerable US Intelligence input and indeed open source information , collate, analyze and prepare weekly reports and long term projects for the JIC to present to the MIS and PSIS. The JIC also sets intelligence requirements and priorities of the Intelligence Agencies, and scrutinises their performance in meeting those requirements.

The Joint Intelligence Secretariat is responsible for the administration of the JIC and its sub-committees.


London Signals Intelligence Board (LSIB)

For many years the controlling authority for GCHQ formed in 1942 Supervised SIGINT activities certainly until the late 1980's with the sub-committee known as the LSIC(Defence) handling Military SIGINT in particular
COBRA - Cabinet Office Briefing Room A
Officially entitled the Civil Contingencies Committee  it meets as and when required in 10 Downing Street. The committee is chaired by a senior minister, who can call on any Cabinet colleagues or senior civil servants to take part, as well as fire, police and ambulance chiefs, military commanders and the heads of the security and intelligence services MI5 and MI6. Cobra is set in motion to co-ordinate the Government's response to crises that threaten to disrupt the life of the nation. The committee can gather daily, or even remain in session 24 hours a day, to ensure that those directing the handling of a crisis can respond constantly to events. It is backed by a permanent Civil Contingencies Secretariat in the Cabinet Office which tries to anticipate and if possible prevent emergencies. The secretariat, made up of civil servants, acts as a centre for emergency planning, produces assessments of potential crises and runs exercises to test the authorities' readiness.
For a more detailed survey of the political control system of British Intelligence and Security –  contact AFI Research





King Charles Street, London  SW1A  2AH.  020-7270 3000


HMGCC (Her Majesty’s Government Communication Centre)

Diplomatic Wireless System - DWS and Diplomatic Telecommunications Maintenance Service - DTMS (GCHQ/SIS network)

Hanslope Park, I mile SE of Hanslope in Buckinghamshire MK19 7BH. 01908 510444 (purchased in 1938, and run by SIS. massively rebuilt in 1990's, with SATCOM replacing transmitter site)

Peel Circus, Hudswell, Wiltshire - opening of new facilities underground available in the Hudswell Quarry complex linked to the NSG-Nuclear Emergency Bunker). Joint FCO/DWS-SIS Complex.

Part of the old ‘RAF Rudloe Manor’ complex at Corsham, Wiltshire.

The DTMS provides bugging and de-bugging services and the experts to 'sweep' sensitive Government facilities


Woofferton, near Ludlow. BBC/VOA transmitter facility run by Merlin (FO DWS/SIS)

Ramphisham, near Dorchester. BBC transmitter facility run by Merlin  (FO DWS/SIS)

Skelton, near Goole. BBC Transmitter facility run by Merlin(FO DWS)

Orfordness, Suffolk. BBC transmitter facility. USAF/NSA (replaced Crowborough in 1980's /BBC site used for SOE Agent transmissions

in WW2, and covert communications in Cold War)

Caversham Park, near Reading. BBC Monitoring Service. This is a joint facility set up in 1948 with the FBIS, Foreign Broadcast Information Service of the CIA. A CIA/NSA liaison team is attached to the BBC MS which concentrates on Europe, Middle East and Africa, while the FBIS concentratyes on Russia, Central Asia, Far East (taken over from BBC MS in 1976-77), and Latin America.

Crowsley Park, near Henley upon Thames. Monitoring & Receiving Station for the BBC MS at Caversham. 

(BBC had a number of monitoring sites worldwide during the Cold War including the Vienna Embassy, Accra in Ghana and Abidjan in the Ivory Coast)

(BT Radio Stations at such places as Lanivet, near Bodmin in Cornwall and the major site at Rugby in the Midlands may still be used for both commercial and covert transmissions. While other BT Stations are known to be Criggion near Shrewsbury (VLF); Ongar in Essex (Transmitter site); Leafield near Oxford (Transmitter site); Bearley near Stratford upon Avon (Receiving) and Somerton near Taunton in Somerset (Receiving)


Previous sites included;

Gawcott-Buckinghamshire (Numbers Station-closed by late 1980's);

Creslow-Buckinghamshire (Numbers Station- enormous site rebuilt 1993-97, closed by 1998) and

Poundon-Buckinghamshire (CDAA. DWS & SIS, high-security site, but local environmental changes made future operations difficult. Operations moved to near

Rendcomb5 miles north of Cirencester in Gloucestershire (a similar base existed at Potsgrove, near Milton Keynes) Wartime FCO Clandestine Communications and Propaganda Radio site.(may not have been used since late 1940's or early 1950's)


Founded: 1st August 1909

External Espionage Agency. With the end of the Cold War, MI6's role has fundamentally changed and it now has many more potential targets. Terrorist groups, and so-called 'rogue' states, are now high profile targets. Networks of new agents will be required as intelligence 'needs' constantly shift. Industrial espionage, furthering British trade interests has moved into the area of national interest. Gathering intelligence on friendly governments, obtaining advanced knowledge of their negotiating positions or changes in alliances, are also now ever more important targets for MI6. The Intelligence Services Act 1994 formerly acknowledged its existence.



PO Box 1300, Vauxhall Cross, 85 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TP.

FO (Media) 020 7270 3100. Personnel: 2000 plus


The Russian Revolution in 1917 provided SIS with some of its more outlandish characters and operations. George Hill, Ernest Boyce, Paul Dukes and Augustus Agar who sank a Russian Battleship in the Baltic. Sidney Reilly and his attempt to assassinate Lenin and many of the Communist leadership. While in the end the operations were a valiant failure, it did create a reputation in Europe that SIS was the most dangerous and efficient intelligence service in the world. SIS was, in part, to survive on that reputation for many years. Following the end of the war the re-structuring of the intelligence community saw the Admiralty and War Office code-breaking sections combined as the Government Code & Cipher School in 1919 still under Admiralty control. However in 1922, GC & CS become a department of the Foreign Office and placed under the overall control of the Chief of the SIS in 1923. SIS, a de facto part of the Foreign Office, had gained control of the espionage services of both the Admiralty and the War Office in 1919 along with a new Military cover-name of MI-6. In 1920 the Foreign Office also ceded its monopoly on political intelligence to SIS which then formed its new Political Section in 1921. When the RAF finally became a service branch in its own right an Air Intelligence Section was almost immediately formed within SIS in 1929. An Economic and Commercial Intelligence Section was formed in 1937 to work with the Special Liaison Section of the IIC/MEW Intelligence Branch. Following the failure of the SIS attempt to absorb MI5 in 1925, a Counter-Espionage Section was formed to work with the Security Service.  


During the 1920's and 1930's SIS was to concentrate on the Communist threat, often to the exclusion of the fascist threat from Germany, Italy and Spain or the growing Japanese militarism. Denied a decent budget, SIS attempted to create a second far more secret intelligence network in Europe, the Z section. Its originator Claude Dansey had little difficulty in persuading 'C', Admiral Sinclair, that SIS officers normal cover abroad, Passport Control Officer at the Embassy was already well known to all their potential enemies. Although SIS made considerable use of willing journalists and journalistic cover for intelligence officers, this was no substitute for a permanent network. Unfortunately, seven years of operations were thrown away in one stupid incident at Venlo in the Netherlands in 1939. The officers leading the two supposedly separate groups were ordered to meet a representative of an anti-Nazi group, together.

The Germans turned out to Abwehr officers and captured the SIS officers and within months had rolled up both networks. When Germany finally invaded France and the Low Countries in May 1940, SIS was left without a single valuable network in occupied Europe. Apart from Sweden, Switzerland and Portugal SIS was blind to continental events. Fortunately for SIS, the new 'C' Stewart Menzies was to make extraordinary use of both his friendship with the Prime Minister, Churchill and the steady flow of Ultra decrypts of the German Enigma traffic. Without this, SIS may well have been disbanded and replaced by its wartime rival, SOE. In late 1943 in an attempt to simplify operations four Regional Controllers were created to oversee groups of country sections.  As it was by 1944 SIS had still not recovered sufficiently to be a major intelligence source, without the Ultra material from Bletchley Park. Menzies was a master at using his political and social connections to win time and eventual survival for SIS, indeed so successful was he that in 1946 he persuaded the Labour Government to close down SOE and transfer its best staff and most promising operations to SIS. During this re-organization GC & CS became a separate organization as GCHQ, within the Foreign Office leaving SIS without its major source of intelligence. Apart from changes of personnel, facilities and intelligence targets, SIS has remained under the Foreign Office and retained its name. The resulting spy scandals of the late 1940's and early 1950's saw doubt cast on some of SIS's most respected officers, Philby, Brooman-White, Ellis and others.


Menzies retired in 1953 saddened and exhausted by over thirty-seven years in intelligence. His replacement, Maj. General John Sinclair allowed the service to be further tarnished not only by its inept handling of the Suez crisis, but also by its involvement in the Buster Crabb affair, when a diver disappeared while carrying out surveillance on a Soviet Cruiser in Portsmouth. Sinclair's reward was to be replaced by the head of MI5, Sir Dick White.  From 1948 the VCSS had doubled as Director of Production and while Jack Easton was the ACSS in the early 1950's his position was amalgamated with that of the Director of Requirements, White later abolished the position of ACSS altogether and reintroduced the Directorate of Requirements. However this would eventually be merged with the Director of Productions to become the new Director of Requirements & Production and later still the current Director of Operations, retaining the Deputy Chief rank.


The eventual decision to remove MI6 to 'south of the river' came as White gave into increasing pressure to control the service in the wake of Suez, Hungary, Philby and Blake. The advent of a Labour Government sealed their fate and indeed White used the period as an opportunity to modernize. The Service R sections were separated off while the remaining R sections became more closely integrated with the Production Sections (DP1/2/3/4). A new Directorate of Counter-Intelligence and Security was created to take over the Vetting, Personnel and R5 Sections, creating Regional CI Sections. Later this would be modified by Oldfield to create three Targeting and Counter-Intelligence Sections (TCI). The creation of a MOD -n 1963-64 also led to the creation of the DIS from the old JIB and the Service Intelligence Agencies, further diluting MI6's influence. Cost cutting at the MOD would also reduce the numbers of Service MIO seconded to MI6. White was also to crucially make major changes in the SIS management structure when after long consultation with the FO Adviser he removed a generation of Senior Directors known as the 'Robber Barons' during December 1965 (effective in January 1966); one had retired (John Bruce Lockhart), two were given early retirement (John Collins and Paul Paulson), while Andrew Fulton was moved sideways and then retired soon after.

In 1973 under the new CSS or 'C' Sir Maurice Oldfield operations were to strictly controlled and scrupulous in their adherence to the wishes of the Government. Oldfield's unique style brought a refreshing blast of fresh air through the corridors of Century House, the SIS multi-story glass and concrete headquarters in south London. SIS objectives were also widened to take account of the increasing demand for commercial intelligence, on the USA, Britain's European partners, Japan and the Middle East oil states in particular. A new Government organization, the Overseas Economic Intelligence Committee (OEIC) became a major customer for both SIS and its SIGINT partner GCHQ. Also during the early 1970's, SIS increasingly became involved in the convoluted politics of Northern Ireland. During the earliest years of the Ulster conflict, the British government favoured the use of SIS in the North of Ireland.


On the basis of countering the IRA bombing campaigns in Britain, MI5 pushed for a presence in the North and from 1973 onwards began to build an infrastructure in Ulster. From that time onwards, SIS has played only a minor role. However, that has still had a considerable political and intelligence significance. It was Michael Oatley, a senior SIS officer who acted as Mrs. Thatcher's direct link to the republican leadership during the 1981 hunger strike, apparently over the heads of MI5 and the Northern Ireland Office and later another SIS officer, Frank Steele established an important dialogue with Gerry Adams. SIS was also involved in later discussions with Sinn Fein representatives on arms decommissioning and ensuring a cease-fire. By the late 1970s, most MI6 agents had been taken over by RUC SB or MI5, and SIS itself had withdrawn from RUC and Army headquarters, although it retained an office at Stormont. SIS is thought to have an operational staff of about 25 in Ireland as a whole, split between the Stormont office, an office at Army HQ Lisburn and the British Embassy in Merrion Road, Dublin. (Between 1971 and 1977 MI6 in the province was run from a large house in Laneside).


However in 1972, SIS was to be deeply embarrassed by the Littlejohn incident, when two brothers operating as SIS agents in Ireland were arrested for freelance activities including armed bank robberies. They also claimed to have been given a list of leading IRA members to assassinate. SIS emphatically denied any involvement and Oldfield went so far as to call a meeting of SIS staff to assure them that there was absolutely no truth in the allegations. SIS was soon to withdraw from the battle for control of British intelligence operations in the Province and the strong suspicions remains that the Littlejohn affair was somehow set up by the Security Service (MI5) to damage SIS's reputation. Oldfield was to suffer from a Security Service dirty tricks campaign some years later when appointed the Governments Security Co-ordinator for Northern Ireland in October 1979. It is widely believed that MI5 informed a number of friendly journalists that Oldfield was a homosexual and that his behaviour was a security risk.


SIS came out of the Falklands War, Gulf War and the Balkans conflicts throughout the 1980's and 1990's with an enhanced reputation. Trust in its internal security has been restored by the succession of major Soviet defectors and double agents who were happy to co-operate with the service. There was also a major change in the leadership during 1993when McColl stayed on as C for an extra two years he effectively bypassed a whole generation of officers, the so-called 'Christmas Massacre' of December 1992 (effective January 1993) and a new younger management team of senior Directors in their 'forties' took office under David Spedding. Barry Gane the expected new CSS retired early. However, the new 'C' failed to complete the task of building a service fit for the 21st century and this task is hopefully being completed by Richard Dearlove, who also may have made more significant changes in direction as there are some insiders who were apparently distinctly unhappy about Speddings time in charge.  The final act of coming out of the Shadows, becoming an 'established' Government department and its move to a new high profile Headquarters at Vauxhall Cross has markedly raised its image. SIS is probably now considered a trendy new employer for well-scrubbed young graduates. Whether of course this new generation of political correct and computer literate civil service recruits will prove capable of dealing with the increasingly dangerous and terrorist dominated intelligence environment of the twenty first century is very much open to question.


A historical review of the great changes in SIS organization charts the growth from the first formal restructuring after SIS came under the control of the Foreign Office; In 1921 it was made up simply of the G or Geographical Officers and the four Circulating Sections which provided liaison with the

Foreign Office,

Military MI-1C, later MI-6,

Naval NI-1C and

Air AI-1C from 1929.

By the late 1930's this had expanded to ten circulating sections including the original four renamed I, II, III and IV, and

V Counter Espionage,

VI Industrial intelligence,

VII Financial intelligence,

VIII Communications,

IX Ciphers and

X Press .


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