UK Security Committee and the use of intelligence: 14 May 2010

Apologies for my absence away from KoW; this was due to just how exciting the election was. I watched so much election coverage, I clean forgot that the euro had collapsed and that we’re all due to be poor quite soon. But I wanted to scribble this very quick note on the UK Security Committee…

On Tuesday, the new Prime Minister David Cameron held the first meeting of the UK Security Council, an innovation that formed part of a manifesto pledge (see posts passim). We are told this council contained politicians, military and security officials as well as civil servants engaged in security issues. The council will, at some point in the near future, issue what it considers to be the security priorities and challenges the nation faces – a revision, if you like, of the national security strategy issued by the previous government. But it will also go about thinking about how to tackle those problems – in the case of Jihadi terrorism (as we have discussed a lot here) it will consider whether the PREVENT strategy really works.

Some brief points:

* To avoid the errors the previous government made, the intelligence community and the new government need to work out quite quickly how they want to use intelligence, and how they are going to manage the customer interface. Of course, the opposition received briefings in opposition, but the Labour government did not fully understand the role of intelligence, nor how to manage the interface.

* It should decide a line on whether it will disseminate intelligence to the public, and if so how. This is the obvious post-Butler bit of thinking.

* It should think about how it should make use of the talent pool that exists in the country to help it work on its security problems – are there flexible ways of including a larger segment of the people who work on these issues; the so-called open source challenge to government thinking?

* But we should recognise that the security risks that were present on the 5th May, are 99% the same today. And so we should not be expecting fireworks in terms of a new approach. The emphasis might be slightly different, and the methods similarly modified, but ultimately we are in the same position, just with a different crew. Personally, I’d like to see more empahsis on organised criminal activities as an organising principle; the links into terrorism and proliferation etc are so marked, I think it makes sense.

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