Annex E – the future role of MI5

In the Irish Times Frank Millar follows up his earlier impressions with a report noting the DUP’s highlighting of Annex E of the governments’ St Andrews Agreement, detailing the role of MI5[subs req] as they prepare to take up residence in their new NI headquarters. He quotes a DUP source as saying “This is a kick in the head for a united Ireland.”.. whether that’s a mischievous overstatement or not the Annex will be worth examining closely.Frank Millar’s report begins

The DUP believes the building of a new MI5 headquarters outside Belfast, coupled with the “national security” provisions of the St Andrews agreement, marks a further entrenchment of the British state in Northern Ireland.

“This is a kick in the head for a united Ireland,” suggested one senior DUP source last night, while confirming his belief that the proposed nomination of a DUP MP to Westminster’s intelligence and security committee was “one of the most important things” to emerge from the St Andrews negotiations.

However, the SDLP poured scorn on the idea that membership of the committee would give the DUP access to privileged intelligence information or remove reliance on the Independent Monitoring Commission for continuing assessments of paramilitary activity in the North.

Yet senior party sources did not dispute DUP assertions that the detailed Annex E of the St Andrews agreement spelling out the future role of MI5 in the North would prove “deeply uncomfortable” for Sinn F�in.

The paper unveiled by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and prime minister Tony Blair on Friday afternoon outlined the arrangements being put in place for the handling of national security intelligence and the necessary “accountability measures” that will be in place once “lead responsibility” passes to the British Security Service (MI5) late next year.

From the governments’ agreement[pdf file]

ANNEX E

FUTURE NATIONAL SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS IN NORTHERN IRELAND: PAPER BY THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT

Building on the useful discussions that have already taken place with the parties on the issue, this paper outlines the arrangements that are being put in place for the handling of national security intelligence in Northern Ireland and the accountability measures that will be in place, once lead responsibility passes to the Security Service in late 2007.

The change will bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK, to provide a consistent and co-ordinated response to the threat from terrorism, including from international terrorist groups such as Al Quaeda. It also, since national security is an excepted matter, prepares the way for devolution.

The British Government is confident the new arrangements will bring real benefits to both the Security Service and the PSNI. A key driver behind the practical arrangements currently being devised and tested is the unique interface in NI between national security and serious/organised crime. The new arrangements preserve and build upon the Patten reforms: that is a fundamental principle of these
changes.

New integrated working arrangements � the first such approach in the UK – will strengthen the PSNI�s criminal intelligence capability. This is because PSNI officers will be co-located with Security Service personnel and will work in a variety of roles including as intelligence analysts/advisors and for the purpose of translating intelligence into executive action. These arrangements are designed precisely for the purpose of ensuring that intelligence is shared and properly directed within the PSNI. Integration of personnel in this way is an essential protection against concerns that some intelligence would not be visible to the PSNI.

The Security Service has no executive policing responsibilities, even in countering threats to national security. While the Security Service will provide the strategic direction, the PSNI’s contribution to countering terrorism will remain absolutely central. In all circumstances, including where the interest is national security related it will be the role of the PSNI to mount executive policing operations, make arrests and take forward prosecutions under the direction of the Public Prosecution Service.

There will be no diminution in police accountability. The role and responsibilities of the Policing Board and the Police Ombudsman vis a vis the Police will not change. Police officers working with the Security Service in whatever capacity will remain accountable to the Chief Constable and under the oversight of the Police Ombudsman. The Security Service and the Ombudsman�s office have been working
together to agree arrangements for the Ombudsman�s access to sensitive information held by the Service, where this becomes necessary for the discharge of the Ombudsman�s statutory duties. The Service has already disclosed sensitive information to the Ombudsman�s office in a number of cases. It is important to ensure that comprehensive accountability mechanisms are in place for all aspects of policing in Northern Ireland, and we will continue to discuss these matters with the parties.

The Government will publish in due course high level versions of the MoUs currently being developed between the Security Service and the PSNI and others, as appropriate

The great majority of national security agents will be run by the PSNI, under the strategic direction of the Service, mirroring the arrangements the Service has with the police in GB. This makes sense in NI in particular because of the interface between serious crime and national security; the police also have the advantage of local knowledge. The Security Service will continue to run directly a small number of agents who are authorised to obtain information in the interests of national security as distinct from countering criminality, where the circumstances make that appropriate. The principles observed by the PSNI and the Security Service in running agents are the same, and are enshrined in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

The Policing Board will, as now, have the power to require the Chief Constable to report on any issue pertaining to his functions or those of the police service. All aspects of policing will continue to be subject to the same scrutiny as now. To ensure the Chief Constable can be fully accountable for the PSNI�s policing operations, the Security Service will participate in briefings to closed sessions of the Policing Board to provide appropriate intelligence background about national security related policing operations.

On policing that touches on national security the Chief Constable�s main accountability will be to the Secretary of State, as it is now. The Security Service is fully accountable through existing statutory arrangements and the due processes of Parliament. In addition, three separate Commissioners oversee different elements of covert work in NI: the Intelligence Services Commissioner; the Interception of Communications Commissioner; and the Surveillance Commissioner. Relevant complaints relating to the actions of the intelligence agencies are investigated by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, a panel comprising senior members of the legal profession. There is also the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee whose remit is to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the security and intelligence agencies and whose reports are placed before Parliament; the Government has already indicated that it is prepared to consider how the Northern Ireland focus of the Committee might be strengthened.

In summary, a whole range of safeguards will continue in place: the Policing Board’s continuing role in ensuring efficient policing; the safeguards embodied in RIPA; the Ombudsman’s role in investigating complaints against police officers; Parliament’s scrutiny of intelligence matters through the Intelligence and Security Committee; the various Commissioners’ oversight of particular types of covert operations; and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal�s remit to deal with complaints. Not only are these arrangements comprehensive, they are as transparent as the sensitivity of the issues allows.

Further to reinforce this comprehensive set of safeguards, the Government confirms that it accepts and will ensure that effect is given to the five key principles which the Chief Constable has identified as crucial to the effective operation of the new arrangements, viz:

a. All Security Service intelligence relating to terrorism in Northern Ireland will be visible to the PSNI.
b. PSNI will be informed of all Security Service counter terrorist investigations and operations relating to Northern Ireland.
c. Security Service intelligence will be disseminated within PSNI according to the current PSNI dissemination policy, and using police procedures.
d. The great majority of national security CHISs in Northern Ireland will continue to be run by PSNI officers under existing police handling protocols.
e. There will be no diminution of the PSNI�s ability to comply with the HRA or the Policing Board�s ability to monitor said compliance.

In that connection, the Government believes that the Policing Board�s Human Rights advisers should have a role in human rights proofing the relevant protocols that will underpin the Chief Constable�s five key principles, and also in confirming that satisfactory arrangements are in place to implement the principles. The detailed operation of this safeguard will require further consideration.

As far as the employment of former police officers by the Security Service under these new arrangements is concerned, there will be no bar on former officers serving in the new organisation, but for operational reasons there will be a need for such individuals to have working experience of the arrangements under which the PSNI currently operate. The same rigorous vetting procedures will apply to them as they do to all new staff joining the service.[added emphasis throughout]

, ,

  • lies, damned lies

    Only the most slavish SF drone can claim that MI5 building a massive HQ in the North is a sign that a United Ireland is just round the corner. I have heard Provisional republicans claim that it somehow is a positive sign, and proof that the Brits are planning to scuttle! Only someone actually working for MI5 or lacking the ability to undertaken basic reasoning could subscribe to such doublethink.
    It’s blindingly obvious that what it actually proves if the Brits are here to stay, the spooks continue to run the show and SF will administer Brit rule in ‘Northern Ireland’, basically forever (demographics being what they are, see earlier Observer report).
    Well done, lads!

  • the other one

    “As far as the employment of former police officers by the Security Service under these new arrangements is concerned, there will be no bar on former officers serving in the new organisation, but for operational reasons there will be a need for such individuals to have working experience of the arrangements under which the PSNI currently operate.”
    Former RUC officers need not apply.

    Suppose the MI5 bunker balances the Bertie bunker in malone.

    “This is a kick in the head for a united Ireland,” Nice use of language and I have no idea how they take that out of Annex 5

  • parcifal

    Rubbish LDL.
    with the bedding down of the institutions, and the ending of the paramilitaries, the only job MI5 will be doing is monitoring Islamic extremist intel.

    The DUP MP can sit on his own sifting through the reports if he wants to, but it will be quickly ceded in the Assembly that a nationalist MP should have the same access, to that intel.
    This is no danger to SF, this is a straw man.

  • lies, damned lies

    It’s certainly not a danger for SF, MI5 and SF are now playing for the same side.

  • it’s the republic

    parcifal misses the point entirely. mi5 entrenched in the north of ireland is not a concern for republicans because it may or may not be a danger to sf! have you forgotten what republicanism is – if mi5 is bedding down in the north — to spy on the terrorists of the day — that means that the brits are not going anywhere. the dream is over, the day come and gone, a united ireland is never going to happen. certainly not as a by-product of whatever deal sf agrees to, that much is clear.

  • lib2016

    The point about MI5 taking over here is that it is replacing the British Army and it’s Intelligence outfits. That might not entirely suit those paramilitaries which were formerly run by Military Intelligence.

    Fot the last decade and more the threats to peace have not come from republicans by and large but from unionist extremists. It’s good to see the British beginning to look in the right direction at last and gives one hope that a proper East-West relationship is in the process of being built at long last.

  • Yokel

    MI5 is a tool of the British central government thus handing over of much control for intelligence means that the central government has greater control & impact over issues.

    Thus MI5 hanging about can be seen as a)an entrenchment of Britain in the North or b) a tool to help do the bidding of the government and its policies which could, in theory, be green or c) a simple reflection fo reality. NI is still part of the UK, the UK faces potential terrorist threats from a number of sources and its a feet on the ground counter.

  • parcifal

    its arepublic,
    I’ve given detailed replies to all your concerns on Balrog. ( last 2 threads )
    however lib2016 makes the point well.
    http://gaskinbalrog.blogspot.com/

  • circles

    This annex caught my eye this morning – stuck as it is in the very back of the pdf, I thought it must be important if they are going to bury it this deeply.

    The two possibilites have been pointed out –

    that either this is just a sop to make the DUP feel like they are privy to the whispers that the Shinners won’t hear (but essentially is of no real significance at all). Of course this raises the question of what do they actually want here? Is it just keeping an eye on the back door?

    The second possibility being that somehow this is to continue surveillance on republicans, and weld the 6 counties forever into the union? And at the same time letting a unionist hold the reins a bit. The question here though is, how long will this be allowed to continue by the assembly?

    Tough call on the ramifications of this. I think lib, your interpretation is a little optimistic, but I wouldn’t buy the paranoid gibberings of LDL either.

  • POL

    Brit spys are like McDonalds they are everywhere,in every country and every city pretty much world wide why would this wee neck of the woods be any different.They will be spying on all and sundry may it be loyalists, republicans, stoops, dupers or the legion of mary.Its the american way folks if it moves keep tabs on it.

  • parcifal

    POL
    exactly I’m too busing living my life, if someone wants to CCTV me and record my farts, I couldn’t care less.

  • páid

    Well what it means for a united Ireland is not a lot one way or the other IMO.

    Intelligence is obviously being taken out of the hands of local loyalists (the ones in suits, who live in Bangor) and being centralised under control from England. Those English will do London’s bidding and if that means keeping tabs on maverick loyalists and republicans, so be it.

    The PSNI will know what they’re at, which means SF will know what they’re, as they join up.

    More a case of the DMP than the DUP.

    File under neutral, in my opinion.

  • 2016 or bust

    So in ten years time you think that the British government will sell the Mi5 digs to the Irish government at a bargain price? Dream on!

  • smcgiff

    I think it would be far more sinister if MI5 didn’t say they were setting up here, and carrying out activities.

    It’s not as if MI5 had to say they were setting up here AFAIK.

    Like Pid above I can’t see how this is a plus or negative for a UI.

  • The great majority of national security agents will be run by the PSNI, under the strategic direction of the Service, mirroring the arrangements the Service has with the police in GB.

    hummmm, it is the rest, the great minority that are the danger!

    Never know, Bobby Storey may get an office, even Gordon Kerr may come back from the longest posting in history, in Iraq with the P2OD, to get up to his old tricks again, thats if Brig Gordon Kerr gets his imunnity agreement sorted out, in the next few months??

    You see it is not only Republicans who have
    “On The Runs” the Brits do also, Brig Gordon Kerr being a prime example.