Why using the services of MI5 might lead to buyers remorse

I have completely written the last article as it was rather poorly structured and incomplete.

An ardent monarchist would in all probability find the United Kingdom disappointing if they truly understood the reality of the situation. Even though the British Royal family are privileged, they are according to at least one member, dissidents, who aren’t permitted to vote and who are subject to intrusive surveillance.

There have previously been such allegations about the involvement of the Security Services in the squidgygate affair which pertained to the phone taping of Diana Princess of Wales and the Camillagate affair which pertained to the phone taping of The Prince of Wales. These are remarked upon in the famous Martin Bashir Panorama interview as well as the following wikipedia article about Squidgygate and Camillagate

From that article:

Suspicion about responsibility for the “Squidgygate” leak focused on the United Kingdom’s security service, MI5, Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke said: “The security services are strictly controlled in their telephone tapping, and I know of no evidence whatever to indicate that they were involved.” Such suggestions, he added, were “wild” and “extremely silly.”

The home secretary is not allowed, as per the the Maxwell-Fyfe convention to know the detailed operations of either MI5 or GCHQ so it is to be expected that he “does not know of any evidence”. Furthermore, according to an ex-employee of MI5, Annie Machon, secret files held on the very government ministers responsible for overseeing the intelligence services. There is of course the fact that these services are not subject to oversight. Mr Clarke can hardly be regarded as someone who was in reality is in charge of overseeing the intelligence services as can be seen from his reluctance to investigate.

In general, as is indicated here, Mr Clarke sound like many people I knew at Cambridge who have that curious mixture of ignorance and arrogance

Before any investigation into “Squidgygate” or “Camillagate” had begun, Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke told the House of Commons: “There is nothing to investigate. […] I am absolutely certain that the allegation that this is anything to do with the security services or GCHQ […] is being put out by newspapers, who I think feel rather guilty that they are using plainly tapped telephone calls.”[27]

The Labour Party, then in Opposition, accused Kenneth Clarke of irresponsibility, issuing a statement: “He has to show that he is taking these allegations seriously, otherwise he will be perceived as being unable to control an organisation for which he is responsible.”

This is indeed indicated by the last uncited statement

The Queen was so disturbed by the “Squidgygate” episode that she requested that MI5 conduct an investigation to discover the culprit or culprits. Since the motive could not have been financial, said the investigators—the only winners were the radio hams and the press—it must have been political.[30]Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke admitted he was the one who blocked a full scale inquiry into the tapes because of his fear that it would be uncovered that the tapes did in fact come from the Secret Service[citation needed][clarification needed]

Even though the last statement is uncited, it  would concur with his initial reluctance to investigate.

On the same day as these remarks, members of the Commons all-party Home Affairs Select Committee had their first meeting with Dame Stella Rimington, director general of MI5. Committee member John Greenway MP (Conservative) remarked that the recent “Camillagate” leak “strengthens the case for a parliamentary committee to have responsibility to oversee or scrutinise the work of the security services […] I suspect that colleagues will want to ask how true the allegations [of MI5 complicity in the ‘Camillagate’ leak] are, and I suspect that she [Rimington] will refuse to tell us.” No record exists of matters discussed at the meeting.[23]

As I stated, there is still no oversight of the intelligence services in the United Kingdom.

The first major “Establishment” figure to question the official line on “Squidgygate” was Lord Rees-Mogg, the arch-conservative chairman of the Broadcasting Standards Authority. He had proved an early proponent of the “rogue spies” school of thought in January 1993, when he used his Times column to accuse elements within the British security services of engineering the leaks. “All those tapes were made within a month,” he wrote. “The most likely explanation is that MI5 did it to protect the Royal Family at a time of danger from the IRA. I don’t think there was any sense of wrong-doing, but once they were made there was the danger of a leak.”[24]

But they nonetheless ended up in the hands of journalists some of whom work for MI5

John Major‘s government eventually published two reports, both of which cleared MI5 and MI6 of involvement in the “Royalgates” tapes. One of these was the annual report of the Interceptions Commissioner, Lord Bingham of Cornhill, who oversaw the intelligence-gathering practices of the security services. Excerpt follows: “[Lord Bingham] was impressed by the scrupulous adherence to the statutory provisions [against misconduct] of those involved in the [intelligence-gathering] procedures.” In a clear reference to the “Squidgygate” affair, he commented on “the stories which occasionally circulated in the press with regard to the interceptions by MI5, MI6 and GCHQ,” stating that such stories were, in his experience, “without exception false, and gave an entirely misleading impression to the public both of the extent of official interception and of the targets against which interception is directed.”

Conservative MP Richard Shepherd called the official reports: “two old buffers saying that in their opinion the security services act with integrity.” The National Heritage Secretary Peter Brook gave MPs “a categorical assurance that the heads of the agencies concerned have said there is no truth in the rumours.”[28]

Why did the National Heritage Secretary giving assurances about a department for which he is not responsible and about which that department would have no particular knowledge. It’s not exactly conclusive in terms of an assurance particularly given the fact that the Information commissioner has no particular issue with the fact that the Investigatory Powers Tribunal rules in favour of the government in 99.5% of cases

In 2002, Diana’s former Personal Protection Officer, Inspector Ken Wharfe revealed that the investigation had “identified all those involved, but for legal reasons I cannot expand further, and nor is it necessary to do so.” Wharfe added, however, that: “It does […] lend credence to the Princess’s belief, so often dismissed by her detractors, that the Establishment was out to destroy her.”[31] This directly contradicts the statements of Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke, and conflicts with the statements of Lord Bingham of Cornhill—a Privy Councillor since 1986—whose report claims that the interception services behaved properly. Wharfe later admitted this was just speculation on his part but that he did believe the royal family was being bugged by the GCHQ in order to protect them from the IRA. The GCHQ denied this allegation.

The culprits identities of the individuals who bugged the royal family are an official secret then.

On 30 November 1998, APB News Online published the results of a U.S. Freedom of Information Act request. The news agency’s request for documents on Diana, held by America’s National Security Agency, had been rejected, but the rejection notice itself revealed that a total of 1,056 pages of documents is held by the National Security Agency (NSA), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), State Department, and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). APB quoted John Pike, an intelligence expert from the Federation of American Scientists, as saying that the NSA was “insatiably curious, and monitors everyone of interest outside the US.”

A spokesman for the NSA, which holds 124 pages from “39 NSA-originated and NSA-controlled documents”, declined to answer further questions about the documents, as did a spokeswoman for the CIA, which has at least two documents.

When asked why the Defense Intelligence Agency might be holding documents on Diana, Lieutenant-Colonel James MacNeil said he had “no idea why. All of our stuff is on military [matters]. Obviously she wasn’t in the military.”[34]

After a Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Guardian newspaper in 1999, the NSA told the paper that it was—and is still—holding reports under both “secret” and “top secret” classifications, and that: “these documents cannot be declassified because their disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.” The agency said it also needed to protect its sources: “The reports contain only references to Diana, Princess of Wales, acquired incidentally from intelligence gathering. It is neither NSA policy or practice to target British subjects in conducting our foreign intelligence mission. However, other countries could communicate about these subjects; therefore, this agency could acquire intelligence concerning British subjects.”[35]

U.S. journalist Gerald Posner was played innocuous extracts from the NSA tapes of Diana’s conversations in early 1999.

Diana, and other international figures including Pope John Paul II and Mother Theresa of Calcutta, were all listened in on by the Echelon monitoring system, a world-wide monitoring network capable of processing millions of messages every hour. “‘Anybody who is politically active,’ said Madsen, ‘will eventually end up on the NSA’s radar screen.'”[36]

In December 1998, the French magistrate who investigated Diana’s death, Hervé Stephan, wrote to the American secret services to request the 1,056-page dossier of transcripted calls.[37] This request was refused a month or so later.

So the royal family have had their telephone conversations bugged and at least one member has been put under surveillance.

One might reasonably conclude that in fact the real power behind the throne are entities like MI5, particularly given:

  1. The above
  2. The way Martin Clarke, who is editor of mailonline and works for the Security Service, has treated their privacy.
  3. The fact that MI5 has not sought to prevent this,
  4. The fact that MI5 do not swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen.
  5. The fact that the Queen warned Paul Burrell that ‘there are dark forces at work, of which we know nothing which is most likely a reference to MI5.

The Queen apparently ordered the Palace swept for bugs and it is not unreasonable to be somewhat skeptical as to whether MI5 really has the interests of the Royal family at heart and whether they should be trusted with such a task, particularly given the behaviour of the Martin Clarke.

In this respect one might wonder how they found out about Prince Philip’s decision to retire from public duties. It is possible of course that they resorted to a charm offensive with the royal family through running positive news stories and managed somehow to find out first. I would guess however that Martin Clarke being the creature he is, the mail will revert to running negative and intrusive stories, once things have blown over if they indeed do.

Even if one disregards all this, I doubt that it makes sense to ask MI5 to investigate whether MI5 is in fact in certain instances breaching the privacy of the royal family.

Even disregarding the above:

  1. It’s not even as if MI5 are able to protect their own members.
  2. With regard to the behaviour Martin Clarke of MI5, if one were to utilise the services of a company to repair ones house and that company had members who purposefully damaged that house, how would it make sense to continue utilising that company’s services?

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