Sunday, May 14, 2006

7/7 reports press shouldn't be so naive

Henry Porter thinks the press are being naive about the 7/7 reports and the job of the intelligence services. With limited resources it is not possible for the intelligence folks to follow up every lead and it is not sensible to believe we can be protected from every possible attack or attacker. That's not how security works. The press in the wake of the Butler report clearing Tony Blair over any responsibility for David Kelly's death basically accepted intelligence information could never be perfect but now condemn imperfect intelligence. (Of course the BBC was a major target in the WMD story and as Bruce Schneier always says you can't evaluate security without understanding the agendas of the players.)

"The press is having it both ways: it must be illogical in one set of circumstances to condemn the credulity of intelligence officers while in another to attack them for not acting on every piece of information received, however peripheral it seems. Having sat through the inquiry into David Kelly's death and read Lord's Hutton's report with disbelief, I am disposed to a sceptical line on government reports.

But the two accounts of the 7 July bombings and the intelligence failure do not have the glare of whitewash, nor the slightest glimmer of it. They seem to provide an accurate picture of what happened and the difficulties faced by the security services and Special Branch. What Siddique Khan and his three companions planned was essentially unknowable. MI5 might conceivably have got closer to the bombers, but, given the enormous number of leads it has to follow up and its finite resources, it would have been extremely lucky to have frustrated this attack as well as three subsequent plots, all of which are now sub judice"

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