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UK report on Guantanamo Bay: Connecting the dots is hard to do

The British Cabinet Intelligence review committee has released their annual report for the 2008/09 year. The 58 page document covers a number of topics including whether or not Guantanamo Bay detainees transited U.K. territory using Diego Garcia.
Written by Doug Hanchard, Contributor

The British Cabinet Intelligence review committee has released their annual report for the 2008/09 year. The 58 page document covers a number of topics including whether or not Guantanamo Bay detainees transited U.K. territory using Diego Garcia. The U.S. military leases facilities on the main island from the British. Questions were asked if in fact the US flew terrorist suspects to Guantanamo Bay in  military aircraft. In 2002 it was given assurance from the United States it was not. In fact the island was and clarified in the report. MP Dr. Kim Howells is chairman of the committee. Other highlights include:

Development for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) of an enhanced version of the SCOPE Phase 1 Top Secret desktop, which will enable HMRC to continue to receive intelligence and communicate securely via email. This approach will reduce the overall cost of Top Secret desktop systems through economies of scale;

• STRAP3A secure messaging - an email system for intelligence information that is subject to the highest protection standards. It is planned that, by the end of the 2009/10 financial year, up to seven departments (GCHQ, SIS, Ministry of Defence, FCO, Security Service, Cabinet Office and Home Office) will be able to exchange information at this level; and 107 Cm 7542.

• a pilot programme for 100 users to collaborate on serious crime work. GCHQ has told us that this pilot successfully delivered, over a two-month period, the UK's first Top Secret "shared workspace" between GCHQ, SIS and SOCA. In May 2009, we were informed that the next planned increment will be the expansion of the user base to around 600 to 700 users across the wider intelligence community.

The desktop program has been under intense scrutiny. The prime contractor, IBM, has had several setbacks and cost overruns have been in the millions of pounds.

We had hoped to include in this Report a detailed account of the Cabinet Office's decision to abandon Phase 2 of the SCOPE programme. However, the Committee is still investigating the circumstances surrounding the decision, and commercial and legal negotiations between the Cabinet Office and contractor continue. We will therefore report on this matter in our next report.

The British are having the same problems as the Americans with respects to sharing information and how to obtain it. Section 117 illustrates;

During 2008/09, the Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS) has continued its wide-ranging work in support of UK military operations, including in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Chief of Defence Intelligence (CDI) told us that some important lessons have emerged from DIS's recent experience in supporting UK military operations. In particular, from both Iraq and Afghanistan:

  • The biggest lessons we have learnt in the intelligence world are the need to fuse intelligence from a range of different sources... to get the best possible picture that you can

Intelligence Analysis also appears to be embattled. The committee reports;

The Committee does not accept the Government's response to our recommendation made last year, nor do we approve of the changes that have been made to the Professional Head of Intelligence Analysis (PHIA) role, which directly contradict our recommendations. We reiterate that the PHIA, established as a result of the Butler Inquiry, must have a distinct and separate role.

Challenge Team

  • In the past, the "Challenge Team" - whose role it is to question the veracity of JIC products - reported to the Head of the Assessments Staff, who is responsible for drafting those products. Recognising that this could be seen as "marking their own work", the reporting arrangements have been changed so that the team now reports to the Deputy PHIA. However, with that role now reporting directly to the JIC Chair (as PHIA), the team that has responsibility for scrutinising and challenging intelligence assessments now reports ultimately to the Chair of the body that oversees those assessments - in effect the same problem.

Connecting the dots is a lot harder that most people think...

Additional Resources:

Full Report

US Strategic Command recognizes cyber security challenges

Intelligence community warns Senate committee of increased terror threats

Homeland Security is based on human control; but demands high-tech logic and speed

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