Is Mi5 headed by an empire building fantasist?
MI5’s head Andrew Parker recently said UK terrorist threat levels are “at the highest tempo I have seen in my 34-year career.” On hearing this I wondered what he had been doing during his 34 year career if he truly believes such nonsense.
Isil copycats obviously pose a threat to the general public but since WW2 the British state has faced far more deadly threats.
The first IRA bombing campaign in England since WW2 began on 8 March 1973 when an 11-person Active Service Unit that included Irish Republicans like the Price Sisters and Gerry Kelly bombed the Old Bailey causing devastation to central London.
After their arrest and imprisonment the Provisionals sent another unit over to London which became infamous as the Balcombe Street Gang. They carried out 40 bomb and gun attacks between October 1974 and December 1975. During that time they bombed two pubs in Guildford in which four Squaddies and one civilian were killed, whilst a further 65 people were injured.
The following month they threw a bomb into the Kings Arms pub in Woolwich killing 2 people and injuring 30. This IRA unit criss crossed London shooting and bombing at will leaving death and destruction in their wake and a great deal of heart ache by the families of their victims. They were finally captured at the end of a siege in a flat in Balcombe Street.
Mi5 played no part in their capture, although it’s claimed the security services may well have played a role in fitting up innocent young Irishmen for bombing the two Guildford pubs. As did other agencies of the State including it later turned out a former director of public prosecutions.
IRA bombings continued throughout the 1970s and 80s, culminating in the 90s with a South Armagh unit of the IRA being sent over to bomb the city of London. The Bishopsgate bombing occurred on Saturday 24 April 1993 and was followed in February 1996 by an attack on Canary Wharf which caused an estimated £150 million worth of damage. In June 1996 the IRA detonated in Manchester the biggest bomb to explode in Great Britain since World War II, turning much of the city centre into rubble.
Overall more than 3,500 people were killed it was is now unfernisticly called the troubles
Yet Andrew Parker disingenuously claims the UK in under a greater threat today than it was during those years. Why would he say such an easily disproven thing? Only he can say, but by creating fear in the minds of the general public and the political elites, it makes it easy for him to justify Mi5 receiving ever more funds from the public purse.
Of course the public should be vigilant but it is not for a public official to ramp up fear which can easily spill over into Islamophobia.
As Simon Jenkins wrote in his Guardian column:
“From a head of state security, this is rubbish. During the years of IRA terrorism, annual killings ran at 10 to a hundred times the present rate. But ever since they “came out” in the 1990s, spy chiefs have built bureaucratic empires on the blackmail of fear. It is a revival of Eisenhower’s notorious “military-industrial complex.”
Jenkins then points out Britain is safer today from a terror attack than his has been for decades:
“Parker’s primary obligation is to keep Britain’s borders, its institutions and its economy safe from enemy attack. By no stretch of a spy’s fervid imagination can random terrorist incidents constitute an assault from a plausible enemy. Britain today must be safer from siege, conquest or revolution than at any time in history.
A secondary obligation on Parker is to be a source of reassurance, not a purveyor of fear, least of all when there is nothing the public can do in response. Fear is the most toxic of all authoritarian weapons. It should not emanate from the mouth of a British public servant. Parker’s obligation is to secrecy, discretion and proportion. He shows none of them.”
Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Provos war the security services lost much of its reason for existing, Mi5 mainly spied on its own citizens, the more so if they were on the left, environmentalists or animal rights activists. Tony Blair became its saviour and in return the head of the security services provided the dodgy dossier.
“They found a saviour in Tony Blair’s “weapons of mass destruction”. Saddam’s rusting silos, Gaddafi’s yellowcake uranium and the ayatollahs’ centrifuges were a godsend. Any dodgy dossier would do. A half-baked Birmingham bomb factory or a demented tube stabbing was good for “an attack on the nation and its values”. Police budgets were cut; spies boomed.
Fear and hysteria soon gained traction as politicians were terrorised by counter-terrorism. They forgot that terror is not an ideology but a methodology — a means to an end, not an end in itself. Every text on terrorism stresses that it cannot be “defeated”, as Blair promised, any more than a knife or a bomb is defeated. Terrorism is the use of criminality for an ulterior motive.
Islamist supremacy may be a perverted motive for mayhem. But to suggest that such mayhem undermines the security of prosperous and well-defended states demeans the robustness of such states. It is an abuse of language. Worse, it is exactly the abuse terrorists want to hear. How stupid can we get?”
Jenkins is absolutely correct for centuries terror has more often than not been propaganda by deed and many organisations including Isil have used this weapon skillfully; but none have threatened the very fabric of the State.
As Jenkins points out:
“The wars Britain has been fighting in various parts of the Middle East since 2001 have neither improved — nor worsened — Britain’s security one iota. They have merely spent billions of pounds attacking poor countries and killing thousands of people who never posed any threat to Britain. They have been inexcusable. My bookshelf groans with their cruelty and counter-productivity, a catalogue of fallacious excuses, bombings, killings and drone attacks, all occasioned by a single act of terror, by Osama bin Laden on 9/11.
What these wars have done is incite a spate of killings on British streets, the precise opposite of their justification by Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron. Some of these killings have been conspiratorial, some “lone wolf.” Many have been thwarted by the police and security services, which is their job. All have been tragedies to those killed and injured. But personal tragedy is not the same as a “threat to national security”
Mi5 has grown like Topsy over the last two decades by inciting fear in the public and political elite, the three intelligence agencies, MI5, MI6, and GCHQ now have a combined budget of £billions, the actual figure is secret as they also have a brown envelope budget. For what they fail to say but it’s pretty clear it’s for wet jobs, bungs and bribes etcetera.
Parker should be sacked for bringing a public office into disrepute, with his boasting and terrifying the life out of ordinary citizens. The security services need to rebuilt from the ground up as they’re clearly not fit for purpose in a 21st century world.
The first act of an incoming Corbyn government should be to regain political and democratic control of the security services. If this turns out to be impossible he should disband them and start again. If not they will conspire against his democratically elected government. Stella Rimington a former Mi5 head has already started doing just that.
Simon Jenkins full article can be read here:
The head of MI5 has lost the plot. Britain is safer than ever in its history