UK Spy Agency Fails In Attempt To Bury Records Of Its Criminal Activity

from the can't-have-a-secure-nation-without-a-certain-amount-of-crime dept

Hi, kids! Do you like state-ordained violence? Want to see me [redacted] in each one of my [redacted]? Wanna copy me and do exactly like I did? [Bond theme intensifies.]

The Snowden leaks gave us some of the first looks behind the Vantablack curtain surrounding intelligence efforts engaged in by US allies in the UK. The Snowden sneak peek enabled legal challenges that routinely found UK intelligence agencies were violating the rights of UK citizens, as well as those the UK government has unilaterally declared rightsless.

More rights violations and general wrongfulness has been uncovered. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal doesn't like what it's been seeing from MI6, which has apparently let its sources and informants run wild. The Tribunal doesn't say what criminal violations have been committed in the name of national security, but its limited ruling expresses its displeasure with attempted MI6 interference and its apparent blessing of criminal actions.

MI6 agents and informants may be committing crimes in the UK, a watchdog has revealed.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal disclosed the ruling despite government attempts to keep the matter secret.

It also said questions raised should be disclosed to campaigners, who have been asking for greater legal clarity over what the intelligence agencies can do.

It comes a day after the intelligence services watchdog raised its own questions about some MI6 activities.

The ruling [PDF] doesn't say anything about the criminal acts. Instead, it focuses on MI6's attempt to derail the judicial process. Ongoing legal proceedings have demanded a level of forthcoming-ness British intelligence agencies aren't accustomed to. MI6 reacted badly. This resulted in MI6 employees trying to talk the court into shutting further transparency down. The court rejected this… publicly.

Fifthly, in March 2019, it was recognised that the direct communication which took place with the tribunal was inappropriate. An apology was given and it was clearly recognised that nothing like this should happen in the future. At the hearing before us, Sir James Eadie acknowledged that everyone had recognised that something serious had gone wrong.

These conversations dealt with revelations British intelligence agencies felt shouldn't be shared with the public.

On 5 March 2019, two members of the respondents’ staff contacted the tribunal secretary to state that the documents should not have been provided to the tribunal. On 7 March 2019, the tribunal secretary wrote to the respondents at the request of the President and stated that it was inappropriate to seek to intervene in the way that they had sought to do.

The government wants to hide something. Possibly that "something" is included in a recent report by IPT's oversight. The recently released report doesn't dig into the details, but makes it clear something approaching abhorrent was ordained by intelligence community handlers.

On renewal, six months after the original submission, SIS set out a number of indicators that the agent may have been involved in, or have contemplated, the serious criminality referenced above. We concluded that, on the basis of this new information, SIS’s ‘red lines’ had most likely been breached, but the renewal submission failed to make this clear. Whilst the submission referred to SIS’s ‘red lines’ and provided information about criminality that may have occurred and noted an increased risk in the case, it did not make expressly clear that SIS’s ‘red lines’ had probably been crossed.

That's the determination. Bad things were done but it was not made clear that bad things were done in written reports. It's a policy violation. It's also probably a human rights violation, but as far as its oversight can see, it's mostly problematic because the proper James Bond paperwork wasn't filled out correctly.

The IPT's refusal to bury this decision shows it's willing to tackle the most problematic aspects of national security openly, for the most part. The fact that MI6 tried to bury everything via a bypass of the adversarial process is an indication it won't be handling things honestly in the future. When the bad stuff comes out -- as it always does eventually -- UK spooks will try to bury it.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: investigatory powers tribunal, mi6, secrecy, transparency, uk


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread


  • icon
    ECA (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 11:23am

    Honor in the system

    Generally its the thought that if a FEW things dont come out, people look HARDER.
    The biggest thing you have is WHO does know whats going on.
    And if they are willing to bring things up, and have a chance of disappearing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ysth (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 1:21pm

    I can't parse the title; can someone explain it?

    Oh, is "Its" supposed to be "It's" (It Has)?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Dec 2020 @ 9:03pm

      Re:

      The criminal activity it owns. Posessive its criminal activity.
      Attempt is a noun here, if that helps.

      UK Spy Agency Fails In Attempt To Bury Records Of Its Criminal Activity

      Agency fails to hide its activity.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 23 Dec 2020 @ 2:13pm

    Oops

    MI6 in private messages: It'd be really great if you were to look the other way regarding our criminal activity and let us keep pretending it doesn't exist.

    Investigatory Powers Tribunal to everyone within earshot: Hey everyone, MI6 would really like you not to know about it's criminal activity! ... Now then what were you saying, something about not airing your dirty laundry?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Dec 2020 @ 2:27pm

      Re: Oops

      More succinctly:

      MI6 in private messages: Could you educate us about the Streisand effect?

      Investigatory Powers Tribunal: Sure!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Dec 2020 @ 2:25pm

    It's all Ian Fleming's fault.

    When the bad stuff comes out -- as it always does eventually -- UK spooks will try to bury it.

    MI6 has such a good cover story in the James Bond films that you just wouldn't expect it of them.

    I mean sure, the FBI had The G-men, The FBI Story, and The Siege, but they also had Panther, and oh so many actual public faux pas. Can you say "COINTELPRO", boys and girls? I knew you could!

    The CIA, meanwhile had much more direct attempts to control its media protrayal. For its trouble, it got "Glomared", stories of "the Cocaine Import Agency", and so on. They couldn't BUY good press. ... and they have tried.

    FSB, KGB, bah. In the US, they are portrayed as villains, so there's no trust there. But hey, fresh stories of FSB agents able to quote oddly specific details about English cathedral spires, and hot-off-the-presses stories of russian agents being trolled by their victim into revealing their deep-and-evil plans. Kinda makes you think about all those black powder bombs Boris and Natasha used, and how it paints a clown face on an otherwise unassuming Johnathan Teh-ah-tim-eh.

    But what do MI6 get? James Bond and the Kingsmen. The whole genrea of "over-the-top", incredible gadgets (and budgets), enough arm candy to rot your ... nevermind. You can't buy that kind of PR.

    ... or can you?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2020 @ 12:21am

      Re: It's all Ian Fleming's fault.

      The disturbing part is that it works at all for their image despite everyone knowing it is fiction.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Dec 2020 @ 1:28am

      Re: It's all Ian Fleming's fault.

      MI6 also got John le Carre, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and George Smiley Books, amongst other works.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wereisjessicahyde (profile), 24 Dec 2020 @ 2:30am

    This is outrageous

    MI6 should not be committing crimes in the UK. That's MI5's job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Dec 2020 @ 8:08am

    Better late than never: These people are becoming desparate

    Hypothesis: Security organizations (and their parent regimes) are becoming desperate.

    So many security organizations and parent regimes (ostensibly democratic and otherwise) have engaged in such bad behavior for so long that they can not recruit sufficient "good" people anymore. Good people as defined as well trained, ethical, honest, trustworthy and truthful aka virtuous/respectable.

    The inability to recruit good people means that they can't trust their own people, as well as anyone else. The inability to trust others turns security organizations and regimes into organized crime like organizations where the organization is the only entity it's people can "rely" on and everyone else is a target. Further, the philosophy is to "damn" the future and get all you can today.

    Worse, the not-good people who can be recruited are as self interested and self serving as the security organization, it's leaders and it's regime, thus, the organization can't rely on itself.

    Good people are going elsewhere, outside the realms where security organizations and their parent regimes work.

    In due course there will be no more "good" people. As ostensible socialism takes hold, all who attempt to be "good" must be destroyed in order to not stand out as superior to the mob. All who attempt to be "good" must be destroyed in order to prevent one executive/bureaucrat from showing themselves superior to their peers and advancing (by effectively using "good" subordinates).

    On the other hand, the real world of technology mandates as significant amount of work done correctly. Fuel, food, communications, drugs and so on can not be "persuaded" to come into being. Computers must be correctly programed in order to get the correct results (GIGO). The real world will allow only a limited amount of politics, regardless of the force used.

    Therefore, security organizations and their parent regimes are becoming desperate. Entities like MI6, CIA, FBI, DoD and their counterparts elsewhere are progressively falling behind technologically, for want of "good" people. While they will always be able to recruit muscle, they are losing ground in recruiting good technology people. There will always be villain technology types available for organized crime, terrorist groups and shabby governments. Thus, the ability of security organization to effectively protect their regime, budget and executive perks is deteriorating, more quickly than is comfortable for those losing power. Ergo, time to become desperate.

    (Of course the first action of the desperate is to deny being desperate.)

    Remember: Power corrupts absolutely, absolute power corrupts faster!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Special Affiliate Offer

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
.

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.