» Monday, April 30, 2007

Operation Crevice Court Case

Asked to clarify John Reid’s point that he rejected a public inquiry, but not necessarily an independent inquiry, the PMOS replied that firstly this court case should be recognised for what it was. It was a success. It was the prevention of a very serious set of attacks and as a result many lives had been saved. We should not jump from the fact that new evidence had now been made public, to the assumption that in some way 7/7 could have been prevented. The independent Intelligence Security Committee looked at this matter as part of the evidence for its report. Because of sub judice rules it could only refer indirectly to it when it published its report, but it did refer to it. Its Chairman Paul Murphy had made clear in a statement this afternoon that it had been kept fully abreast of any new information during the trial. He went on to say of the judgement they reached on prioritisation, that the decision was "understandable". And therefore he said today "I can confirm this judgement still stands. The fact that the July attacks were not prevented shows that there were and are clearly areas for improvement but overall the Committee found that there were no culpable failures by the Security and Intelligence Agencies. The conclusion of the trial today of those connected with the fertiliser bomb plot does not change that". John Reid was referring to the Prime Minister’s belief that now that we had the full transcript from the court case, it should be gone through again just to make sure that nothing had changed yet again. But there had been an investigation that was carried out by the ISC, and it had come to the conclusion that it did – that the prioritisation was understandable.

Asked if it had to an extent been referred back to Paul Murphy and the Committee, the PMOS replied that it was more in terms of that it was natural, now that the court case had been concluded, that they go through it again just to make sure that there was no evidence there that they did not consider as part of the original report. As Paul Murphy had said this afternoon, they had been kept fully up to date by the Security Services and Intelligence Agencies as any new evidence came to light. But just to make absolutely sure, the Prime Minister has asked them to carry out the task one more time.

Asked to clarify John Reid’s remark that questions on this issue would be posted on the website, the PMOS replied that he believed that the Department had put together some of the most natural questions arising from this and answered them in a Q&A format on their website.

Asked why we never knew the identity of this person, the PMOS replied that the key question was would it have been possible to say whether the people who turned out to be the 7/7 bombers were planning some sort of attack in the UK from the evidence available at the time? The conclusion, not just of the Security Services but also of the ISC, was no. We had to be very careful that we did not read back what we now know, to what was known at the time.

Put to him that the claim was that the Security Services had had them under surveillance, and that they knew who they were, but did not pass on the information, the PMOS replied that the position was that these two people turned out to be peripheral to what turned out to be Operation Crevice. But there was no suggestion at that stage that they were planning in any way an attack in the UK.

Put to him that they were on tape talking about planning fraud, and should this information not have been passed on, the PMOS replied that he would not be second guessing that part of it. The important question was would it have been reasonable to jump from that to find out they were planning 7/7? Answer, no.

Asked if it could not be argued that it would be a prejudiced inquiry as the ISC had already looked at it once, the PMOS replied that this argument only hung together if knowledge was seen as a hindrance in such matters. The ISC had looked at these matters repeatedly, and they were independent. They may not have come to the conclusion some people wanted them to, but that did not mean they were not doing their job.

Asked if an inquiry had been ruled out, the PMOS replied that we did not believe that there was a need for a further inquiry, other than asking the ISC to go over the matter again. A key consideration from the start had been to avoid diverting senior personal and large amounts of resource from within the Security Services at a time when the threat still remains very real.

Put to him that the Chairman of the Committee’s press statement had prejudiced his own inquiry, the PMOS replied that this was not the case. What it actually reported was what they had discovered so far. They would now go back over the evidence to ensure they have not missed anything.

Asked if they would be able to call witnesses, the PMOS replied that they were truly independent, and that was a matter for them.

Asked if the Prime Minister was satisfied that the Intelligence Services had the resources they need, the PMOS replied that it was important to remember that these events were pre 7/7. Post 7/7 there has been a massive increase in the resources available to the Intelligence Agencies, a further tranche of that had been announced by the Chancellor recently. There was a situation where the number of personnel in the intelligence field was increasing by 200-300 per year, which is the fastest they can given the need to absorb those people into a highly complex organisation.

Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news

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