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28 May, 2013 16:15

UK security services ‘completely out of control’

The UK security services are overrun with incompetence and vested business interests, without being subject to checks themselves, British investigative journalist Tony Gosling told RT.

An extension of their powers and surveillance capabilities following the Woolwich tragedy will not benefit the UK populace.

MI5 has kept tabs on numerous terrorists who have followed through with successful attacks, despite surveillance, without anyone stepping in to stop the perpetrators. Where are the checks on their capabilities, Gosling asks, and why has nobody yet stepped forward to offer explanations or been held to account?

We’ve seen extremist groups like the English Defence League react, but are we now at a point where we’re seeing tolerant moderate people now turning against their Muslim neighbors?

Tony Gosling: It seems to be happening; it’s extremely worrying. But let’s not forget that the Western intelligence services have been involved in criminal acts in the past that have fueled this kind of sectarian violence which seems to be beginning here in Britain. There are some serious questions that MI5 have got to answer about what happened last week in London in Woolwich - first of all condolences go to Lee Rigby’s family - and the horrendous part of all of that is that how did these guys who were right at the very top of the terror watch list, how on Earth did they not get spotted preparing for some kind of terror act? Was their car bugged for example – this is one question that hasn’t been answered.

MI5 have gone very quiet on all these kinds of topics. How did they get ammunition? How did they get a revolver? Have they been following Lee? These kinds of questions. They’ve got something like 4,000 staff, MI5, and if they can’t keep an eye on the people who are on the very top of the watch list then there needs to be a real shakeup and heads need to roll there. 

The MI5 headquarters in central London. (Reuters)

RT:The UK home secretary though, has said there needs now to be a look at the Communications Data Act – stronger powers of surveillance. That is necessary now, isn’t it? Because if you did have those stronger powers of surveillance then those guys may not have slipped through the net.

TG: Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? No I don’t think this is the right to be doing at all. We actually need to have a look at who is to blame here. MI5’s job is to stop people like this committing acts like this and they haven’t done it. This isn’t the first time. If we go back to the London bombing in 2005, MI5 have been following these guys around as well. Now, all fair play to them if they can stop some plots taking place, but these guys were really at the top of the list, and if they can’t stop these people then what are they there for? You go back even to the ‘90s and the Bishopsgate bomb. We now know that MI5 were following the IRA for days and in the months with this bomb beforehand, and yet still allowed them to blow it up.

So the oversight of the security services really needs to be looked at. And I think we need to have some serious changes in the way it runs. The other thing is the oversight. MPs don’t oversee MI5 and MI6. It’s actually civil servants that do and they are then overseen by a handful of MPs including - what I would suggest are rather lightweight MPs - pro-establishment like Hazel Blears and Malcolm Rifkind. So there isn’t any proper oversight. And what these intelligence services seem to do every time is to hide behind the veil of national security: “We can’t tell you what’s going on.” Even the inquiry that’s been instituted into the failures of what happened last Wednesday is going to be kept entirely secret. And I’m afraid it’s time for them to come out from under their shells and get a proper looking at so that this kind of thing really can’t happen again.

They’re not going to play this game, I can assure you, of saying “We need more money, we need more power, and we need more surveillance of the general population,” because they had all the laws they needed to stop these people doing what they did last Wednesday. They don’t need any more power whatsoever.

RT:But the government is doing something by setting up a new terrorism task force to target hate preachers and extremism. Now, doing that, wouldn’t that stop that sort of violent act?

TG: I don’t actually think so. I think one of the things which would stop it is William Hague pursuing this foreign policy which bears no relevance to what the British people actually want. It’s not in our interests to be trying to arm Al-Qaeda and Syria as he’s been trying to do today over in Brussels. Thankfully, most of the rest of Europe thinks it’s a ridiculous concept and is not going to let him do it. We actually need to have politicians who represent what we say rather than business interests.

Back in the 1990s, MI5 was actually courting business interests saying to HSBC “Would you like us to come and spy for you, to give you information from our files?” They also said the same to BAE Systems, one of the biggest arms manufacturers in the world.

I’m afraid this is an MI5 that’s completely out of control. They just seem to do what they want and there’s no proper oversight of our security services. Once you get this sort of situation you’ve got the possibility of all sorts of things going on illegally. I mean, for example, we had this interview that was done on the BBC last Friday evening, where the chap, as he’s being interviewed, Special Branch turn up at the BBC and arrest him as soon as he’s coming out. Now, you can’t just arrest people for telling their own version – friends of terrorists - about various stories to do with….for example, this chap that committed this act it looks like, last Wednesday, having been tortured and attempted to be recruited by MI5, the public needs to know these things.

And we, as parliamentarians as well, need to know these things if they’re going to have any proper oversight of our security services.  And we really need to do that, if we’re going to have any kind of real anti-terror operation in this country – we need to have accountable security services. Because at the moment we don’t have at all. 

Sergeant Howley of the Royal Military Police attached to 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles writes down information during a patrol in Nahr e Saraj, Helmand. (AFP Photo / Bay Ismoyo)

RT:Does this draw attention to the public on Britain’s foreign policy? In what way could this have an impact on future military engagements in Muslim countries?

TG: It doesn’t just have an impact on the Islamic community. Many people in this country are unhappy. Look, for example, at what we’ve done to Iraq: an illegal war, no we’ve had another bomb attack today, 50 people killed over a hundred people injured. We’ve made a mess and a wreck of these places. The Arab’s League prediction that we were going to open gates of hell in Iraq has come true. Actually Britain and Tony Blair, as well as George Bush too, are responsible for this. So it’s not just the Muslim population here that are angry.

The other thing is we’ve got other extremists here in Britain, anti-Islamic extremists. Two weeks ago a man coming from Mosque in Birmingham was murdered and this got almost no coverage whatsoever. We need to make sure that the security services are taking exactly the same sort of measures against the anti-Muslims as they are against the Islamic organizations. What they are trying to do is to demonize Muslims in a similar way the Nazis demonized Jews back in 1930s and it’s ridiculous. We’ve got to stop it. We don’t want that from MI5, thank you very much.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.