INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE OF PEACE STUDIES AND GLOBAL PHILOSOPHY
Director, Dr. Thomas Clough Daffern B.A. (Hons) D.Sc. (Hon) Ph.D.
July 26, 2016
Dear Tim Farron MP, Leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, David Ford MLA, Leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, Colum Eastwood MLA, Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, Leanne Wood, AM, Leader of Plaid Cymru, Mike Nesbitt, MLA, Parliamentary Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Caroline Lucas, Parliamentary Leader of the Green Party, Nigel Farage, Leader of UKIP, Gerry Adams, Leader of Sinn Fein, Arlene Foster, MLA, Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Theresa May MP, Leader of the Conservative Party, Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, Patrick Harvie MSP, Co-Convenor of the Scottish Green Party.
I am writing to you as a historian and philosopher specialising in peace issues, interested in the question of who has political control over the intelligence services in the UK style system of democracy and constitutional monarchy. I have some historical observations and questions to share with you, as the leader of one of the UK political parties, simply in the interests of truth and ethics.
- I think the British people should have every confidence that its intelligence services are never, under any circumstances, ordered to investigate our own politicians and parliamentarians. They should be able to feel confident that the espionage services are never used to subvert democratic leaders and MP’s. Sadly at present we do not have this confidence. What we need to discover is: what are the parliamentary oversight responsibilities over our intelligence services ? Do the intelligence services have a duty to report if they are snooping on, or subverting, elected parliamentarians ? And who gives the green light for this kind of thing, at present ? In other words, before we legislate to change the system, we have to know how it is currently operating.
- There are historical instances of British intelligence probably concocting the infamous Zinoviev Telegram to destabilise Labours electoral chances early on in its history. Also, recently it has come out that British intelligence helped fund Mussolini’s rise to power and basically bankrolled his early career. It could be said then, with some truth, that the whole European fascist movement was partly a product of British military intelligence that was at the time terrified of the Bolshevik success in Russia. “Archived documents have revealed that Mussolini got his start in politics in 1917 with the help of a £100 weekly wage fromMI5. For the British intelligence agency, it must have seemed like a good investment. Mussolini, then a 34-year-old journalist, was not just willing to ensure Italy continued to fight alongside the allies in the first world war by publishing propaganda in his paper. He was also willing to send in the boys to “persuade” peace protesters to stay at home. Mussolini’s payments were authorised by Sir Samuel Hoare, an MP and MI5’s man in Rome, who ran a staff of 100 British intelligence officers in Italy at the time. Cambridge historian Peter Martland, who discovered details of the deal struck with the future dictator, said: “Britain’s least reliable ally in the war at the time was Italy after revolutionary Russia’s pullout from the conflict. Mussolini was paid £100 a week from the autumn of 1917 for at least a year to keep up the pro-war campaigning – equivalent to about £6,000 a week today.” (see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/oct/13/benito-mussolini-recruited-mi5-italy
- If British intelligence has historically intervened politically to such an extent already, and there are innumerable other such instances that can be cited, I think it is time to put on statutory footing a few principles, which should be tabled by parliamentary legislation. I hope you will agree with me.
- a) no British politicians should be subject to surveillance from the intelligence services
- b) no British political parties should be infiltrated by the intelligence services
- c) no UK parliamentary politicians (Lords or Commons) or party political leaders should be assassinated, denigrated, smeared or otherwise attacked either physically or verbally by any UK intelligence agents, who are sworn to protect democracy, not to attack it. If they have been involved in this kind of activity in the past, it should be brought to light and apologised for.
- c) no British political party members or leaders should be simultaneously serving as UK intelligence agents – we need to differentiate the two functions.
- d) there should be no attempt to infiltrate, subvert or denigrate British political parties by UK intelligence agents
- e) UK intelligence agents should be forbidden by law from misusing social media to denigrate, blacken or demonise UK political party leaders or members
- f) UK parliamentarians should not be recruited to work for MI5 or MI6 as it would compromise them and their future political careers could be subject to blackmail
- g) UK parliamentarians should take a pledge and oath not work for foreign intelligence agencies under any circumstances
- There are still some people who claim, perhaps rightly, that Tony Blair once worked for MI5 as an agent and was deliberately planted into the Labour Movement to destroy it from within. Questions need asking and answering to establish if this was in fact the case. If so, this is matter of political scandal and shows the over-reach of the intelligence services interfering in domestic democratic politics. This is why we need such legislation. Otherwise, parliament is corruptible and MP’s and Lords can be blackmailed by those operating behind the scenes, and we do not live in a democracy, but what could be called a “demonocracy”. Other questions remain about strange aspects of the deaths of John Smith, Robin Cook and Michael Meacher, and the British public deserve the right to know if their own or any foreign intelligence services were involved.
- Agreement also needs to be reached with friendly allied governments’ intelligence services to the effect that their intelligence agents likewise would be forbidden by UK law to infiltrate, subvert, damage, assassinate or otherwise interfere with Britain’s legitimate democratic political party members and leaders. No UK political leaders and parliamentarians should be allowed by law to be serving members of any foreign intelligence agency whatsoever and if found to be so serving, they would lose office automatically.
- All parliamentarians (of both houses) should be required to take a Parliamentary Veracity Oath, and if they are found to have lied on any official matter, they would lose office automatically. See my blog on this matter at THE VERACITY OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND HOLDERS OF PUBLIC OFFICE BILL : at https://thomascloughdaffern.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/the-veracity-of-members-of-parliament-and-holders-of-public-office-bill/
I understand the proposals in this letter are innovative. I would appreciate your response in writing to my ideas. Perhaps you could let me know your own understanding of the current system as it is currently functioning; in your view, who actually exercise democratic oversight of the UK’s intelligence services, and to whom are they accountable to ensure they do not overstep the bounds of ethics, morality and lawfulness ? The danger of the current system is that it is all too opaque and nobody knows where they stand, or who to trust. If we are going to function as an effective and fair democracy this needs to change. As a historian, I know it is a hallmark of totalitarian systems that they are run by their intelligence services in cahoots with a small cabal; it is a hallmark of real democracies that they are run by their parliamentary representatives. I believe the leaders of all political parties in parliament should also be interested in seeing such legislation put on the statute book, otherwise our democracy is not really playing by fair rules, is it ?
Finally, I would like to add that I am myself neither a member of any political party. Nor, of course, a member of the UK or any other intelligence service. I am merely a philosopher and an academic, and so regard myself as a member of the “Wisdom services”, which is something entirely different, and so I am writing merely as someone who has the best interests of our country at heart.
Dr Thomas C Daffern
The above letter was emailed to all heads of political parties in the UK with representation in Westminster or in one of the devolved assemblies. I was moved to suggest this after reflecting on the Chilcot Report and its failure to address the deeper questions of why the UK was dragged into an illegal war in Iraq, against the obvious wishes of the British people, such as the role of 9/11 in the background, and Blair’s apparent willful sell out to US foreign policy interests. the blatant demonisation of Jeremy Corbyn in the media is another obvious matter of concern, and the way that whenever a genuinely left wing Labour leader raises his head over the parapet of consensual myopia in UK politics, they are found dead in mysterious circumstances. As yet, there appears to be no statutory right of protection for politicians from their own intelligence services, which is a bizarre situation, nor from the intelligence services of even “friendly countries”. The letter suggest that we amend this situation by providing a statutory right of protection for all parliamentarians, either in Westminster or in devolved assemblies. It also prevents the absurd situation of one political party (whoever happens to be in government) misusing the intelligence apparatus to infiltrate or spy on their political opponents. Such behaviors are the hallmarks of totalitarian regimes, not effective parliamentary democracies. There are enough serious security risks to the UK and to its politicians as it is, so that at least this one layer of concern could be removed.
The media has reported on ongoing legal uncertainty regarding these matters. the Independent said: “British intelligence agencies have been spying on MPs and peers in contravention of a decades-old convention prohibiting surveillance of politicians’ communications, a tribunal has heard. Hitherto-secret MI5, MI6 and GCHQ documents revealed in court that the agencies amended internal policies on surveillance of parliamentarians eight times in the past 12 months. The updated internal rules fail to comply with a 50-year-old political convention, known as the Wilson doctrine, which states that no parliamentarian’s telephone can be tapped unless there is a major national emergency and that changes to the policy will be reported to Parliament by the Prime Minister.Green Party politicians Caroline Lucas MP and Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, together with former Respect MP George Galloway, brought the legal action following CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about surveillance and the collection of metadata. The trio believes it is likely their communications were intercepted. Their case, contested by the intelligence agencies, is being fought in a rare public hearing before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, although some parts of the Government’s defence will be kept secret. The IPT panel is being asked to confirm that the Wilson doctrine has force in law. Ben Jaffey, representing the Green party politicians, said the case was about what safeguards were required before members of the legislature were subject to intercept or surveillance. He said MPs need to communicate privately with their constituents and potential whistleblowers. The tribunal heard that officers from the three spy agencies have operated under eight different policies concerning interception of parliamentarians’ communications in the last 12 months alone. GCHQ introduced a policy in March this year that did not require approval by the Prime Minister, or any Minister, before deliberately targeting the communications of a parliamentarian. The policy was then revised in June 2015″. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/british-intelligence-service-spying-on-mps-in-defiance-of-laws-prohibiting-it-10411996.html