Lee Rigby atrocity: The acid test facing the MPs who hold the security services to account

Lee Rigby; Pic courtesy of AP Press

Lee Rigby;
Pic courtesy of AP Press

Britain’s only body that holds MI5 and MI6 to account is soon to produce a report on one of the most savage terrorist killings in this country – the hacking to death on the streets of Woolwich in south London of drummer Lee Rigby.

I am told that the security services have had to hand over highly sensitive material to Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee about the security services knowledge of his killers as changes in the law last year stopped our spies duping the committee by pretending they don’t have it. This duplicity came to light after the inquiry by Sir Peter Gibson  Dame Janet Paraskeva and Peter Riddell, a very through journalist, discovered information on the treatment of detainees  who are alleged to have been tortured abroad which had been withheld from MPs on the committee.

His report is here .

The committee has had a very bad press and been attacked by MPs on the Commons home affairs committee. In a report on counter terrorism published at the end of April, the committee was scathing about its role.

It said; ”  We do not believe the current system of oversight is effective and we have concerns that the weak nature of that system has an impact upon the credibility of the agencies accountability, and to the credibility of Parliament itself. The scrutiny of the work of the security and intelligence agencies should be not the exclusive preserve of the Intelligence and Security Committee. ”

There have been some key reforms. As I reported in an article on Exaro   the committee has both new powers and new resources. What I am questioning is whether they will use them so the public have the unvarnished truth.

As well as the power to compel the security services to hand over information, the committee, in an age of austerity, has seen its budget nearly doubled from about £750,000 to £1.3m after a Parliamentary debate  (contribution by Julian Lewis MP)  revealed it was the worst funded scrutiny committee of the security services in the western world. This has enabled the committee, I am told, to employ competent ex spies to quiz existing spies, to avoid cover ups. Credit should be given to former Tory Cabinet minister, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chairman, for pushing for these changes.

This means that the inquiry into the Lee Rigby atrocity will be the first to be properly funded and with new powers to get to to the truth. There still is a  long stop which enables David Cameron, who appointed all existing members (though this will change), to censor part of its report if he wanted to. We will have to hope there is no self  censorship before it reaches him.

What is disturbing is that there are already signs that the security services – mindful that they might be trashed for failing to keep full tabs on Rigby’s killers- are  briefing the mainstream media as part of a damage limitation exercise. A recent article in the Sunday Times  where their solution was to demand even more intrusive monitoring of the internet is an example.

As I reported on Exaro : ” The UK’s Security Service, better known as MI5, faces claims that it failed to realise the threat posed by his killers, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, who were jailed for life in February after being convicted of murder…

Relatives of Adebolajo say that MI5 had even approached him in 2011 to become an agent after he was deported from Kenya.

According to Kenyan police, Adebolajo led a group of eight young men who were trying to travel to Somalia to fight for al-Shabaab, an offshoot of al-Qaeda.”

What must be clear is that the report from MPs must concentrate on practical ways the security service can protect us, not giving them even more powers – after the revelations over the scale of the monitoring of us all through the  whistleblower Edward Snowdon- to obtrusively check every internet site. It will be acid test to see what is released and whether the committee- now properly resourced – can do a good job.

It is time for the intelligence services to be intelligent in chasing terrorists. It is not their job to want to be an overarching snooping body on the whole nation.




7 thoughts on “Lee Rigby atrocity: The acid test facing the MPs who hold the security services to account

  1. Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    While this article concentrates on what limits the intelligence services should have, it should also be noted that right-wing ‘patriotic’ groups have tried to turn Drummer Rigby into a talisman for their anti-Islamic attitudes, and I am concerned that any report should not be used to fuel such views.


  2. Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    The lack of effective supervision and democratic control of the intelligence services has been a major issue for some time. It is the raison d’etre for the parapolitical magazine, Lobster. Robin Ramsay, its editor, started it back in the 1980s out of concern for the stories of official British intelligence involvement in a number of areas, such as MI5’s smearing of Harold Wilson as a KGB spy; collusion between the British state and loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland, and the death of Hilda Murrell. It raised similar concerns to this article after 7/7 bombings in London. It was concerned about the way the intelligence services had acknowledged they had made mistakes, and demanded a larger budget, without actually providing any concrete information to the government about how it was going to improve, or be made accountable for its mistakes, mistakes that had resulted in the deaths and mutilation of hundreds of people.
    MIke on his reblog of this article rightly warns about the way Lee Rigby’s murder is being used by extreme Right-wing groups to promote their own racist and xenophobic agenda. In this regard, it needs to be noted that the security services have been helped considerably by members of the Muslim community here in Britain. And I remember hearing on the news, way back in the first days after 9/11, that when the extremist group that eventually became Al-Muhajiroun appeared openly trying to raise money and praising the terrorists, their stall was attacked and they were done over by an outraged British Muslim. One of the complaints I’ve heard from liberal British Muslims is that there simply is not enough media coverage of their campaigns against the fanatics and preachers of hate. They are around, and they do hold marches and demonstrations against the viciously intolerant. So, be aware of this the next time someone tries to present British Islam as monolithic, or claim that they are all somehow sympathisers with Rigby’s killers.


  3. There is little chance of getting to the truth when any questioning of the official media account is met with accusations of being sick and disrespectful to the Rigby family. This however does not make the questions go away it merely strengthens the feeling that we are being misled and lied to. We are labeled “conspiracy theorists” for pointing out that a car cannot crash into a signpost (which regulations state must be made of steel tubing with a wall thickness of an absolute maximum of 4mm) at 30-40mph and leave that signpost standing upright and totally undamaged. We are derided for asking “where is the blood?” even after Ingrid (the Angel of Woolwich) has stated “he was not bleeding, he did not have any injuries, it’s bizarre that he was dead really” as she did in her interview with the Daily Mail on the anniversary of the attack. Details like Boyadee’s account of Adebowale blowing his finger off with a rusty old handgun that was neither loaded or operational despite pictures clearly showing that this was not the case are ignored. This case has destroyed what little trust I have in the media and the police. What we witnessed in Woolwich was street theater. Anyone who takes the time to do a little research into the event cannot fail to come to the same conclusion unless of course they have an agenda to push. We will get no truth from those behind the lie. There are 1.9 billion reasons why I believe MI5 staged this hoax. They have taken the British public for fools (quite rightly in most instances) but some of us take offence at having our intelligence insulted. You appear to be pushing the myth, so which are you, idiot or shill?


    • I am afraid I totally disagree with you. There may be points of detail in what you say but the idea that the death of Lee Rigby was a hoax staged by MI5 is absurd and somewhat distasteful. I have no agenda whatsoever over this – except to ensure that the security services we pay for are held properly to account and we are not diverted into a debate demanding even more intrusive monitoring of perfectly innocent people by the state or its agents.


      • “Once you eliminate the impossible then whatever remains no matter how improbable must be the truth” Arther Conan Doyle (also quoted by Mr Goitlebb for the defence at the trial). Do you believe that the damage to the car was caused by the undamaged signpost? They are designed to give in order to absorb any impact so on that basis I would say that is impossible. Was it caused by contact with Lee Rigby? The level of damage is too great for this to be true as in order to achieve the Ncap rating that the Vauxhall Tigra has it would be designed to whip a pedestrian off their feet and over the bonnet. Again this scenario is impossible. What other options remain? The car crash would appear to be staged. The chances of Muslim (or any other) “terrorists” killing someone at the side of a staged car crash is again impossible. Of course you prefer to say that this is “absurd and somewhat distasteful” rather than attempting to address the points I have raised. “He was not bleeding, he did not have any injuries, it’s bizarre that he was dead really” http://youtu.be/CRikGwk4wl0 How can these comments be explained? On the same day she gave an interview to the Telegraph in which she says “The body fell about here” and points to a place a good 20-30 feet from where we have been led to believe that the actual attack happened and where the trail of blood is seen in the overhead pictures http://youtu.be/f2wtOwj3pGQ She also goes on to describe how the accident happened despite saying in the Mail interview that “she arrived two minutes after the accident happened” so how could she possibly know? If you are unable or unwilling to address the points I have raised then that’s fine but until you do then you are merely parroting the media bull. Any explanation as to why neither Ingrid or Boyadee were called to give evidence at the trial?


  4. My opinion is Woolwich was a hoax, multi-layered and relying purely on the ignorance and complicity of the public through apathy, without media & a false education it wouldn’t be possible! Also keep away from the pseudo intellectual sources that rely on needing people to know how “best” they are, lest they brag about their own ignorance and pass it on to others.


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