Courtesy Of Mr Peter Oborne & Daily Mail
PETER OBORNE: Why MI6 Must Share The Blame For The Jihadis In Our Midst
Traditionally, among Britain’s intelligence services, there was a clear hierarchy.
MI6, otherwise known as the Secret Intelligence Service, was foremost. Its staff — mostly privately educated and considered charismatic yet smooth operators, were rated much higher than their socially inferior counterparts in MI5, the domestic intelligence service.
This categorisation was, of course, an over-simplification, and, thankfully, much has changed in the 25 years since I first began working as a political journalist at Westminster.
Inevitably, this week’s terrorist massacre in Manchester has put the spotlight on the work of both MI6 and MI5 in their role to protect the British people from those who wish to do us harm and who want to destroy our way of life.
The attack at Manchester Arena, pictured, has put the spotlight on the work of MI6 and MI5 in protecting the British people, writes Peter Oborne
Indeed, it is hard to praise too highly the work of MI5 in trying to keep the country safe — particularly in the face of the current threat from Islamist terrorists.
But, on the other hand, I am deeply worried about the performance of MI6.
The organisation’s roots go back to the early 1900s when the government was increasingly concerned about the threat to the British Empire posed by Germany.
Its first chief, Sir Mansfield Cumming, was known as ‘C’ because of the letter he used for initialling documents.
More recently, MI6 was led during the Blair years by Sir Richard Dearlove and his successor, Sir John Scarlett.
Notoriously, Scarlett compiled the dossier on Saddam Hussein’s so-called ‘weapons of mass destruction’ — which, though subsequently proved to be false, gave Blair the justification he wanted to persuade MPs that Britain should invade Iraq.
Under Scarlett, MI6 failed in its duty to warn the Government of the potential pitfalls of its foreign policy actions.
For his part, previously, Dearlove had been disgracefully suborned by Blair.
He let his and MI6’s independence be fatally compromised and allowed his organisation to become a propaganda tool for the Labour PM’s clique of war-mongerers.
Britain and the West have paid a huge price for the calamitous misjudgments of Scarlett and Dearlove.
Former MI6 head Sir John Scarlett, pictured, compiled the dossier on Saddam Hussein’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’ which proved to be false. Under his leadership, MI6 ‘failed in its duty to warn the Government of the potential pitfalls of its foreign policy actions’
The two spy agency bosses were both singled out for withering criticism in the Chilcot Report which investigated the circumstances of the run-up to the war and highlighted a litany of flawed information that MI6 had supplied.
Significantly, the then head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, said the invasion of Iraq had substantially increased the terror threat to the UK.
I believe that MI6 has failed to learn the lessons from this debacle. Above all, it has made very serious mistakes that have endangered this country’s security.
Often with the connivance of MI6, during the early years of the Syrian War, hundreds of British citizens were allowed to travel abroad to join jihadist organisations.
The reason MI6 certainly approved such involvement was because spy chiefs had taken it upon themselves to meddle in the internal affairs of Middle East countries.
In the case of Syria, they wanted to get as much help as possible in their mission to topple the Syrian president Bashir al-Assad.
There was a similar policy towards Libya. British citizens — it has been reported this week that among them was the father of the Manchester suicide-bomber — were undoubtedly encouraged to travel to the north African country to fight in the civil war there to get rid of Gaddafi.
Indeed, research by the Middle East Eye website has revealed the extent to which the British authorities, I believe with the encouragement of MI6, released terror suspects in this country from control orders which had previously been imposed on them in order to restrain their movements and stop them from using the internet.
Duly, these people were free to join terror groups in the Middle East and North Africa — organisations with links to Al Qaeda and other terror outfits.
Of course, as well as being enemies of al-Assad and Gaddafi, these groups were also enemies of the West.
So, while MI5 officers were working day and night to prevent Islamist terrorists inflicting carnage on British streets, MI6 officers were complicit in creating a generation of British-born jihadis who are prepared to do anything, and kill anyone — even young children — in their efforts to destroy this country.
This brings us directly to the Manchester suicide-bomber.
Along with his father and brother, Salman Abedi fought as a 16-year-old in the Libyan civil war. There have been reports, too, that he received military training in Syria.
There is every reason to speculate that his evil handiwork at the Manchester Arena on Monday night was in part a direct consequence of MI6’s meddling.
There is every reason to speculate that Salman Abedi’s (pictured) evil handiwork at the Manchester Arena on Monday night was in part a direct consequence of MI6’s meddling in Middle Eastern and north African affairs
The organisation is open to the charge that it placed what it perceived to be British foreign policy objectives ahead of the safety of British citizens.
Meanwhile, others in government have serious questions to answer. For example, on whose advice was it that the Home Office lifted the control orders on suspected jihadists?
And why were repeated warnings about Abedi to the police via an anti-terrorist hotline ignored?
The official reason is that MI5 has been woefully overstretched, having to deal with managing 500 investigations into suspected terrorists, involving as many as 23,000 ‘subjects of interest’.
What is certainly true is that the police and MI5 have not been helped by the rogue activities of some of their foreign intelligence partners in MI6.
It is worth pointing out that I’m not the only one perturbed by such behaviour within MI6, which has traditionally been licensed by the government to break the law and carry out illicit acts, on the assumption that it always acts in the British national interest.
Former MI6 officer Alastair Crooke, who worked for the service for 30 years and who has vast experience in the Middle East and Afghanistan, is concerned that some of its operators are not working in the national interest.
He told me: ‘It is not right that, on one hand, domestic police services are straining every sinew to protect our societies by fighting terrorism, while, on the other hand, elements in our and America’s security services have been arming and training jihadists and colluding in terrorism.’
The worry — and it is a profound one — is that if Britain’s two intelligence agencies are working at cross purposes, we will never be able to make our streets safe from terrorists.