Buried in the Boxing Day news is a story about the ISC (the Intelligence and Security Committee, who supposedly oversee MI5, MI6 and GCHQ) and their new powers to obtain information from the British security services.
Whereas previously the ISC merely had the ability to ‘request’ information they can now ‘demand’ any information about any operation from MI5 and MI6. According to Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chairman of the ISC, this means we can be confident that ‘nothing is being held back.
There is one fatal flaw with this all new buffed up ISC – if they don’t know about an operation then their ability to demand information about it is irrelevant. Given the merry dance MI5 led the ISC on over what they knew and what they were up to in the years before the 7/7 bombings, we can have little faith that this new power will genuinely make the ISC any more effective at providing oversight. The fact that this story was put out on a great day to bury any kind of news suggests that these new powers are in fact nothing of the sort.