MI5 cleared of withholding 7/7 evidence

The security services have today been cleared of withholding evidence from an investigation into the London bombings.

The intelligence and security committee, which carried out the inquiry, said it was satisfied allegations that MI5 kept material from it “are not true”.

It comes as the committee publishes its annual report for 2005 -2006.

The report, which focuses on the workings of the three main security agencies – MI5, MI6 and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) – is largely positive about the workings of the intelligence community.

But it does express concern over the ability of the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee to act as an arbiter of intelligence analysis.

In May, the committee, which comprises nine MPs and one peer, said following its inquiry into the London bombings that the security services could not be blamed for what occurred.

It cleared them of failing to track Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shazad Tanweer – two of the four British-born men who blew themselves up on the London transport system on July 7th – who had been known to the security services beforehand.

And it said the decision to lower the threat level from “severe general” to “substantial” prior to July 7th was “not unreasonable” give that it still indicated a high level of threat.

But in the days following the report’s publication, MI5 faced allegations that it kept back material from bugging operations and computer analyses, and doubts were raised about when Khan became known to the intelligence services.

Today, committee chairman Paul Murphy denied that any material had been withheld or that the committee was misled.

“I wish to take this opportunity to say that we have investigated these claims and have satisfied ourselves that they are not true. Our report stands as an accurate representation of the facts,” he said.

On the operation of the wider intelligence community, Mr Murphy reported “real improvement” on governance, organisational structures, financial management and professional skills for staff.

However, on the position of the JIC chairman, he warned that the decision to merge the post with that of security and intelligence co-ordinator could compromise his ability to be the independent arbiter of intelligence.

The report states that the merger is not consistent with the message of the Butler review, which investigated the 45-minute claim on weapons of mass destruction, that “stressed the need to strengthen opportunity for challenge and dissent at all levels across the intelligence community”.