Page last updated at 14:05 GMT, Thursday, 5 March 2009

Mosley case prompts MPs' review

Max Mosley
Max Mosley won a privacy case in court against the News of the World

MPs are to examine security service vetting procedures in the wake of the Max Mosley affair.

One of the women involved in the expose of the motor racing boss was married to an MI5 officer who has since quit.

It prompted an internal review of the way MI5 staff and their spouses are checked for security risks.

But in its annual report, the Security and Intelligence Committee said it would be looking at the "risks inherent in the vetting system" in more detail.

Mr Mosley successfully sued the News of the World newspaper over claims that an orgy he took part in had a Nazi theme. He is now taking his challenge to privacy laws to the European Court of Human Rights.

In its annual report for 2007/08, published earlier, the intelligence and security committee said it wanted to examine vetting procedures across all three services it monitors - MI5, MI6 and listening post GCHQ - in the wake of the Mosley revelations.


It said when the member of staff's link to the Mosley affair came to light he was "immediately suspended from the Service since he had failed to inform the Service about what he knew". The officer in question has since resigned.

The Director General of MI5 told the committee checks are continuously carried out on spouses or partners of staff but they do not receive the same level of scrutiny as the member of staff.

This incident has highlighted the risks inherent in the vetting system used by all three agencies
Intelligence and Security Committee

But the report adds: "Critically, despite the rigorous nature of the checks carried out, the process nevertheless relies on individuals being open and honest and informing the Service about their personal circumstances - something this member of staff singularly failed to do.

"The Director General told the Committee that the key lesson the Service has learnt from the incident is the need to underline more clearly to staff their responsibility to report any changes in their personal circumstances, so that the Service can assess any potential security risks.

"This incident has highlighted the risks inherent in the vetting system used by all three agencies. The Committee intends to look at this in more detail in the near future."

Elsewhere in the report, MPs brand the scrapping of a secure IT system for sharing secret government intelligence "appalling".

'Ethical counsellor'

The committee says "tens of millions of pounds" had been spent on the Scope system before it was dropped by ministers.

The body also expressed concern that job cuts at the Ministry of Defence risked damaging the government's ability to analyse threats.

The committee said: "We have consistently reported concerns about Scope and are appalled that Phase II of the system - on which tens of millions of pounds have been spent - has now had to be scrapped.

"We sincerely hope that lessons have been learnt from this failure and that they will be used when plans for the future are being drawn up.

"We also expect the development of any replacement capability to be subject to more stringent controls, and greater management and financial accountability, from the outset."

The report also reveals MI5 staff have had an "ethical counsellor" since 2006, to which they can discuss any concerns they might have about their work, although only about 12 members of staff have used the service, something MPs said was "reassuring".

It also expresses concern that "diverting resources to tackle the current terrorist threat means that such longer-term challenges might not be receiving adequate attention".

And it says some lessons have been learned from the 2007 floods, which caused disruption at GCHQ, but there was "still scope for improvement".

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