Communications with Security Service Tribunal in 1999

I took some more potshots at the SS-Tribunal in the first half of 1999. The correspondence between myself and the Tribunal Secretary is detailed on this webpage. Ultimately I decided not to pursue another complaint with them, partly from Robin Ramsay's advice (and that of a solicitor I consulted), but mostly because it was rather obvious from Mr Brooks' replies that the Tribunal has no investigative means of its own and is that useless animal, a toothless watchdog.

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Included with this first letter was a copy of the leaflet, "Complaints about the Security Service". This tells you that the Tribunal can order "the service to end its inquiries about you; the service to destroy any records it holds about those inquiries; the quashing of a property warrant; financial compensation". Yeah, right. Look, there's a flying pig, oink-flap, oink-flap.

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My subsequent letter to Nick Brooks, Tribunal Secretary, dated 25 March 1999, said;

Dear Mr Brooks,

We spoke on the phone last week and you kindly sent a copy of the form, "Complaints about the Security Service".

I have a few questions which I should like to ask you, before I undertake the task of making a formal complaint. As you know I made a complaint in February 1997, and in June of that year the tribunal made a bland and unsatisfactory statement that "no determination in your favour has been made on your complaint". During our phone conversation I expressed the view that the Tribunal was incapable of performing its functions and acts as a whitewashing body for the Security Service. My questions are as follows;

(1) Has the Security Service Tribunal ever during its existence found in favour of a compaint against MI5?

(2) Is the Tribunal able to disclose whether "no determination in your favour" is made because MI5 claims to have no inquiries on a subject, or whether it is made because MI5 admits to actions against a subject but claims justification?

If disclosure is not possible for individual cases, then in 1997 for how many cases (out of what total) did MI5 claim justification?

(3) Is the Tribunal able to investigate information such as British Airways passenger lists, given that these could conclusively prove MI5 involvement? Would the Tribunal be forced to rely on MI5 to carry out such investigations, or would it have some other means of investigating? It might look slightly ridiculous for the Tribunal to rely on MI5 to investigate their own misdeeds.

When I made my previous complaint to the Tribunal in 1997 I gave very little information as to the nature of my complaint. This time I intend to give as complete information as possible; but before I do so, I would ask you to answer the questions above, to outline the "ground rules" for a Tribunal investigation and reporting of its results.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Brooks replied by sending me a photocopy of two pages from the 1997 Report of the Security Service Commissioner, as follows.

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The photocopied pages from the 1997 Report follow.

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In particular, the answers the report gives to my questions are; the Security Service Tribunal has NEVER found in favour of a complainant; see sections 29 and 31 of the scanned report. Nick Brooks has confirmed orally over the phone that he has no memory of the Tribunal ever finding in favour of a complainant.

Secondly, the question of whether the Tribunal is able to disclose "no determination in your favour" is because MI5 claims to have no inquiries on a subject, or whether it's because MI5 admits to having inquiries but claims they are justified. The answer to this one is in section 24, which says the ambiguity is intentional; and the Tribunal will in no circumstances give an unambiguous answer of whether MI5 claims or disclaims inquiries on a subject.

In section 27 of the report, SS Commissioner Lord Justice Stuart-Smith says the blanket denials "might lead some to speculate that members of the service are carrying out operations involving unlawful interference with property, such as the installation of eavesdropping equipment, without first obtaining a warrant from the Home Secretary." He goes on to try to deny this speculation. But we've heard from Peter Wright that this went on all the time in the 1960s. So why wouldn't it still be happening now? Of course it is.

The Tribunal Secretary had avoided answering the question from my previous letter, of whether the Tribunal had any independent investigative capacity. So I asked him again.

Dear Mr Brooks,

Thank you for your letter dated 6 April enclosing an extract of the 1997 Report of the Security Service Commissioner. This answers two of the three questions asked in my letter of 25 March.

The third question remains. In 1993 I travelled on a British Airways flight on which there also travelled four men, one of whom stared at me, laughed and said, "if he tries to run away we'll find him". I took this to mean that these were the men who had been pursuing me for some time in the UK. This leads me to ask again the last question in my previous letter;

(3) Is the Tribunal able to investigate information such as British Airways passenger lists, given that these could conclusively prove MI5 involvement? Would the Tribunal be forced to rely on MI5 to carry out such investigations, or would it have some other means of investigating? It might look slightly ridiculous for the Tribunal to rely on MI5 to investigate their own misdeeds.

I would very much hope that some means is available to the Tribunal and Commissioner to investigate possible MI5 malefaction, other than relying on MI5 themselves. When I receive an answer to this question from you, I will work to put together a more comprehensive and detailed complaint for the Tribunal's consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Brooks' reply was;

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Brooks doesn't want to give a direct reply to the question, since that would place him in a bad light. So he gives an indirect answer; the tribunal, he avoids saying, has no investigative capacity; there is no mention even of any investigative capacity provided by MI5 themselves; nobody can investigate anything, all the Tribunal can do is ask MI5, and they, in their "Alice in Wonderland" world, can redefine the truth as it pleases them, and dissemble, and lie.

Before deciding not to put another formal complaint before the Tribunal, I asked Robin Ramsay, editor of Lobster magazine, what he thought of the idea of making a complaint to the Tribunal. He replied;

RESPONSE Yes it is a waste of time. They will do nothing.

In a further email he elaborated;

As for quoting me on the Security Service Tribunal - if you think my comments would mean anything, feel free. The problem people have is this: they almost have to go through the motions of going to the Tribunal for if they don't they will always be asked, 'Why didn't you go the proper authorities?' (This is one of the chief functions of 'the proper authorities'.)

Robin Ramsay

So the sum of the various parts of this story is; DON'T GO TO THE TRIBUNAL. If you do, then MI5 will open a file on you (if you don't have one already). Don't do as I did, do as I say. If you feel a really deep-seated urge to complain, do so first under an invented name, which will make you understand just how useless the Tribunal is, how little information they provide, and how unpleasant it is to know that you have given MI5 a reason to officially open a file on you in their Registry.