Exclusive: 'Snooper’s charter’ would not have prevented Woolwich attack, says MI5

Using Drummer Rigby killing to justify extra powers is ‘cheap’, say security chiefs

A Conservative-backed plan to allow police and the security services unprecedented access to people’s internet communications would not have helped prevent the murder of Lee Rigby, M15 officers have indicated.

Senior security sources have told The Independent that attempts to cite last Wednesday’s killing as a reason to push forward with the controversial “snooper’s charter” was a “cheap argument”.

The remarks will be seen as a rebuke to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, who suggested at the weekend that the Draft Communications Bill was “essential for the intelligence agencies” to combat the threat of terrorism.

In fact, the security source suggested, the Bill would be of greater use to the police in gathering evidence in the early stages of an investigation than it would be in preventing the type of attack seen in Woolwich.

They stressed any decision to proceed with the Bill, which is being blocked by the Liberal Democrats, was a political one and the effect on civil liberties would have to be taken into consideration.

Today, it also emerged that the head of MI5, Andrew Parker, has written to the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee setting out what the security services knew about the activities of the Woolwich suspects Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo. This follows talks between Mr Parker and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chairman of the committee, last week.

In the wake of the attack it emerged that Adebolajo and Adebowale were both known to MI5 – and may have been approached to act as informers.

Today, Adebowale was taken to a police station in south London after being released from hospital.

He was formally arrested on suspicion of the murder and suspicion of the attempted murder of a police officer.

He will now be interviewed by detectives from the Metropolitan Police Service Counter Terrorism Command.

In an interview, Sir Malcolm insisted that MI5 was not being criticised over the killings. “I don’t think they’re in the dock. I think that would be very unfair,” he said.

“Do remember one fundamental point: the fact we have not had anyone killed until these tragic events in Woolwich since the 7/7 bombings [in London] in 2005 is not because there hasn’t been terrorist plots. Every year since 2005 there has been at least one, sometimes two or even more, terrorist plots which were disrupted and prevented from killing British citizens, partly because of the work of MI5 – in some cases very largely because of the work of MI5 – and other intelligence agencies.”

Sir Malcolm said he was very confident the committee would get to the bottom of MI5’s work related to the Woolwich incident and that Mr Parker had offered him assurances that MI5 would fully co-operate with the investigation. The ISC has Parliament-approved powers to access all relevant files and internal papers from MI5.

Sir Malcolm said that after the ISC deliberations, David Cameron and Parliament would receive a report.

He added that elements of Parliament’s report might be redacted for public viewing on the grounds of national security.

Sir Malcolm added that the effect of government spending cuts on the security services would also be analysed during the ISC’s review.

“We would be concerned if there were to be any further reduction in resources for the intelligence agencies,” he said.

“Whether this is relevant to the Woolwich incident, frankly I’m not going to comment on it at the moment. We will go where the evidence takes us and we will come to a judgement as to whether that is indeed part of the problem, if there was a problem or if it’s not relevant to this particular matter.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste