Spy chief speaks on the record: "Thank you, and that's it, really"

Jon Day, Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, spoke publicly at the launch of the committee's official history at Admiralty House last night

Share

It was refreshing to have the head of the British intelligence services introduced at last night's Mile End Group event, held to launch the first volume of the official history of the Joint Intelligence Committee with the words, "and he is going to speak on the record".

Jon Day, the chairman of the JIC, was introduced by Sir Kevin Tebbit, former Permanent Under Secretary at the Ministry of Defence and a visiting professor at Queen Mary University of London, pictured on the right, above, with Mike Goodman, author of  The Official History of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Volume I: From the Approach of the Second World War to the Suez Crisis, at Admiralty House on Whitehall. (Thanks to Thomas Rid for the photograph.)

Day then said: "Thank you, Kevin. And that's it really."

But he was only joking, and went on to deliver an important short speech on the challenges facing the intelligence services, including one fine story which deserves to be declassified and to which I shall return.

Goodman spoke, admitting that his was a tough sales pitch: the book is priced at a mere £67.41 on Amazon or £64.04 for the Kindle version. First, he cleared up one of the most important historical questions about the JIC, namely when it started to be referred to as "the Jick". This "Americanised" form started to be used in the mid-1990s, he said.

His book doesn't go that far, of course, taking the story up to Suez. But it starts with the first meeting of the Committee on 7 July 1936, "when there were storm clouds gathering". Goodman said that whatever one thought of the ability of the Meteorological Office to predict the future or of that of the JIC for that matter the Met Office has excellent historical records. He could therefore assure us that, at 3pm on 7 July 1936, "there were indeed storm clouds gathering".

He told a story that will be familiar to all researchers, of searching a database for an obvious term and being surprised that there were no hits at all. "It wasn't until I got the 'i' and the 'e' the wrong way round in 'Chiefs of Staff' that I got hundreds of results."

Douglas Hurd, who was Foreign Secretary from 1989 to 1995, also spoke (pictured with Goodman and Day, centre, Sir Kevin Tebbit standing behind), to an audience that included five former chairmen of the JIC. Lord Hurd summarised the story told in the book's 500 pages as that of the gradual assertion of the power of the Foreign Office. After the Second World War, he said, most of the battles "took place within 300 yards of here". The JIC was created by the service chiefs to co-ordinate their separate intelligence operations, but eventually "the civilians gained control".

Anyway, to return to Jon Day's "on the record" speech, he told the story of how, when he was a Ministry of Defence civil servant, working in the private office of the Armed Forces Minister, a grand service chief arrived with a top-secret document in a special wallet. Day was given strict instructions to hand over the document to the minister without looking at it, but he was not told that he couldn't look at it after the minister had seen it. Day discovered that it was half of the front page of the previous Sunday's Sunday Express, with a note attached from the head of the Defence Intelligence Service saying, "This is true."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would create a government that actually reflects its people

Kaliya Franklin
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower