Letter: Bringing MI5 under control

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Letter: Bringing MI5 under control

Sir: The controversy around MI5 ("Police to investigate MI5 leak", 28 August) serves to highlight, once again, the inadequacies of the present systems in ensuring democratic and judicial control over the Security Service.

Legislation may have empowered a parliamentary committee to oversee the functioning of the Security Service, but the committee has frequently been denied access to documents outlining operational matters. Nor does the individual complaints system provide for adequate safeguards: the commissioner appointed to consider complaints can neither review the "reasonableness" of individual operations nor give reasons for his decision. To date, he has not been able to find in favour of a single complainant.

With the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights, the UK government will have to provide an effective remedy for individuals whose rights have been breached. It has already been criticised by the European Court of Human Rights for its failure to provide effective remedies to individuals subject to interceptions on private telephone systems. It seems likely that the current safeguards against unreasonable exercise of power by the Security Services will also fall foul of convention requirements.


JUSTICE researcher

London EC4